Ever since she was young, Maricel Saenz’s goal has been to create social impact. After graduating from UBC Sauder, where she discovered her passion for social enterprise and entrepreneurship, she is building a biotechnology company that has the potential to save lives.
“When I left Costa Rica, I would have never imagined ending up here,” says the San Jose native. “UBC Sauder helped me discover what I’m passionate about and gave me the skills and work experience to build something of real importance.”
New venture design class
When she first arrived at UBC, Maricel took part in a program called Jump Start, which is designed to set up new students for success socially, academically and, in the case of international students, culturally.
“Jump Start was a brilliant way to get grounded in a completely new country and city,” she says. “It helped me understand things that might otherwise have thrown me off and introduced me to other international students who are to this day some of my best friends.”
In her studies Maricel focused on finance and discovered a particular interest in social enterprise.
“Through UBC Sauder’s programs and initiatives I discovered the intersection between business and creating social good,” she says.
In one of her classes, she and a small group of her fellow students were tasked with designing a new venture, which gave Maricel her first experience of building a company.
“It was my first time working so closely with people who have very different skill sets than I do,” she says. “I discovered what I could bring to a team – what I can learn from my cohort and what they can learn from me.”
In addition to developing her teamwork capabilities, Maricel cultivated her leadership skills in a class devoted to exactly that.
“That course helped me discover the type of person I want to be,” she says. “We had very deep conversations about what it means to be a great leader and I often draw upon that to this day.”
To expand her skills and experience Maricel joined the Social Enterprise Club, which connected her with social enterprises doing work in the real world, and she travelled to Cambodia to work with an NGO and South Africa to consult with small businesses.
“The program is very well-rounded, which is especially important as an entrepreneur needs to wear so many hats,” she says.
UBC Sauder helped me discover what I'm passionate about and gave me the skills to build something of real importance.
Tackling global health
After her third year at UBC Sauder, Maricel landed a coveted consulting internship with Deloitte, which turned into a job offer when she graduated.
“UBC Sauder prepared me for Deloitte by building my skill set and giving me a strong professional network,” she says.
After two years with Deloitte, she left to build a biotechnology company called Nextbiotics, which is engineering viruses to target antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a significant global health challenge.
“Our goal is very ambitious, but that’s what keeps us motivated,” she says.
“If we can save even one life, all this work will have been worth it.”