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A doctor and a CEO: A married couple who met at UBC Sauder recall their close encounter with COVID-19

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Posted 2020-05-28
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Jasmine Wong and Kerry Liu are experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 more intensely than most professional couples.

The two met in 2006 when they were both students at UBC Sauder. Jasmine was in the UBC Portfolio Management Foundation program and Kerry was three years ahead.

“I knew who he was because he was senator at CUS,” recalls Jasmine. “I approached him one day in the CUS lounge and introduced myself and we became friends, but we didn’t start dating until I graduated.”

The couple married in 2016 and now live in Oakville, Ontario. Kerry is the founder of Rubikloud, a tech start-up that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to automate decision making across the forecasting cycle for the grocery, drug and consumer packaged goods sector. When COVID-19 spread to Canada and people began stockpiling food and household supplies, Rubikloud’s clients were suddenly unable to keep their shelves stocked. Since publishing, Rubikloud is set to be acquired by software company Kinaxis for $81.4 million CAD.

“Our product is supposed to calculate forecasting and inventory, supply chain levels, price levels and promotional levels for the goods that these companies sell, so the pandemic really tested our foundational reason for existence,” he says. “Thankfully, our systems are holding up really well and our business is net positive.”

While Kerry and his team have been putting in long hours to help their clients respond to the challenges of disrupted supply chains and panic-driven consumer behaviour, Jasmine has been on the front lines of the pandemic treating patients at a Hamilton hospital. Her career transition from business to medicine is both unusual and inspirational.

Back in 2010, Jasmine graduated from UBC Sauder and moved to Toronto where she worked for RBC Capital Markets selling interest rate derivatives and cash bonds. She attained her Chartered Financial Analyst designation and was by all accounts successful, but after five years on Bay Street she began having doubts about a career in finance.

“Medicine was always in the back of my mind,” she says.

She quit her job, spent two months studying for the MCAT, applied to medical schools and was accepted into McMaster University. She graduated last year and is finishing her first year of residency in internal medicine.

“Working during the pandemic has been pretty nerve-wracking,” she admits. “But I feel like this is what I was meant to do, so you get over the fact that the job is scary and you just take care of the sick.”

As fate would have it, one of Jasmine’s patients was her husband. Kerry contracted COVID-19 during a business trip to London and Geneva in early March. He thought he had the flu but when his symptoms worsened, Jasmine insisted he get tested. His test came back positive. Fortunately, Kerry was able to recover at home and didn’t have to be hospitalized. Jasmine had to self-quarantine for two weeks but luckily remained healthy – to her husband’s great relief.

Reflecting on the past three months and the impact the health crisis has had on their lives, both prefer to look forward rather than dwell in the past, highlighting the positive changes that have occurred since people were forced to live and work differently.

“One of the silver linings that’s come from this crisis is the higher adoption rates of telemedicine we’re seeing,” says Jasmine. “Most of our clinics that are non-urgent are now being done over webcam or over the phone.”

While Jasmine has seen how teleconferencing solutions can make the delivery of healthcare more efficient, Kerry predicts that tech as a whole will become an even bigger part of our economy and society.

“Think about how much more valuable technology has become to us, whether it’s Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts and so on,” he says. “In old business schools, you’re taught that tech is volatile, tech is overvalued, tech is not critical to day to day life. If the current environment is an indication of things to come, I would say tech is the new blue chip.”

Another lesson that Kerry and Jasmine have taken away from their experience with COVID-19 is the importance of teamwork, both at home and in the workplace. With a shared desire to lead responsibly, support the success of those around them, and excel in their respective professions, this UBC Sauder couple inspires confidence that the world is in good hands.