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Transforming Surrey's Business Landscape With Anita Huberman

Anita Huberman, President of the Surrey Board of Trade


Key Takeaways

  • Anita Huberman is the first South Asian woman to be the president and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, having just completed her 17th year in the role. 

  • She has also been serving as an ambassador and an Honorary Captain at the Royal Canadian Navy for the past decade. 

  • Huberman is also affiliated with the National Film Board of Canada as a trustee and plans to bring Bollywood to Canada, Surrey, to be specific. 

Anita Huberman is the President and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade and has been in this position for the past 17 years, becoming the first South Asian woman to fill this role. The Surrey Board of Trade is one of the top ten Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce in Canada. Anita has been serving this board in various capacities for over three decades, along with her role as an honorary captain at the Royal Canadian Navy for the past nine years. She has also been recognized as one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in Vancouver by the Women We Admire, an organization of women executives and leaders across North America. 

How did she get here? Through a lot of hard work, conviction, and an unwavering commitment to community development. 

Starting From Scratch

When Anita was going to college at the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, she first started working for the Surrey Board of Trade in a part-time role. She managed to work through university and pay for her tuition through tutoring gigs. Anita’s path to success wasn’t a linear ascent. During college, she briefly parted ways with the Board of Trade to immerse herself in the World Bank's customer service management training program. 

Upon her return, she re-entered the Board of Trade, marking the beginning of her rise from an executive assistant to operations management to eventually assuming the presidency at the age of thirty-two. Breaking stereotypes in the process, as a young female South Asian leader, Huberman was able to carve a niche for herself in Canada’s business landscape. 

Taking Inspiration From Self-Made Women Entrepreneurs 

Anita Huberman’s biggest inspiration in life is her mother, who came to Canada at only 19 years old. Quite similar to Anita’s journey, her mother worked her way through school to pay for her tuition, learn the English language, and eventually go on to become the Chief Financial Officer at Langara College. Currently, she is also serving as a board member at her local Church and Strata. 

So the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in Anita’s case. Growing up around this commitment to hard work and her mother’s passion for serving her community inspired Anita to pursue something similar. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Anita has become one of the most accomplished women leaders in Canada. 

Inspired by her mother’s journey, Anita is committed to making it easier for women to pursue leadership positions. As the CEO and president of Surrey Board of Trade, she actively works on removing the barriers women face in reaching top positions to be able to apply to and achieve higher positions at their respective organizations. 

The Surrey Board of Trade 

Transformative strategies and a vision for sustainable growth have marked Anita's leadership within the Surrey Board of Trade. Her 17-year tenure has seen the board's rise in influence, turning it into one of Canada's top trade and commerce entities.  She has a strong focus on establishing an international trade center that capitalizes off of Surrey’s diversity, which will create many business connections globally. Under her guidance, the board has taken strategic steps towards international trade, utilizing Surrey's multiculturalism to create global business connections.

Her commitment extends beyond economic considerations, with a focus on government advocacy that has redefined Surrey's visibility and influence. Through mentorship programs and community engagement, Anita has positioned the Board as a catalyst for empowering the youth and fostering inclusivity.

Outside of economic change, Huberman’s leadership has not only elevated the Board's standing but has also contributed to Surrey's unique cultural identity—a hub of innovation, risk-taking, and opportunity. As Surrey moves towards becoming British Columbia's largest city, Anita's unwavering commitment positions her at the forefront of shaping Surrey's future as a thriving and inclusive hub.

Economic Development in Surrey 

Anita has also served for three years as a trustee at the National Film Board of Canada, where she came up with the idea of building Canada’s film industry not only in the North American context but also internationally. Her close connection with India enabled her to think about bringing Bollywood work to Canada. A lot of Bollywood film directors like to shoot in various North American locations for their audience, which is part of the Indian diaspora, and bringing them to Surrey for shooting is something Huberman is currently working on. That’s just one of the few things Anita envisions for the future of Surrey’s development, one of the largest cities in Canada.

“We are building a film industry not only from a Canadian context but also an international context.” — Anita Huberman

Anita’s vision for Surrey is one of inclusion, economic development, and infrastructure improvement. She wants to leverage the increased number of refugees and newcomers by providing them with entrepreneurial and workplace opportunities as a way to build a stronger community. To Anita, it’s not just about meeting industry targets but also ensuring that every individual contributes to the economy.

Additionally, focusing on fostering partnerships with the private sector shows her commitment to creating a vibrant and well-connected city. Anita’s efforts can transform Surrey into an area of destinations, attracting more partnerships and creating an appealing place for many to live and work in. 

Surrey has a celebrated culture of risk-taking and innovation in terms of building possibilities from the ground up. This is different from Vancouver, which has an already established culture. Surrey offers an open environment for fostering relationships and embracing entrepreneurial risks. Anita believes in opening oneself up to risks and believes this allows us to learn from setbacks and restart with new determination. It is this culture that defines Surrey’s ecosystem, shaping it into a dynamic hub that thrives on the pursuit of new opportunities. 

As Surrey is going in the direction of becoming British Columbia's largest city, Anita remains at the center of it all, advocating for economic opportunities and using Surrey's multiculturalism to drive innovation and growth. Her vision goes beyond the Board's offices, as she is envisioning Surrey as a thriving tech destination and fostering private-public partnerships to fuel economic advancement.

Pursuing Other Passions 

Beyond her role on the Board, Anita’s impact exists in many other sectors. As an honorary captain in the Royal Canadian Navy, she serves as an ambassador and advocates for the Navy's economic significance and forging connections that will benefit the community. 

As someone who delves into so many different ventures, Anita is a woman who always embraces change. That being said, flexibility is key while working in a fast-paced and unpredictable environment. As well as being able to adapt to the unexpected. 

“Fostering personal connection is the only way to create relationships and to get to know another person. So often in order to make that sale.” — Anita Huberman

Anita Huberman's journey is shaped by resilience, a commitment to truth, and a strong dedication to community. She is an inspiration to young leaders, echoing the sentiment that success is not just about climbing the ladder but about lifting others along the way.

Advice for Young Leaders

Anita Huberman advises young leaders to develop personal connections with the people in their community. She swears by direct, face-to-face communication in diverse and multicultural settings like Surrey. So, her first advice for young people is to get off their cell phones and start talking to people face to face. She stresses the importance of knowing how to be social and the art of conversation. Anita believes in the necessity of building genuine relationships by engaging in personal interactions that transcend linguistic and cultural barriers. 

"Get rid of your phones and your screens for a while, meet new people, and talk face to face. That's the only way to make relationships, especially in multicultural communities."  — Anita Huberman

Drawing from her mother’s experiences, she encourages aspiring leaders to embody the qualities of sheer determination and an appreciation for resilience to achieve significant professional success. She believes in the power of meticulous planning as a precursor to manifestation and advocates for active participation in development boards to contribute to community growth. Young leaders should have a plan and specific goals in mind, imagine the life they want to live, and then plan the steps to get to that point. To summarize, one should focus on direct communication, strategic planning, and community engagement to become a well rounded person as well as a successful leader in the world. 


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