Coming to The MM Program

Congratulations on choosing to study in the beautiful city of Vancouver! It’s a very clever choice especially if you’re from countries like South Africa, Dubai, India or the south part of China. You don’t have to worry about not being able to survive the winter, like you will have to in most Canadian cities. With its scenic views, mild climate and friendly people, Vancouver is known around the world as one of the best places to live. And you’ll be studying with some pretty awesome people in one of the best and most beautiful universities in the world. However, all these advantages will be too good to be true if you don’t prepare yourself for an intense program like the MM.

So, what can you prepare to make the best out of this program? The first thing and probably the most important thing is to think about your future. Where do you want to be in a year and what steps can you take in the program to get closer to this goal? With these values in mind you’ll be able to use the precious 9-months more effectively.

The next steps may sound easy but absolutely crucial for your study:

  • Make practical preparations, such as ensuring that your passport and visa will not expire while you’re in Canada and the information on your documents are accurate. You’ll be in big trouble if you don’t pay proper attention to these details.
  • Obtain necessary medical or dental check-ups before you leave for Canada. If you can, prepare enough medication for your period abroad or take a prescription from your doctor. You can’t study well if you aren’t healthy.
  • Have a realistic budget. Ensure you bring enough money to Vancouver for initial expenses!
  • I would also strongly recommend that all students go through the course outlines before the start of the program. And ensure you sign up for MM Prep! The prep courses will prepare you for the intense and demanding nature of the program.
  • Finding a good place to live might be really painful for international students. Luckily UBC has  resources for students to search for both on campus and off campus housing. Tips? Be aware of the time difference and the fact that you can’t meet the landlord in person. And never hesitate to ask for additional pictures of the place, or to request for a Skype house tour.
  • Be prepared for culture shock upon arrival (especially if you come from an Eastern culture). Don’t be surprised if you don’t know what the heck a “toque” is, and be open to different kinds of food even if you don’t fully understand the menu. Learn about the new culture you’re going to embrace before arrival and pack mementos from home that will comfort you when you’re feeling homesick.

Preparing for your studies is a small part of your experience studying abroad but it’s a lot of work. You’ll also have to deal with all kinds of logistical preparations before arrival like getting a credit card, signing up for a phone number, getting your UBCcard, updating your driver’s license, enrolling in Health Service, extending your study permit, getting a post graduate work permit…I can keep going and write a manual for all the items international students have to deal with.

But don’t worry as you have staff, faculty, alumni and your awesome classmates that will be ready to help. Never hesitate to ask questions, you’ll be surprised by how supportive everyone is.


Community Business Project

Hello again! 🙂

In my classmate Mursal Shamsi’s post — “A Taste of the Real World,” he provides you with a broad overview of the Community Business Project (CBP), its significance to our self- and career development, and the matching process that the Business Career Centre (BCC) used to assign students to projects. And so this post will focus on my CBP experience.

We’re now in the home stretch of this 6-month project and in the midst of preparing our final report and presentation for this coming Friday. I believe I speak for many people when I say that I can’t believe we’ve somehow managed to arrive to this point!

Our client is Options Community Services Society (OCS) in Surrey, BC — a non-profit registered charity providing social services in the Fraser Region — whose vision is to improve child care access in Surrey. My team is composed of 3 members, including myself as Project Manager. The other 2 roles are Client Liaison and Faculty Liaison. As Project Manager, my core responsibilities included creating a project schedule to meet objectives and deadlines efficiently, coordinating and delegating tasks based on team members’ strengths, and maintaining effective internal communication to ensure information consistency within the team.

The challenges faced by my team fell under 2 umbrellas — issues with (1) team dynamics, and (2) project tasks.

Throughout the 6-month duration of the project, we had to produce several key deliverables while simultaneously working on multiple other team projects for other courses. As can be expected, the challenge was how to maintain high team performance to meet deadlines, in the face of competing commitments and fluctuating motivation levels. Stress only served to magnify the gravity of perceived problems — an important point to remember for my team. It’s okay to be frustrated at times, but focus on what you can do.

My experience in this project highlighted and reinforced several lessons in team management. You may find them “common sense,” but it’s very easy to forget when you’re in the centre of things.

  • A critical skill to have as Project Manager is the ability to think long term and set realistic goals. There’s much you can do to minimize overall stress by properly prioritizing tasks and setting weekly goals for your team members.
  • From the outset, the team should set some ground rules that all members understand and agree on. This lets everyone know what is expected of them and is an important tool for maintaining efficiency. Also, don’t be afraid to remind them of this agreement when needed. Team meetings should focus on brainstorming, discussions, and decision-making — they’re not time to work on individual tasks.
  • The combination of strengths and weaknesses will not always be ideal, and so you may find that the balance of work may not always end up equal. You just have to make it work. Don’t be quick to judge your team members. Strive to identify individual concerns and address them. I found that to be an effective way to raising my team’s performance because sometimes it’s just an issue of self-confidence. The key is to really understand each member’s strengths and weaknesses, but concentrate on the strengths because that’s what you’ll need to effectively delegate tasks. Sometimes, you may find it necessary to personally guide a struggling team member to get things done because it’s better than not doing anything at all.
  • While it may seem to go against your instinct, trust your teammates. Ensure that everyone is on the same page, but give your team members the latitude to deliver their assigned tasks. Just because it’s not perfect in your eyes doesn’t mean it’s not quality.

