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From an international cohort to an international career

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Posted 2021-01-21
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When Bryn Wilkinson was considering where to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA), he chose UBC Sauder for one primary reason: he wanted an international career. The diversity of the student cohort, the international pedigree of the business school, and the backbone of the program itself would set him up for exactly that.

“The international aspect of UBC Sauder’s MBA program allowed me to leverage different perspectives,” says Wilkinson, who was born in Saskatchewan but spent much of his life in the Greater Toronto Area.

“It’s only amplified when you move from a student cohort of 90 people to an organization in the tens of thousands.”

That organization is the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world: Kraft Heinz. Wilkinson works in the company’s Global Centre of Excellence in Amsterdam. Every day, he partners with teams that span the globe – from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Australia. It’s a role that offers Wilkinson exactly what he was seeking – the chance to lead strategic initiatives within a global corporation. 

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Working for Kraft Heinz as Senior Manager - Strategic Projects, Global Procurement Excellence has given Bryn the opportunity to work with international teams and new markets. 

 

A seat at the table

Wilkinson’s professional journey began after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Queen’s University. He was hired by WSP in Canada, a professional services consulting firm, and while there, the firm was acquired by a multinational organization. 

Everything about the merger and acquisition process fascinated Wilkinson – from change management to strategic decision-making. He realized business strategy was where he wanted to be. But in order to make the leap to a role where he could drive more business decisions, he would need solid business acumen. 

“I saw that in order to get to the next level in a large-scale organization, to get a seat at the table and participate in decisions and strategic recommendations, I needed an MBA,” he recalls.

And that’s what led him to UBC Sauder.

For his Master’s, Wilkinson wanted a different experience. The west coast appealed to him, as did the global mindset for which the UBC Sauder School of Business is known. 

“I wanted to work in a different market and be part of a very international class because I knew I wanted to go international after completing my education,” he explains.

Wilkinson was accepted into the program – one of only 90 MBA students in a class that is kept small by design.

“I think the class size is a huge benefit because you end up with a group of friends from around the world who are all focusing on different streams – whether technology and analytics or innovation and entrepreneurship – and you build strong relationships in a relatively short time together,” he says. “There’s something special about the culture that’s fostered. It builds really strong bonds within the cohorts.”

On top of the rigorous curricular demands of the MBA program itself, Wilkinson, who majored in Finance, sat on the Executive Council of the MBA Society, which oversees extracurricular initiatives. 

“That was an especially great experience,” he says. “It gave me new perspectives and helped strengthen skills that were so applicable after the program, such as managerial skillsets, high-level planning, and strategic thinking.”

 

An opportunity to lead change on a global scale

With graduation approaching, Wilkinson began exploring opportunities across the United States and Europe, even travelling to London for interviews with financial institutions. During the process, an opportunity presented itself at Kraft Heinz, a giant in the consumer packaged goods industry. It was a sector Wilkinson hadn’t considered, but a key component of the role drove him to explore it further.

“My goal right from the outset was to land a role where I could participate in strategic thinking and have a real ownership stake in change,” he explains. “This was a unique opportunity to be a part of a team that’s helping lead the change for the procurement function, as our company is going through a transformation.”

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Bryn and fellow Canadian Bridget are enjoying their European lifestyle. 

Another exciting aspect of the role was its location – Wilkinson is based in the scenic Dutch city of Amsterdam. Known for its network of canals, historic buildings and cycling culture, everything about the job and location suits Wilkinson’s idea of a global career. Many of the skills he uses day-to-day were honed during his years at UBC Sauder. 

“Everything from project management to working with different stakeholders, I leverage the skills I gained in my MBA,” he says. “From the program management to the instruction to the delivery of course content, the program was absolutely top notch,” he says. 

Wilkinson found his academic experience to be transformational, but agrees it helped having specific career goals. 

“On day one, they told us we’d get out of the program what we put into it and I absolutely found that to be true,” he says.