My summer highlights | Ben McDonald and VJ Terzic

Posted 2017-09-06

For some students, summer is a time to kick back and relax. But for others, summer 2017 was an opportunity to build networks, make a positive impact in local communities and learn more about the business world. In the first of this series, we speak with 2018 UBC Sauder MBA candidates Ben McDonald and VJ Terzic about how they chose to spend their summer away from the classroom, and how their experiences are shaping their future in business.

Ben McDonald and VJ Terzic
UBC MBA candidates 2018

How did you spend your summer break?

Our summer consisted of a four-week volunteering trip with SSE Kenya to teach entrepreneurial business to youth in the slums of Nairobi. We also led a compressed two-week version of the course in three different First Nation communities in B.C.

How did your UBC Sauder education prepare you for this role and help you succeed?

The business knowledge we gained in our MBA formed a huge part of our teaching syllabus in Kenya and northern B.C. Specific courses about sustainable community engagement and social business were important in broadening our perspective as we entered these communities, while organizational behavior and leadership classes sharpened our ability to work effectively as a team.

How do you think this experience will help you with your career aspirations?

Our volunteer experiences not only gave us the opportunity to practically apply what we learned in our MBA, but Ben and I also grew as leaders because we had to be as flexible and adaptive as possible in these communities in order to achieve success. But perhaps most importantly, we both gained a better perspective on the complex challenges facing these communities, and the opportunities that exist in collaborating with First Nations to achieve better outcomes for all parties. Today’s businesses and governments increasingly realize the need for First Nation community engagement in their decision-making, but often have to hire outside consultants due to lack of internal experience in this area. Ben and I now have that highly-sought after experience.

Ultimately, our summer experience led to both of us shifting our career aspirations. Although Ben and I both had limited experience in social business, we realized that our time in Kenya and B.C.’s First Nations communities were perhaps the beginning of a career focused on social entrepreneurship, either in Canada or abroad.

Besides school and work, tell us one interesting thing you did this summer.

The perks of our beautiful and ever changing "office" included staring down a rhino from 20 feet away, going deep sea fishing to catch 20-lb salmon and swimming in some beautifully clear water with breathtaking backdrops – all with some of the nicest locals who ultimately became our friends.