With regards to the project itself, the main challenge came from negotiating a feasible project scope and set of deliverables that could be achieved within the time limitations. A lot of teams faced this difficulty because the project scope changed from what was initially proposed during the organization presentations. However, being able to negotiate a project scope is an important skill to possess, as the BCC and our supervisor have reiterated. The required commitment is three hours per week per student, but depending on your project, you’ll likely find yourself putting in many many more hours. Don’t be afraid to offer your insights and suggestions to your client. Utilize your resources — the BCC, your supervisor, the librarians, to name a few.

Now on to our project scope… The City of Surrey has been curiously resistant to actively supporting child care, and so our client wanted to look into gaining support from the business community instead, as a temporary solution. My team’s project scope involves developing a business case about the economic benefits to Surrey employers of providing an affordable and quality workplace child care program. Important goals of the project are to create an operating model for setting up workplace child care facilities and to conduct a survey on Surrey employers’ perception of and willingness to support employee child care needs. Certainly, there were several challenges associated with our project scope. However, the value of the CBP project for me wasn’t in how much business knowledge or frameworks were required to complete the project but in the soft skills it has helped me to develop.

Aside from project team management and scope negotiation, working on this project gave me insight into the layers of complexity that organizations have to constantly deal with, such as grey areas and political factors. In addition to dealing with our client, we conducted several informational interviews with various organizations. You may walk in to a meeting with certain expectations of how it would proceed or of what you want to get out of it, but you may quickly realize that the real working environment is less structured than what you supposed. For me, it was particularly interesting to observe the nuances in people’s interactions. As a person who likes order, my takeaway is to prepare as much as I can but be adaptive when things turn out differently from what I expect.

Okay, I’ve probably lost all my readers at this point, stopping now. Well, I hope my ramblings have been or will be useful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below!

Until next time,

Rachel Lim (LinkedIn profile)

Advice to live by

As a student, I’ve gotten a lot of advice from a lot of people. Some are general life lessons, frequently given by family members at holiday gatherings, while career-specific ones tend to show up at Sauder’s various guest speaker events. Others, well-meaning but somewhat questionable, come from the oddest places – from strangers at bus stops to the owner of that pizza place on Granville Street. A friend asked me the other day what the single best piece of advice I’ve received was; after some thought, I came to the surprising conclusion that the one thing that stands out most in my mind came from a rather unusual source.
One of my hobbies is ballroom dancing. As a dance enthusiast, I try to go to socials whenever I can. During one such event two years ago, I had the opportunity to chat with a dancer from out of town. I’d never seen her dance before, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love. When she performed, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. After gawking at her flawless footwork, I had to ask her secret: “How did you learn to dance so well?” I was expecting something along the lines of practice makes perfect or it’s all about making a connection – things I’d heard multiple times before from my dance instructor. Instead, she told me, “The key is to let yourself be a little vulnerable.” It wasn’t until later that I realized the value of her advice – and the best part? It applies to much more than just dance.
For me, this advice translates to two things:
Being upfront about what I want.
Whether it’s requesting informational interviews or doing group assignments for class, I’ve learned the importance of being honest about what I’m looking for. As our career advisor often says, “Remain open, humble and transparent in your interactions and you will see progress!” Sometimes, this might mean admitting that I have no idea what I want about some things – and I’m learning that’s okay too.

Being okay with negative emotions.
Most easily described by this quote from Brené Brown’s TED Talk: “We know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things that you do really awesome, and one thing — an “opportunity for growth”? And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth?” Sometimes, it’s difficult to talk about negative feelings, because inevitably, it comes with insecurities – but only by being open about it can you ask for help and improve. MM has been incredibly helpful in all aspects of this, from the graduate office, to the career centre, to my classmates, and I’m incredibly grateful for the support I’ve received.
Being vulnerable comes down to letting myself be seen, and following this one piece of advice has allowed me to be more empathetic, be a better communicator, and develop stronger friendships. Give it a try – maybe you’ll benefit from it too. (:
What’s the best advice you’ve received? Feel free to share in the comments!
Until next time,
Elizabeth Sun

Storm The Wall…. I FINALLY did it :)

Hi guys! I hope you are all doing great and not too nervous about the application process 😀

I know that it sometimes feels like we are always working on one assignment or group project or something along those lines but we also like to have fun around campus as well.

