Rerouting a career path via UBC Sauder School of Business

Posted 2020-02-11

When Toronto-based grad Matthew Colphon wanted to broaden career options, he chose to take a 16-month MBA program at UBC Sauder School of Business.

He’s a project manager, researcher, investigator and world traveller – but these skill sets are only some of the reasons why Matthew Colphon is so good at solving problems for a living.

As the senior manager of strategy and transformation at RBC in Toronto, where he provides in-house consulting for a range of departments, Colphon attributes the bulk of his career success to taking the UBC MBA program at the Robert H. Lee School, UBC Sauder School of Business.

At the time of his application to the school in 2013, he was working as an admissions and recruitment officer at the University of Waterloo, where he had completed an undergraduate degree in hydrogeology and business. The experience was a positive one and relatively multifaceted, he says, but left him wanting more.

With two years of work experience already under his belt, Colphon decided it was time to look at business schools. After writing his graduate management admissions test – and acing it – he carefully considered all his options and set his sights on UBC.

His choice of UBC Sauder was for several strategic reasons. First, he wanted the experience of living away from home in Toronto. Second, he was awarded a generous entrance scholarship equivalent to 25 per cent of the cost of his entire program tuition, which didn’t hurt. Third, he loved that the MBA program was packed into 16 months and also included a summer internship

“The program at UBC Sauder seemed to offer a better opportunity for branding and obtaining more work experience,” he says. “Ending the program earlier means you can get a job faster instead of having to wait until the following June.”

But probably the biggest factor for Colphon was that UBC Sauder was priced 60-per-cent lower than schools of comparable quality and calibre, in part due to tuition caps imposed by the B.C. government.

Alongside 110 fellow classmates representing 27 countries, Colphon quickly hit the ground running for a transformative student experience, zeroing in on consulting as the area he wanted to specialize in.

A three-week global immersion trip offered at UBC Sauder gave him not only the opportunity to travel to India but also a taste of what consulting entailed as he helped advise local charities on improving their operations.

One of those charities, which was responsible for feeding five million school children a day, was looking for guidance on how to reach out to the Indian diaspora for funding.

Another organization with a mission to cure blindness through cataract surgery asked for help with managing the ordering, manufacturing and delivery of eyeglasses more efficiently.

“There were many curveballs to navigate in that process – your ordering process could be good but then problems in insuring them might arise because of third-party couriers who could be guys on mopeds, community members or small business owners responsible for delivering them,” he says.

“Going abroad was such a great experience. I remember one of the biggest lessons in India was that when someone says, ‘No problem,’ they don’t necessarily mean that, because it’s a face-saving culture. You pick up on these cultural nuances when you work closely with people on the ground, and you start realizing that it totally changes the way business is run.”

In addition to real-life work experience, students also had access to guidance and mentorship, including one-on-one meetings with a career manager at the on-campus Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre, where they create a road map for each student’s career path. Colphon also benefited from the UBC Strategy Consulting Mentorship Program, which was created specifically for strategy consulting majors.

“It’s run by graduates already working in management consulting, who help set current students up for success through coaching them on interviewing formats and case studies,” says Colphon, who now goes back every year to offer insights based on his experience.

While Colphon accepted his first offer right out of school to work in Toronto for Bain & Company, an external management consulting company, he found his next job with RBC to be a better fit, as it affords him work-life balance.

“I take satisfaction in working hard but wasn’t performing my best without having the chance to take time off and enjoy it,” he says. “I love cycling and ultimate Frisbee, I’ve visited 35 countries and am headed to Munich this fall for Oktoberfest – in fact I just picked out my lederhosen online!”

“Well-roundedness is important to me in terms of what I look for in a job – I look for a variety of problems to work on and the flexibility required to solve them.”

And well-roundedness is also important to the hiring team at RBC, says Michelle Bashir, senior director of strategy and transformation.

“Diversity of thought and experience is something we strongly value here,” she says. We really believe that our ability to differentiate is a result of the varying perspectives and backgrounds brought by our team – so we are deliberate in finding people that fit this profile.

“There are two foundational components to anyone we hire – strong aptitude and a positive attitude – which is something we found, along with diversity, to be very common with all of the grads we hire from UBC Sauder. I think the school has definitely had a direct relationship to Matt’s success – we have four grads on our team and they all demonstrate strong aptitude and a willingness to continuously learn and improve.”

A high EQ is another important trait, which Colphon happened to have in spades, says Bashir.

“From a personality perspective, he was sharp, funny and had a kindness to him that we knew would fit quite well with the culture of the current team,” she says. “It was the combination of his strong consulting capabilities and his personality that made him a great candidate for the STS group at RBC.”

Colphon certainly has no misgivings about choosing a different career path than the one he initially envisioned during his undergraduate years.

“My time at UBC Sauder was one of the best experiences I could have had,” he says. “I think UBC MBA offers a great value proposition for having such a strong brand name. No one will ever ask you where UBC is.”

For more information on the UBC MBA, visit

First published by the Globe Content Studio