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A rising star’s journey from Trinidad to Fredericton to Toronto

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Oct 21, 2020

Category: UNB Fredericton , Inspiring Stories , Management , Young Alumni


When Cilise (Legendre) Connell (BBA’12) made the move from her home in Trinidad and Tobago to Fredericton in 2009, her goal was to finish her business degree at UNB – (which she began through the UNB-ROYTEC partnership program) then return home to the small Caribbean Islands to find work.

Eleven years later, she’s still in Canada.

“I had such an amazing experience in Fredericton and at UNB that I didn’t want to go home,” she recounts. “I went back during the summer after my first year at UNB, and I didn’t even stay the whole summer because I couldn’t wait to get back to Fredericton!”

Cilise adapted to living in a new country and climate by fully integrating herself into Canadian culture– her first student job was working for Sodexo selling snacks at the Aitken Centre during hockey games. She lived in residence on campus and “met a ton of people.” Although she admits her first winter was “pretty brutal”, she said the experience overall wasn’t overwhelming because of the small and supportive community on campus and in the city.

In the summer of 2010, she took a summer job with BMO Capital Markets and says it opened her eyes to a career path in that field. “I found that I really enjoyed the work, and although it wasn’t a plan I had mapped out, I realized it was something I should consider.”

Good thing she did.

In 2019, Cilise received the Women in Capital Markets Rising Star Award, which honours high-performing female professionals whose leadership and social responsibility endeavors have had a significant impact on the industry. The WCM Awards are a platform for showcasing excellence in leadership from individuals and firms committed to formative work in diversity and inclusion, while energizing the industry toward collaborative, progressive action for the acceleration of change.

And Cilise has certainly been doing that.

After graduating and moving to Toronto for a stint with BMO Financial Group, she took an opportunity with RBC Capital Markets as a business analyst. Since that time, she’s worked on a variety of revenue generating and process efficiency projects and is now VP, Strategy and Transformation, responsible for leading and managing the firm’s business process stream for a major trading platform replacement initiative.

In 2018, Cilise was named co-chair of RBC Capital Markets’ gender diversity employee resource group, RWomen Canada, with a mission to promote gender diversity and inclusion through advocacy and awareness, community involvement, ongoing education and networking opportunities. She also sits on the RBC Capital Markets Canadian Diversity Leadership Council, which has oversight responsibility for the creation and implementation of the RBC Capital Markets Diversity & Inclusion Blueprint 2020, a document that sets the direction for RBC’s priorities, objectives and commitments in Canada, the U.S. and all countries in which they operate. Cilise is also an RBC Academy facilitator and an RBC Ladies Who Lunch mentor – two programs that work to provide support and mentorship for high school students.

Cilise says that she enjoys putting time toward diversity and inclusion activities and it’s helped build her network. “Building long-lasting relationships has been key to my success ever since I arrived in Canada. People have been very accepting of me and my background. I’ve had amazing advocates and mentors and I work with very supportive and encouraging leaders who’ve helped me grow.”

Cilise became a Canadian citizen last year. She and her husband, Chris Connell (BBA’10, MA’13), whom she met while at UNB, would love to move back to Fredericton at some point, and return often to visit friends and Chris’ family. “I just love Fredericton – it will always be near and dear to me.”

“My whole life changed when I came to UNB. My husband and my mother and father in-law, Mariette and Kevin (LLB’82) Connell, and sister-in-law, Jeanine Connell (BEd’09), played a critical role in my love for Fredericton and my deep roots and connections to UNB. Of course, I would not be where I am today without the support of family as well – my parents, Jude & Louise, my brother Andre, my Aunt Joyce, and my cousin Glen. I’m very grateful for the people and experiences in my life.”