For those of you who don’t know, I completed my Undergrad degree at UBC so I’m used to a lot of the AWESOME traditions we have here and one of those is something called “Storm The Wall”, in fact, this was my first time actually storming the wall… I know, I know, what????

So what exactly is Storm The Wall? It is a 4-5 person relay that happens all over campus; someone does the swimming, another the short-distance run, someone else does that biking, and then the last person does the long-distance race (me having abnormally long limbs automatically meant I was doing this part for my team). At the end of the relay there is a 12 FOOT WALL….yes I repeat 12 FOOT WALL (double my height) that you have to storm with the help of your team mates… there are even a few people who do the whole relay and the storming on their own (this is called the Ironman/Ironwoman… you should totally check it out here ).

Well this year I decided to finally stop avoiding that giant wall and join a Storm team which was great because the MM Society put together two teams that competed.

Here are some pictures of the MM competitors and us climbing the wall:

We are such a beautiful bunch aren’t we?

Pulling up one of our teammates 🙂

And we had THE BEST supporters in the crowd!!!

I’m so glad that I finally got round to storming the wall because I can now check that off my list of things to do before graduating. While none of our teams actually won the competition (in fact, my team got disqualified…. awkward), the experience was great and I couldn’t have chosen a better bunch of people to get this done with!

Until next time,



An Engaging Classroom

It didn’t take me a long time to realize the huge difference between North American and Chinese classrooms.  Active learning is one of the most exciting features that can be both challenging and refreshing for international students.

Our marketing professor in the first period was excellent at creating an atmosphere of active engagement in the classroom. I remember back to the very first class when we were asked to speak a little bit about where we came from and what our first language was. I was shocked by the cultural and lingual diversity in the classroom (one of my classmate’s spoke 5 languages!).

The first case of active learning was the observation of consumer behavior at a local Starbucks store. The project required my team to observe how customers make their ordering decisions. Observations we made included:

  • As customers came into the store, what was their first reaction?
  • What did they order?
  • Who were they with?
  • What was the service and layout of the store?

Instead of telling us why Starbucks was so successful, the professor let us figure it all out by ourselves. Two surprising observations we made was how feminine the decoration in the store was and how many people came into the store to use the bathroom.  The key concept our instructor introduced in class was how to brand ourselves and how to position a product which provided us a new way of thinking about marketing and ourselves.

Of course, not all the instructors are this enthusiastic in class. To clarify, our professor for Business Strategy had great class engagement in a low-key way. I enjoyed his class because of the broad examples he used and the excellent analysis he illustrated. Further, comments from my classmates in his lectures were very well organized, clearly communicated and rich in content. An example was how he used case analysis to help us digest what we had learned in class. Further, he created a blog with different topics for students who were not comfortable expressing their opinions in class.

It has always been so enjoyable to listen to different comments and opinions in class (the creative and hilarious presentations don’t hurt either!). To close, the student-faculty interaction and active engagement in the MM program has truly enriched my academic experience.

MM Cares: Volunteering at the Foodbank!

Here in the MM program, we always strive to balance our schedules in terms of work and play. We’ll spend a lot of our evenings studying hard, but we’ll also make sure that we give ourselves time to play. Here at the master’s level, you’ll want to spend your time working hard and playing harder.

There’s a third thing that’s just as important here, and that’s taking time out to give back to the community. As business students, we’re constantly thinking of ways where we can improve the community around us. But sometimes, the best way to improve communities is, well, the simplest: volunteering. Volunteering is such an important aspect of the world around us, and it’s one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences you can take part in.

So on a beautiful and sunny spring day, a group of a us MMers (and a few of the program staff as well!) made the trek out to the Greater Vancouver FoodBank. Here, we spent the afternoon assisting the organization with sorting through all of their food donations. And boy oh boy, are there a lot of donations. The food bank receives so many donations, in fact, that their massive warehouse of over 36000 square feet is actually filled to capacity!

Smile for the camera!

So what exactly did we do? There were three stations for us that day. At one station, a group of us helped sort through thousands of canned goods, placing them in the right bins, and packing them up to be sent out. Another station involved retrieving produce from the warehouse’s freezer room (a chilly experience for sure!) and sorting the produce into the appropriate boxes for shipping. The third station involved creating and packing hundreds of kid’s goodie snack bags. We actually used the knowledge that we gained from our recent Operations and Logistics course and applied it to our “manufacturing” process here so that we wouldn’t have any of the dreaded “bottlenecks”. Thumbs up for real-life applications!



This picture doesn’t show it…but we were actually productive. Honestly!

Overall, it was such a fun day for all of us to be involved in. It’s great to give back to community, and we’re already looking forward to our next volunteering outreach event!

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to post a comment down below!



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