BY SONIA WEST
Armed with an education and a firm conviction of who she is, Rena Dhir is the perfect example of a woman who can have it all. Her strength comes from the guidance and support she received from her parents, and now from her husband and children. She is tenacious and attributes her joy in life to maintaining a work-life balance. She sets goals and achieves them, always striving for better.
Born in Leicester, England, and immigrated to Canada when she was three years old, Rena grew up in a small town in northern BC called Vanderhoof. She moved to Vancouver to pursue post-secondary education at UBC and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Her education journey continued with a CGA, CPA designation in 2000, and with her continuing studies at UBC to become a certified Immigration Consultant in Canada in 2008.
When Rena looks back on her time enrolled in UBC certificate in immigration laws, policies, and procedures, two words come to mind: busy and rewarding. While taking the program, Rena worked full-time as a controller for a software company and raised her young family. “Being at work, managing a young family, and pursuing part-time education was a balancing act that was quite challenging but at the same time very rewarding,” she recalls.
Family is always first for Rena. She has three kids aged 10, 18, and 20, and a husband actively involved in the community, and they know that they come first in her life.
Coming from an Indian family of three daughters and a son, they were all taught gender equality. Her parents had a much more progressive perspective.
“When every other girl was told that she needed to get an education and get married, my parents told us that we needed to get an education to stand on our own two feet.” She believes the environment one grows up in and the support systems around you mold you into the person you become. “I don’t let society or anyone tell me that I’m not capable of following my own dreams. We get enveloped in what society expects of women and how being a good woman is only about taking care of your family. This is not true. We can do so much more. You just have to have faith and resilience. If I can leave a positive impact on my daughters by being a role model of what women can achieve, then I feel like I have done my duty as a mother and as a woman.”
After years of working as a CGA as a Controller and Senior Accountant for many industries in the Lower Mainland, Rena realized she had bigger dreams and aspirations. After being introduced to the immigration field, she had only opened her business for about six months when she was appointed to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board in 2009 as a Board Member for the Refugee Protection Division. Four years later she was transferred to the Refugee Appeal Division. When she started with the IRB, she was one of the youngest, a minority, and a woman. With no law background, she had much to prove. However, her philosophy has always been what she tells her kids. “Compete against yourself, not others. This is how you become a better person and have the motivation to reach your dreams.” She now runs her own Immigration Consulting practice, while working as a Board Member for the Mental Health Review Board since January 2019.
“My mom taught me to be strong and stand up for what I believe in,” and she credits her mom for inspiring her to be an independent and resilient woman she is today. Thus, being a mother has always been her most important career. “Every day, I come home from work and immediately catch up on each of my children’s days. That connection completes my day. My children are my best friends, and just knowing that I am important to them makes me love being a mother.”
She tells her children to never let anyone or anything get in the way of their pursuits, and everything is possible. She encourages them to have an open mind to learning as she says, “Life is a journey of knowledge which no one can take away from you. Never give up on your dreams and aspirations.”