Our Team

First Work is incredibly proud that our team reflects the values and commitment to youth advancement that we espouse as an organization. As a team, we are committed to empowering youth voices and incorporating their viewpoints into all our work through the First Work Youth Council.

Akosua Alagaratnam Profile Picture

Akosua Alagaratnam

Pronounciation: Ah / ko / sue / ah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Executive Director

Carmine Chen Profile Picture

Carmine Chen

Pronounciation: Car / mine

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Operations and Finance Manager

Sophia Koukoulas Profile Picture

Sophia Koukoulas

Pronounciation: So / Fee / ah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Communications and Stakeholder Relations Manager

Derrick An Profile Picture

Derrick An

Pronounciation: Deh / rik

Pronouns: He / Him / His

Manager, Projects and Strategic Initiatives

Anushka Shahjahan Profile Picture

Anushka Shahjahan

Pronounciation: Ah / nus / kah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Lead Researcher

Jennifer Puddicombe Profile Picture

Jennifer Puddicombe

Pronounciation: Jeh / nee / fir

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Evaluation Lead

Shifat Ara Profile Picture

Shifat Ara

Pronounciation: She / faat

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Project Coordinator

Samira Adnan Profile Picture

Samira Adnan

Pronounciation: Sam / ear / ah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Digital Lead

Kristen Lattip Profile Picture

Kristen Lattip

Pronounciation: Chris / ten

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Youth Engagement and Events Coordinator

Cody Gillen Profile Picture

Cody Gillen

Pronounciation: Code / ee

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator

Rohan Mehta Profile Picture

Rohan Mehta

Pronounciation: Row / han

Pronouns: He / Him / His

Administration and Membership Initiatives Coordinator

Ashley Allado Profile Picture

Ashley Allado

Pronounciation: Ash / lee

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Operations Coordinator and Executive Assistant

Ikram Abdi Profile Picture

Ikram Abdi

Pronounciation: Ik / rahm

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Conference Coordinator

Akosua Alagaratnam Profile Picture

Akosua Alagaratnam

Pronounciation: Ah / ko / sue / ah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Executive Director

Akosua is the Executive Director of First Work. Prior to joining the organization, Akosua worked as a senior public affairs professional, primarily focused on policy affecting marginalized communities and youth. During her tenure with the Provincial Minister of Children and Youth Services, Akosua led the Youth Justice and Youth Opportunity policy and also worked directly with multiple agencies, as well as frontline staff, to advocate for marginalized youth. As a senior policy advisor with the Provincial Minister of Finance, Akosua effectively advised on policy and legislation spanning a diverse portfolio, including labour, children and youth services, community and social services, correctional services, and Indigenous relations. With over six years of experience in government, combined with seven years as the board representative for the Region of Peel Women’s Centre – Interim Place, Akosua is an established driver of effective policy-making, communications, public and government affairs, and community engagement.

Akosua currently sits on the board of the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity and the Canadian Coalition of Community-Based Employability Training.

Carmine Chen Profile Picture

Carmine Chen

Pronounciation: Car / mine

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Operations and Finance Manager

Carmine is the Operations and Finance Manager at First Work. Originally on-boarded through the Canada Summer Jobs Program as a Youth Engagement Coordinator in 2017 as her first entry level job. She continued to work part-time while pursuing her Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting at Ryerson University. First Work reignited her passion for social equity, leading her to pursue a full-time opportunity with the team following graduation. Like many young people and recent graduates exploring career opportunities, Carmine continues her artistic passion as a Graphic Designer in her spare time.

Sophia Koukoulas Profile Picture

Sophia Koukoulas

Pronounciation: So / Fee / ah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Communications and Stakeholder Relations Manager

Sophia is the Communications and Stakeholder Relations Manager at First Work, joining in June 2020. Forever a recovering staffer, Sophia previously worked for the Ontario Minister of Finance as Issues Manager and Legislative Assistant, following years of political work at the municipal, state (US), provincial, and federal (US) levels. Most recently, she was a Senior Consultant at a government relations firm, focused on strategic communications and Ontario government mandates. In joining First Work, Sophia revisits her experience on the frontline working with homeless and at-risk youth in downtown Toronto.

Shifat Ara Profile Picture

Derrick An

Pronounciation: Deh / rik

Pronouns: He / Him / His

Manager, Projects and Strategic Initiatives

Derrick is the Project Manager for First Work, joining in February 2021. Drawing upon over 10 years of public, not-for-profit, and charity sector experience, Derrick approaches his work with a firm understanding of the challenges intrapreneurs and organization leaders face when creating systemic change and leading with their identity first. Derrick is deeply opinionated in public policy, health management and foreign aid. Outside of work, Derrick is an avid world traveller, technology lover and all things eater. Although as a foodie, you won’t find Derrick taking a pic of his meal too often. It’s already made its way into his stomach – guaranteed!

