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HBA · Nick Zhang

The Journey Here: Nick Zhang

Mar 20, 2023

Nick (1)

Coming from a family where STEM was everything, I would naturally grow up to hone my skills in the maths and sciences. I’ve watched my older brother of four years attend Computer Engineering at University of Toronto. I’ve seen my parents fiddle with everything in my house from electronics to the water pipes. I’ve observed my brother design and create complex circuits, and I myself even started to write code and made a funny little videogame. However, even with both my parents and my brother being engineers, I now sit here at Western University poised to focus my degree on business, diverging from the path that my family traditionally takes.

Growing up, I always told my peers and wrote in those little “Letter to my Future Self” activities that I was going to do engineering and mess with technology for my entire life. Thus, you can imagine the shock my family had when, in my senior year of high school, I told them I had changed my mind to business and wanted to apply to all these HBA, BBA, and BCom programs across Canada.

So, what happened? Through high school, the more I did maths and sciences, the more I found that being good at it didn’t mean I loved it. While I consistently scored well in the STEM subjects, my passion for them began to dwindle, and other courses started to pique my interest more and more. Specifically, IB Economics and English are two of my absolute favourite courses I have ever done. Whenever I had to analyze a piece of writing by extrapolating major themes, or make recommendations pertaining to economic trends, I found this type of thinking way more appealing than the average STEM course. Deep interconnected analysis was what ultimately hooked me, rather than solving for a full set of integrals. However, by no means do I not enjoy math and science; it just doesn’t intrigue me in the same way that these humanities courses do.

On top of that, my passion for technology has always been present, which is why I used to believe that engineering was the way to go. However, I eventually realized that I loved tech not just for its technical side, but for its business side as well. I’ve found the branding and marketing for various tech companies incredible, such as the way Apple has such massive release conferences for their yearly lineup refresh. This reframing helped me realize that I should be more seriously considering that business degree that I was thinking about.

I came to this big revelation right when post-secondary application season started. I now had to start making some decisions: which schools would I apply to for engineering, and which schools would I apply to for business? Many schools had a one-program-per-faculty limit, and since many institutions qualify both programs as a science, I had to make this limiting choice. In my search, I ended up always prioritizing business programs, and to this day, one of my biggest regrets is not applying to more engineering opportunities. And when acceptances came out – while I was so fortunate to have choices to pick from – I felt sorry about the fact that I really only had business choices: any engineering option had been voided for a business one from the same school. That’s why Ivey’s dual degree option with engineering was the one I ultimately chose; I now get to explore both of my passions in depth at a school where the business education is developed on top of my engineering undergrad.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike engineering. I think technology is fascinating, and I still enjoy my STEM courses through and through. However, it will not replace the thrill I get when I am diving deep into a case competition, or thinking up new marketing strategies that could promote a firm or product best. Let this be a lesson for anyone thinking about their future and stressing out about it: don’t be afraid if you aren’t certain, and don’t feel confined to what you believe others are expecting from you; trust your heart and follow what you really want!