Big heart, big wig

Zishaan Merali never has a bad hair day. That could be because his locks represent only good vibes, destined, as they are, for a great cause. “This mop on my head has been growing for three years,” he grins, “ready to support children fighting cancer.”

In fact, Kids Cancer Care, an Alberta-based organization, has benefitted from Zishaan’s generosity since he was in Grade 8, starting with his first buzzcut in its “Shave Your Lid for a Kid” (now The Big Brave) fundraising event. Later, when he began his career at Definity and noticed our donation-matching opportunities, there was no question who his charity of choice would be. “Definity has probably supported me with Kids Cancer Care the most through the iCare program, matching my contributions dollar for dollar,” he says.

For Zishaan, a Regional Underwriter in Commercial Insurance at Definity, the motivation is personal, having lost his grandma to the disease when he was a child. “I can't help patients with their cancer treatments,” he says. “However, I can help them feel more confident in their lives with a nice head of hair or through monetary donations that will fund diagnostics and whatever else is needed.”

He confides that the payoff to all these combined efforts touches him “at the bottom of my soul,” amazed that “something so small as just donating my hair and raising some money can mean almost absolutely everything to a child.” It makes him feel proud to work for a company with such a multipronged and unique approach to charitable giving, particularly since insurance was not even an industry he ever imagined himself in. “My employer caring about what I care about is absolutely important to me,” he says. “Not just in terms of community impact, but it also gives me confidence that this is a company that will support all my choices.”

For Zishaan, even the fact that he works in an environment with inclusive dress guidelines — where his long hair is nothing but praised — means a lot. “I can be my whole self at work,” he notes. “Definity isn’t a place where you have to hide who you are. It's a place where you can come out freely and be exactly who you want to be, and there's support, there's inclusion, and we have a lot of diversity within the company.”

Zishaan also takes advantage of Definity’s two paid volunteer days every year to spread the word about his industry at schools and career fairs and “help people make better choices for themselves.” After all, if it wasn’t for someone sitting him down and explaining a little about the benefits of working in insurance, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“Originally when I started going to school, I was trying to get into finance and accounting,” he explains. “It happened to be that there was an insurance course that I joined, just because I wanted to find out the right words to use with my broker to get a good deal on my insurance! I told my teacher that, and he laughed. He told me to sit down, and by the time the course was done, I was like, ‘this is the industry I want to be in.’”

Fast-forward a few years, and now Zishaan is not only working in the field, but he’s also earned his Certified Insurance Professional (CIP) designation, something he achieved in short order. “It was my goal to actually become an underwriter,” he shares. “So, I finished my CIP with the help of Definity, who paid for my courses and gave me the resources to move up.”

With his career growing as quickly as his highly prized hair, you could say that Zishaan Merali has a head for success.

Having a hairy day is nothing unusual for Zishaan. It’s been that way for years. He knows that charitable giving comes in all forms and that his hair is destined for bigger and better things.