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UofGH Justice Studies alumna named one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women
Since graduating from the Justice Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber in 2012, Caroline Tutakiewicz has worked professionally with RBC’s Financial Crimes unit to investigate and stop financing to terrorist groups, organized crime and human traffickers, and she’s worked personally on a volunteer basis to stop impaired driving, advocate for LBGTQ+ youth and to help rehabilitate young people at risk of incarceration. In the fall, she was recognized for that resume when the Women’s Executive Network named Tutakiewicz one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.
The same month, Tutakiewicz embarked on another new adventure when – after serving more than two years as the Director & Head of Investigations in RBC’s Financial Crimes unit – she accepted the role of Director, Product Strategy & Innovation with RBC Ventures.
It’s a big change, but Tutakiewicz isn’t one to retreat from a challenge.
“I thought that in order to continue growing my skillset, it was a good time in my career to try something completely new that I still actually believe in,” said Tutakiewicz of her new position with RBC Ventures, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada that invests in, powers and acquires ventures.
“It’s so much to learn and it changes so quickly that last week’s news is not today’s news. There’s a lot of opportunity to learn and grow.”
That spirit also characterized Tutakiewicz’s tenure at the University of Guelph-Humber.
Finding her focus
Tutakiewicz enjoyed her high-school law class and, when first looking at post-secondary education options, she knew she was interested in the subject broadly but wasn’t sure what profession exactly would suit her. So she liked that the University of Guelph-Humber’s Justice Studies program would prepare her whether she ultimately decided to go on to practice law, to work in law enforcement, to work in academia, or to work in the correctional system, among other outcomes.
Other unique aspects of UofGH also appealed to her.
“It was very much the smaller class sizes and the opportunity to learn the practical application as well as the theoretical,” she recalled. “Also I liked that you could get both certifications (a degree and a diploma) in four years because I didn’t think other universities strictly would give you the practical application, and in the workforce you need both.”
She made the most of her time at the University of Guelph-Humber. One highlight was travelling twice to Maryland for a CSI competition at Mount St. Mary’s University, which her team won in the second visit. Her field placements took her to the Toronto West Detention Centre to work on a literacy program for inmates and a guns and gangs awareness program.
“My experience at the University of Guelph-Humber was incredible,” she said. “I met people I’m still friends with to this day.”
A career path opens
Tutakiewicz was inspired to apply for her first job in RBC’s Financial Crimes unit in part because she had enjoyed UofGH’s Investigative Techniques course and participating in the CSI competition. Still, the role was certainly daunting at the start.
“I didn’t know a lot about money laundering, but I learned a lot in the first year. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to Senior Investigator, which specialized in terrorism financing, organized crime and a bit of human trafficking.”
Eventually she rose to the Head of Investigations role, meaning she was the Director of that unit. When she thinks back to her earliest days on the job, she thinks the skills she acquired at UofGH helped her thrive.
“I found that my education gave me the theoretical and practical application simultaneously. So I could think about something like investigations for example. I knew some of the regulations – the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act, for example – but I also had practical applications within the program, like the mock crime scenes, and how do you apply what you know into an investigation?
“It’s the same thing in money laundering. How do I apply what I know about money laundering into catching a bad guy?”
Even with the promotion, Tutakiewicz maintains a busy volunteering schedule.
She’s Vice-President on the Board of Directors for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – and in the days before Uber, she would offer to be a designated driver for friends and family on New Year’s Eve – she’s the co-chair of RBC’s GTA Pride ERG (Employee Resource Group), and she’s spent nearly a decade as a Healing Circle Facilitator with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, where she’s tasked with the facilitation of restorative justice practices to divert at-risk young people from potential incarceration.
In her new role at RBC Ventures, Tutakiewicz is helping a number of fledgling ventures, many of which are geared at making life easier. RBC Ventures’ portfolio includes Arrive, which helps immigrants with personalized guidance on moving to Canada, and Wellspent, a personal finance app.
In other words, Tutakiewicz is still working to help people.
“When we worked on the human trafficking project, one of the biggest impacts was seeing how we were changing someone’s life who was involved in the trade. There aren’t many people who aren’t police officers or frontline workers who can say that they can sit behind a computer and change someone’s life,” Tutakiewicz said.
“It feels good to help other people. There are just different ways to try to do it now. With Ventures, as opposed to my old role, how do we make the consumer’s life better? It might not be the same as helping a victim of human trafficking but it’s helping in so many different ways: how do you buy your first house? How do newcomers to Canada first make their way? I’m proud to be part of this collective working to make people’s lives better.”