Losing my IBD job after 21 months allowed me to become an animal welfare campaigner

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Sonia Faruqi comes from a banking family. Her father works in banking (for HSBC securities) and she and her twin sister have both worked in banking - for J.P. Morgan and F.B.R, a Virginia-based banking boutique respectively, However, while Faruqi's relatives still work in the industry, she's now doing something different entirely after losing her job in F.B.R's investment banking division in the downturn of 2009.

We spoke to Faruqi about life inside and outside banking, and why you shouldn't be too afraid if you find yourself on the wrong side of the divide.

So, did you enjoy working in finance?

"Despite the long hours, I loved working on Wall Street. I studied economics at Dartmouth and finance seemed a natural area to go into. I loved all the numbers and the financial modelling. I definitely would have stayed had it not been for the financial crisis, but there were hundreds of thousands of layoffs in New York and unfortunately I was one of them."

How did you handle being laid off? 

"I moved to Toronto and decided to take a break and relax. Looking for a vacation, I found myself volunteering at an organic dairy farm."

You worked on an organic dairy farm? 

"Yes. And that was when my life took a whole different direction. Even though the farm was organic, I found the animals were treated very poorly. It was a real eye-opener – organic wasn’t pastoral and picturesque, as I’d expected. I then spent some time on farms of all kinds around the world and realized it's a pattern repeated everywhere."

And you've written a book? 

"Yes, 'Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food.' Out on July 15, 2015, it traces my journey investigating animal farms around the world, toward the aim of benefiting animals, human health, and the environment."

Did your time in banking do anything to prepare you for your new vocation? 

"Agriculture is a very difficult industry to enter. The industry doesn’t want consumers to see how animals are treated, because then they may make different purchasing decisions. Farmers and contract growers can be very unwilling to let you step through the door. It's also a very male-dominated industry."

A bit like banking then? 

"I guess. I really like the people I've met in agriculture, it's just the systems on the farms that can be inhumane. My goal is to change those systems with ideas and solutions that are practical and realistic rather than only idealistic.
"I think I was able to gain access to senior staff on farms by maintaining a business-like demeanor. My questions focused on costs and efficiencies - the financial aspects of the operation.”

Do you feel fortunate that you lost your job in finance? 

"Yes. It opened me up to finding out what I was really interested in and passionate about, and I've been able to pursue that instead."

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