Career success | Meet Cody Matheson
From developing condo blocks in Vancouver to developing new towns and large-scale resorts in Asia, Cody’s career has taken him far from his BCom roots at Sauder.
UBC degree: BCom 2005 (Urban Land Economics & International Business, Minor in Chinese)
Current job title: Associate and Senior Economist at AECOM
Current city: Hong Kong
"In Vancouver, development projects are typically small-scale – like condo developments and small mixed-use projects – while in Asia, developers are designing new city districts for hundreds of thousands of new residents."
Developing language skills
Growing up in BC’s Okanagan, my passion for foreign languages started at an early age, and I knew that I would be working abroad someday. I became fluent in French while attending a French immersion primary school and proficient in German during high school. I immersed myself in Asian languages during my BCom degree at UBC— where I pursued a minor in Chinese and went on a one-year exchange to the National University of Singapore. Developing language skills during my education was advantageous for my career as well as personally enriching.
Searching for a job
My job search at graduation was difficult. Unlike many of my peers who had already established connections within the business community in their third and fourth years, I returned from Singapore disconnected and unsure about my next steps. My year abroad meant that I had not become involved in student clubs, and when I returned I made the mistake of not making better use of the resources available to students, such as the Business Career Centre.
Fortunately, I landed a job with the Government of Nunavut as a Housing Analyst. I worked in the remote territory developing policy and procedures to support and promote homeownership in a very difficult economic environment. During this time, I also started a Masters in Public Policy with SOAS University of London, which I completed three years later while working full-time.
Finding the right fit
With this experience and further education, I was offered a fantastic job with Urbanics Consultants Ltd,a Vancouver-based firm of that provides real estate planning and implementation services for private and public sector clients throughout Western Canada. I had the opportunity to work closely with senior staff, performing market and financial feasibility studies, as well as economic and fiscal impact studies.
Within four years at Urbanics, I was promoted from Analyst to Consultant to Associate with increasing responsibilities. Professionally, it was a great fit. However, I still wanted to pursue my dream of working abroad, particularly in Asia where I could work on much larger projects and on new project types.
Working in Hong Kong
Looking for new challenges, I made the move to Hong Kong. Currently, I work with the economics practice at AECOM, a global provider of engineering, design, and planning consultancy services. I work on a wide range of projects for clients throughout Asia, including some of the largest investors and developers in their respective markets: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Qatar. Back in Vancouver, development projects are typically small-scale and proceed very slowly – like condo developments and small mixed-use projects – while in Asia, developers are planning new city districts for hundreds of thousands of new residents with millions of square meters of new development area.
My language skills and ability to work in different cultural environments and new markets has helped tremendously in my career and gave me a competitive advantage when applying for my job. My team is a cross-section of nationalities and, like most Hong Kong-based global companies, speak both English and Chinese in the workplace. Being able to communicate with clients in their native language earns their respect and adds credibility to my work.
Tips for students wanting to work in Hong Kong
- Expect a lower starting salary and longer work hours than in Vancouver. You lose some of the work-life balance that you may find elsewhere, but you will gain the opportunity for advancement and growth.
- Learn an Asian language. Although the primary business language used in Hong Kong is English, knowing an additional Asian language is definitely an asset. Mandarin is invaluable, but any Asian language can open doors since Hong Kong is a major hub for the entire region.
- Don’t give up. If you are serious about wanting to work in Asia, develop your skills and persist. Hong Kong is an exciting place to live and work. And it is a regional hub from where you can pursue opportunities throughout East and South-East Asia.
- Visit the Business Career Centre. They offer great resources and programs (like Trek China) to get you on the right track for working abroad.