Robert Wakulat. Partner At Wakulat Dhirani LLP. Lawyer and Social Entrepreneur.

Throw your Bay Street lawyer stereotypes out the window and let us introduce you to Rob, a lawyer who’s making a career out of helping others change the world. Locating his Toronto based practice, Wakulat Dhirani, at the Centre for Social Innovation, Rob provides countless social innovators, non-profits and emerging enterprises with legal advice. Striking out on his own to pursue a meaningful career took guts, taking the road less travelled by many in his profession. Rob tells us how being flexible is important when navigating rough waters in our pursuit of purpose, and with a little luck and a lot of hard work we can carve our own meaningful career paths. 

1. How do you define meaningful work?
I’ve always been seeking a purpose to what I’m doing and that there is some worthwhile mission to which I’m making a positive and tangible contribution. I am especially excited when I see enterprises that have a social or environmental impact that has improved our communities. I see my purpose as helping people make a difference. 

2. What inspired you to start your meaningful company?
I was lucky enough to be looking for direction when I still had a dose of idealism left in the tank and the Government of Ontario had just introduced its Green Energy and Green Economy Act. The Act’s focus on promoting community power projects particularly resonated with me. I felt a law practice dedicated to assisting the development of community power projects was a way in which I could contribute to community building. 

3. What qualities are important for a person to have if they want a meaningful career?
Trust in yourself and the inherent generosity of the people you meet.  

4. Describe how your past career experiences helped get you to where you are today?
My past experiences have given me perspective and patience. Besides Ontario, I have lived and worked in Germany, Japan and Ghana.  Three widely different cultures and work experiences. In order to succeed while immersed in another culture you have to be open to their input and be patient in watching your ideas come to fruition. You can’t go in expecting anyone to operate the way you were taught at home. You have to listen, communicate clearly and be flexible. Whenever I was wondering what path my career would take, I fell back on the sense of calm I developed in very challenging situations to guide me through the rough or uncertain patches. I always had a sense I would find my true north.

Always leave room for serendipity

5. What’s one thing you wish someone told you before you pursued a meaningful career?
Two things actually: first, always leave room for serendipity. You never know what opportunities may emerge from engaging with the world and when they find you, grab hold of them.  There’s nothing wrong with modifying one’s plans.

Second, manifest what you want from the world. I know that sounds sort of new-agey, but there’s actually something very concrete about it.  Once you know what you’re looking for, start telling people. And offer to help people who might be travelling the same road as you. It’s amazing how generous people can be and I’ll argue until the cows come home that people are inclined to help you if you let them.

6. What’s one thing most people wouldn’t expect to hear about working in a meaningful job?
Even if you’re doing something you find meaningful, there’s still plenty of grunt work involved. Now this may be different for people who find themselves in roles within larger organizations that have greater resources, but as you carve your own path, you should be prepared to put in effort both personally and professionally.

Follow Rob at @robertwakulat

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