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Charting a new career path through the Ivey MSc

  • Communications
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  • Jun 22, 2022
Charting a new career path through the Ivey MSc

Carol Zhang, MSc ’22, is one of the outstanding graduates in the Class of 2022

Having worked part time at a pediatric neuroscience research lab while doing an undergraduate degree in physiology, Carol Zhang initially planned to be a family doctor. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, she rethought her career plans.

“The pandemic forced me to confront the reality of what it is to be in the medical profession and made me take a step back and reevaluate what I wanted,” said Zhang.

Combining interests for a new career path

Instead of attending medical school in fall 2020, Zhang enrolled in the Business Analytics stream of Ivey’s MSc program. Her interest in analytics was sparked by the growth of big data in neuroscience. Since taking the program, Zhang, now MSc ’22, said her background in health care actually opened up the door to finding all sorts of applications at the cutting edge of data science.

“Health care is an area where artificial intelligence (AI) and data science is growing," she said. "I hope with the experience I have now, I can eventually take on more learnings and gain expertise so that I can make an impact I care about,” she said.

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In addition to gaining a business acumen, Zhang said the program helped her to improve her soft skills and confidence by getting her out of her comfort zone. She was initially apprehensive of joining class discussions because she didn’t have a business background, but found everyone was encouraged to participate in class and all insights were valued.

“In class you were encouraged to speak up regardless of your background and that helped me to realize my experience was still valid in helping to construct conclusions,” she said. “Having that support and enthusiasm in the classroom reignited my interest in exploring new fields. I’m a lot more comfortable in taking ownership of my words as well as my work and I hope that’s something I can bring forward in my professional career.”

Learning outside the classroom

Another highlight of the program was the chance to engage with real-life business cases and interact with external clients. Zhang had two unique opportunities to work with community partners outside the classroom. One was with the Ivey Pro Bono Analytics and Strategy Collective (PBASCO). Zhang first participated as an analyst with the club and later served as the 2021 club president. While with the club, she worked on a client management project for the non-profit organization, Single Women in Motherhood, and created an automation process for GMAT Mentors.   

The second opportunity came through the elective course, Systems Thinking. Zhang was part of a student team that helped Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) find ways to reduce single-use plastics, first through a class project and then in a consulting capacity in the summer of 2021.

“It was a huge highlight because I was able to take learnings from the classroom and tie them specifically to an issue that I care about,” she said. “The case-based learning and the opportunity to do those interactions with external clients were the biggest things for me. You don’t get many opportunities while you’re still in school to apply your learnings. My professors taught me to apply myself in those spaces.”

Reuniting with classmates

Since completing the program in December 2021, Zhang has been working as a Data Science Associate at TD Canada Trust. She’ll return to Ivey for June convocation where she’ll give an address to her classmates as valedictorian. Although her program started in virtual format due to the pandemic, the students forged close connections regardless and eventually had some opportunities to meet in person. Above all, Zhang said the biggest highlight of the program was the chance to learn from a diverse group of people.

“I felt really fortunate to be in the company of a group of people who were diverse in backgrounds and talents," she said.

Being able to call these people my classmates and learn from them has been really rewarding. That was a big part of why I found the experience to be a positive one."
– Carol Zhang