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UBC Sauder graduate students help local businesses and not-for-profits navigate the new economy

Muthoni Mutung, Saurabh Khurana, Andrea Hernandez, and Amogh Rao
Posted 2020-09-11
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The business programs at UBC Sauder attract exceptional students from across the globe. Through a unique student internship program, this talent pool is being tapped to help Canadian businesses and not-for-profits pivot and adapt to the new economy.

UBC Sauder is the first business school in Canada to pilot a new program with Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to work with universities, companies and governments to support industrial and social innovation in Canada. The Mitacs Business Strategy Internship program pairs skilled students with employers for four-month job placements. 

Over the summer, 150 UBC Sauder students were placed, including 39 graduate students who bring significant professional experience and international perspectives to their employers. 

“Small businesses and not-for-profit organizations are essential to Canada’s success throughout and beyond COVID-19,” says Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn. “We’re proud to partner with UBC Sauder to support practical work experience for students who are addressing the challenges businesses face.”

Leveraging the talents of professionals from throughout the world 

Muthoni Mutungu

Muthoni Mutung'u is helping the C.O.D.E. Initiative with its financial forecasting and business strategy. 

Muthoni Mutung'u came from Kenya to pursue an MBA and then transition to a career in finance. She spent the summer working for the C.O.D.E. Initiative, a not-for-profit in the education space. Launched by three UBC students, the organization teaches children with learning differences computer programming skills in a supportive environment. 

“Because of the COVID pandemic, we needed to transition to an online platform to be able to virtually meet with students and continue providing learning services,” explains Mutung’u. “My role was to develop a business strategy around how to successfully launch the business and provide a marketing plan to grow the brand.”

Having worked for several years in client management for multinational ad agency Ogilvy, and also in brand management and business strategy, Mutung’u offered her employers expertise in both the creative side and management side of business.

“In a small organization, you pretty much get to do everything. You end up using all your skills and build strong experiences and that’s what I really love about the job,” she says.

Saurabh Khurana

Saurabh Khurana has worked for several large corporations but enjoys the mission-driven work he’s doing at CassaV Foods. 

MBA student Saurabh Khurana brings both an engineering and management consulting background to his place of employment. He obtained a Bachelor of Technology in Electronics and Communications Engineering in India, and also studied at Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management as part of the Global Immersion Experience offered through the MBA program.

Khurana is sharing his knowledge and skills with CassaV Foods, a local startup that’s developing food products made from cassava, a tuberous root traditionally used to make flour for baked goods.

“I’m their only employee at the moment, so I’m wearing multiple hats at once, doing new product development, market research, devising consumer personas, sourcing and supply chain cost benefit analysis and helping build go-to-market strategy.”

It’s not easy breaking into the highly competitive consumer packaged foods vertical in Canada, but Khurana believes cassava, which is gluten-free, ethnographically unique and environmentally sustainable, will appeal to Western tastes. 

“We have learned that North American consumers are not that different from anywhere else. Some people rely on taste and some people rely on price when making a purchasing decision.”

Andrea Hernandez

Andrea Hernandez is helping Eli Technologies Corp. develop new products and markets for the commercial and residential real estate industry. 

Andrea Hernandez is an electronics engineer from Colombia who previously worked for global telecommunications companies and ISPs, including Huawei Technologies. 

“I was a professional services engineer and I have experience in networking, support and maintenance of mobile networks. I also have IT infrastructure implementation and servers and storage knowledge, as well as customer contact, trouble-shooting and vulnerability resolution,” she explains.

The MBA student was hired through the Mitacs program to work as a Product Development Intern for a local real estate technology startup. Its flagship product, the Eli Report, is an AI-powered platform that performs condominium document reviews for real estate professionals and their clients. 

“Since I am technical, I can help the company with that side of their business development, but I can also practice what I’ve been learning in my business courses, so it’s been an excellent experience for me,” says Hernandez. 

Amogh Rao

Amogh Rao was hired by consulting firm Veza Global to help launch an EDI assessment tool. 

Amogh Rao completed a Master of Management and then chose to pursue a Master of Business Analytics. He had lined up a summer job with consulting firm Veza Global, but when COVID-19 hit and companies went into survival mode, there was no budget to hire him. Rather than letting a plum job slip through his fingers, Rao connected Veza Global with UBC Sauder and he was hired through the Mitacs program. 

“I was very lucky,” says Rao, who worked as a mechanical engineer in Mumbai before pivoting to HR management. 

“In my role as an HR Strategist, I’m supporting an assessment tool which assesses corporate entities in terms of their equity, diversity and inclusion policies and their capabilities to deliver on the EDI requirements of today’s world,” he explains. “How do you bring the tool to market, how do you price it, how do you model it? And I’m also working on the back-end analytics part of it, making the tool a lot more accurate.”

Rao previously worked for Spotify on a go-to-market strategy for India; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that equipped him with transferrable skills he is now sharing with the team at Veza Global. 

Extending the program to help more students and Canadian employers

As the first cohort of students complete their internships, the team at UBC Sauder’s Business Career Centre is turning its attention to the fall. With more funding available, the program has been extended and interest from among students and employers remains strong. What launched as an emergency response to COVID-19 is now filling a vital need: matching students with strong business skills and employers with complex business challenges.