Shailaz Dhalla

Avenue Calgary’s 2009 Top 40 Under 40.

Job Title: Counsel, Alberta Utilities Commission

Age: 28

After graduating from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Laws in 2006, Shailaz Dhalla articled and practiced with Fraser Milner Casgrain. And just a year and four months after being called to the bar, she accepted a position as counsel with the Alberta Utilities Commission, a significant move considering the role the AUC plays in regulating investor-owned electric, gas and water utilities, as well as some municipal electric utilities.

As counsel, Dhalla represents the AUC at hearings where the tenuous balance between industry and the hearts, minds and wallets of all Albertans is at stake. Her skill at negotiation and understanding complex issues serves her well when the law books get put away and she indulges her other passion: helping her community.

Outside of work, Dhalla contributes as many as 30-plus hours per week to her community. She has recently been named a board member to the Ismaili Regional Muslim Conciliation and Arbitration Board for the Prairies, which mediates family and commercial disputes. In addition to that, she also contributes to literacy and mentorship initiatives through the University of Calgary and the Calgary Bridge Foundation, all with a view to providing support for immigrants. She is also a member of the Ismaili Muslim Volunteer Corps.

Dhalla says her remarkable schedule, commitment to giving back to the community and her ability to achieve balance is proof the sum of her life is greater for the parts that have made it.

“The two things that have enabled me to succeed personally and professionally are my family and the Ismaili Muslim community, of which I am a part,” she says. “Through its philanthropic endeavours and commitment to pluralism, my community inspires me to direct my energy and capacity to those most in need.

“Both of these elements serve to ground me; they also provide the motivation for me to continue to seek greater growth and success despite any challenges along the way.”

Dhalla is quick to point out volunteering is not a one-way street, and she gains as much out of the exchange as does those she aims to help.

“My involvement in the community, particularly with immigrant youth, provides me with a feeling of fulfillment,” she says.

“Interacting with these children and their families, and hearing their amazing stories of struggle and survival, engenders a deep sense of compassion within me.

“It makes me appreciative of my circumstances and compels me to share my time and knowledge with others.”

Why she’s the top: Beyond her professional success, she is a deeply committed volunteer who lives her beliefs and leads by example.

The key to her success: “My parents have always been my foundation; they have made innumerable sacrifices in order to provide me with the greatest of opportunities,” says Dhalla.

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