Shifat Ara Profile Picture

Anushka Shahjahan

Pronounciation: Ah / nus / kah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Lead Researcher

Anushka is the Lead Researcher at First Work. She helps design and deliver on the research projects and mandate of the organization. With a background in strategy development, qualitative research and stakeholder engagement, Anushka has worked with youth employment, healthcare, education, public and private sector organizations throughout her career. Previously, she has worked alongside First Work to develop recommendations for the modernization of Employment and Social Development Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy and subsequently led the launch of the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity. She is the co-founder of a strategy lab where she works to deliver research and strategy development services to socially driven organizations, especially those serving vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Jennifer Puddicombe Profile Picture

Jennifer Puddicombe

Pronounciation: Jeh / nee / fir

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Evaluation Lead

Jennifer has been conducting program evaluation, research and quality assurance projects primarily within the Mental Health (both Child and Adult), Addiction, and Health Sectors for over 20 years. Jennifer is an expert at developing logic models and evaluation plans; writing/editing proposals and grants; and building and conducting surveys. She has extensive experience in qualitative methods, including stakeholder engagement and conducting interviews and focus groups. She particularly enjoys helping programs determine their priority goals, and targeting the outcomes they want measured in an evaluation.

Shifat Ara Profile Picture

Shifat Ara

Pronounciation: She / faat

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Project Coordinator

Shifat is a Research Lead joining First Work in January 2020. Prior to working here, she was engaged as a Project Coordinator for World Bank Group implementing Corporate Governance and Women in Leadership projects in South Asia. Shifat is a Project Management Professional (PMP) who has previously worked as a Senior Business Consultant for a market-system development project where she designed and implemented ICT4ag and ICT4D projects with a goal to improve access to information utilizing technology among rural farmers in Bangladesh. At First Work, Shifat investigates youth employment sector behavior and captures crucial market information to design projects that address challenges in the youth employment sector in Canada.

Samira Adnan Profile Picture

Samira Adnan

Pronounciation: Sam / ear / ah

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Digital Lead

Samira is the Digital Engagement Specialist at First Work, bringing her passion for to create meaningful change for marginalized youth in all her work. She holds over a decade of experience in web development and digital engagement, previously working in the non-profit and private sector as a freelancer for organizations both large and small. Samira manages the design of all First Work’s social media platforms and sites. She also manages the development of digital media campaigns, conference materials, and weekly member updates.

Kristen Lattip Profile Picture

Kristen Lattip

Pronounciation: Chris / ten

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Youth Engagement and Events Coordinator

Kristen is the Youth Engagement and Events Coordinator at First Work, joining in July 2020. Kristen is excited to be responsible for the planning and execution of First Work’s annual conferences as well as the oversight for First Work’s Youth Council. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree from Ryerson University, she worked for a training and development association group planning various member events, including conferences for over 1000 attendees. Kristen has years of sales experience in various fields, including the tech and banking sectors. She has recently completed postgraduate studies in Sport & Event Marketing at George Brown College.

Cody Gillen Profile Picture

Cody Gillen

Pronounciation: Code / ee

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator

Cody is the Communications and Social Media Coordinator at First Work. She is a recent graduate from the Public Relations Advanced Diploma from Humber College and was on-boarded to First Work through the Canada Summer Jobs program. Utilizing her agency experience, Cody is eager to get involved both creatively and strategically within the nonprofit sector as she has always had a passion for helping others.

Rohan Mehta Profile Picture

Rohan Mehta

Pronounciation: Row / han

Pronouns: He / Him / His

Administration and Membership Initiatives Coordinator

Rohan is our Coordinator for Administrative and Membership Initiatives at First Work. He helps with maintaining our membership management system and extends multi-faceted support to the Executive Director and the Finance, Research and Events team. Prior to joining First Work, Rohan has worked at national and global organizations (RBC, CAMH, Sony, Tupperware Brands, S&P etc.) in varied capacities while also having undertaken odd jobs to make ends meet. Rohan, who has lived experience, is also a mental health advocate and is the co-chair of the Patient Advisory Committee within the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). He enjoys volunteering for meaningful causes and strongly believes in receiving through giving.

Ashley Allado Profile Picture

Ashley Allado

Pronounciation: Ash / lee

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Operations Coordinator and Executive Assistant

Ashley is the Youth Engagement Coordinator and Executive Assistant at First Work. She recently graduated from York University with a Bachelor of the Arts in Psychology. Previously, Ashley worked for Canada’s Wonderland as the Merchandise Operations Supervisor. During her time there, she worked with the youth while also gaining administrative and management skills. Ashley’s background in leadership roles and involvement with youth has grown into an interest for helping young people entering the workforce. She looks forward to developing her knowledge in the non-profit sector and field of youth employment. When she is not working, Ashley likes to spend her free time watching movies, listening to music and practicing the ukulele.

Ashley Allado Profile Picture

Ikram Abdi

Pronounciation: Ik / rahm

Pronouns: She / Her(s)

Conference Coordinator

Ikram is the conference coordinator at First Work. She recently graduated from OISE (UofT) with a Master of Education. She has worked in sales, customer service, administration, admissions, and more recently, as an English language instructor. She is passionate about education and utilizing her lived experiences to connect with and support people. She is very excited to engage with and contribute to the employment sector. In her free time, Ikram enjoys reading, watching shows/movies and road trips.