Alumni Guest Entry: John Holt

Let’s be honest, if you’re in the MM program, it’s likely because you want to add one final piece of the puzzle to get a job. I was no different. I had a Bachelor of Arts from UBC, and had taught English for a couple years in Spain and wanted to do something in business, whatever that meant.

My job search was varied and I applied to a range of jobs that had little in common. The first piece of advice I’d give is apply to anything you think you could do. The worst case scenario is that you get another live opportunity to test your interview skills. The day you sit down for the job you really want, you’ll be amazed how much more comfortable you’ll feel if you’ve already sat in the hot seat a number of times before.

The second piece of advice is really understanding the job you’re applying for and what you bring that makes you a great candidate. I applied for HSBC’s International Management programme. I was fortunate, I had a broad first degree which gave me a firm base in world politics, experience moving and living abroad in another language and the MM program gave me the finance angle that I was lacking previously. It seems so simple, but it’s your job to really make sure the interviewer understands the relevance.

Finally, I’ll echo something I know other MMs have written about, your classmates. Network is important, and to be clear not networking, but your network. Networking is often shallow and meeting people is great but I highly recommend you foster a network of people you really know and trust, and then invest time to keep up with them. I invested a lot of time in the MM program when I was going through it and would recommend you do the same, at a bare minimum get to know your classmates over the course of the program to make sure you can all help each other. You’ve got a built in opportunity to meet likeminded people over a relatively long period of time, use it!

In the end, I looked for something international, and wasn’t too focused on the industry. It meant I went for a number of interviews, often unrelated. I noticed in the interviews the question I always asked the interviewer was what international opportunities existed in the company. When I interviewed with HSBC it just clicked, I could identify what made me a good fit for them, and the rest is history. I’ve now had the great fortune to have worked for the bank in Paris, London and now Bangkok. Your ambition may not be international work, but whatever your driver, it’ll come out through the process. Let it happen, and good luck!

– John Holt, MM ’10

Advice for Incoming MM students


When entering a new program it is hard not to have preconceived notions of what to expect. Personally, I was quite nervous to start the MM degree. I could not visualize how I would balance the demands of the program. Yet as with most things, this experience could not have been more different from what I had envisioned.

As I am sure you have been warned, this program is very fast paced. Although I am used to busy environments, I still had to quickly adjust and time manage more efficiently than ever before. For me, this really boiled down to prioritization. I needed to figure out how to manage my time and focus on what assignments were most important and form a hierarchy. Therefore my suggestion is to get used to time managing right away and don’t let things fall behind.

As undergrad was my only frame of reference, I had carried some expectations over to this program. If you happen to be coming straight out of an undergraduate degree, this master’s could not be more different. The anonymity of a large undergraduate class is no longer relevant as you are with the same small class every day. Not to mention the grading system and class expectations are completely different as well. Leave your undergrad mentality behind and prepare for an entirely new environment.

I could never have predicted how much group work we would be doing in this program. One of the most valuable things I have learned is to be a good team player. This includes not only showing up, but also being a good contributor. Even if your strengths may not be represented in the task at hand, help out anyway! The working relationship you will build in this program is one of the most rewarding aspects of the MM program.

Lastly, have fun! It’s too easy to get wrapped up with the hectic schedule during the MM, but it is important to make time to socialize and meet your new classmates. During the first period I did not take the time to go out and have fun because I was so focused on school. That was a big mistake because meeting the great people in your class is one of the best parts of the program. Some of the friendships you make could be lifelong and help you in your future career.

The MM is a truly a wonderful program. It imparts the value of time management, adapting to new environments, team work and friendships. I am happy to report that my original preconceptions of the program are untrue, as the experience has exceeded my expectations.

– Marni-Lyn Fox

View Marni-Lyn's LinkedIn profile View Marni-Lyn’s 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

What I Have Learned About Myself in This Program

Hello, hello! We meet again!

Today, I’d like to share with you three major things I’ve learnt about myself in the MM program. They’re not anything too novel or profound but definitely a refreshing revelation!

1. I enjoy teamwork.

My undergraduate scientific training involved largely individual work, so I’m used to working independently. The thought of suddenly having to work frequently in teams had both excited and concerned me. In my experience, level of motivation seems the most important differentiating factor for successful collaboration. But it’s not just how motivated you are, it’s also how you motivate the people around you–which is the tricky part. In the MM program, I’ve been part of diverse teams. Having a tendency to focus solely on the work, I continually remind myself to pay attention to team dynamics and to learn from the interactions of my team members. It’s certainly a continuous process of learning, which has given me a newfound appreciation for teamwork.

<I can still hear our Organizational Behaviour professor, Angela Kelleher, in my head saying, “Remember, you’re not a group. You’re a team!” *wild cheering* <- Alright, that’s just me adding sound effects.>

2. I can be good at time management.

One of the perks of teamwork is that it forces you to be accountable to your teammates. Nonetheless, discipline still ultimately comes from within. It may have worked in undergrad, but I told myself that procrastination is no longer acceptable as a graduate student. Amazingly (to me), juggling different team projects with individual assignments vastly improved my time management skills. Since the beginning of the program, I’ve done a fairly good job at keeping up with lectures, which means more time to reflect on the things I’ve learnt and less overall stress around exam time.

3. The day may come when I look forward to making presentations.

<What I’ve always said about presentations, “Singing in front of hundreds of people? No problemo! Just don’t ask me to talk. :D”>

In the Philippines during my childhood and teen years, I performed in many social events and in several singing and drama competitions. I love it and I look forward to it, but the key thing is that I’ve done it so many times that it’s become natural. When I think back to my earlier years, it actually took a lot of time and encouragement from my mom and teachers to get me on the stage. My mom had to take time off from her busy work schedule to accompany me to every practice session because I was too shy.

I’ve never particularly liked talking in front of many people, even just in the classroom and especially when it’s not rehearsed because I sometimes lose my English (which isn’t my first language). But now that I’ve a few presentations under my belt (which I forced myself to do even if it was optional), I can say that presenting is really the same as singing in front of an audience. The first time was the most difficult, but it gets easier and easier. Just give myself time to practice enough, and practice in front of my team or another person. Plus, it’s hard not to even try with so many of my supportive classmates cheering me on during presentations.

I look forward to seeing you again in my next post! 🙂

Rachel Lim

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