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3 Lessons After 5 Years (and Countries)

Kenneth KouIt’s hard to fathom that ten years have elapsed since my first semester as a wide-eyed teenager. In many ways, the past decade has been a blur – an intensive double-degree, co-op program, followed by four jobs in as many countries over the following five years. During my time at the University of Waterloo, I graduated from the Math & Business Double Degree Program (with Wilfrid Laurier University), and completed internships at Microsoft, RIM, and OpenText. After graduation, I taught middle-school in Nigeria, provided strategy consulting services for Fortune 100 firms in San Francisco and performed operations consulting for Ministries of Health in Rwanda and Laos. Now, I’m pursuing an MBA at INSEAD in France.

It has been a whirlwind, and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities that I have been afforded. Looking back to my time at UWaterloo, there are three distinct takeaways from my five years:

Intellectual Rigor: What struck me most during my first series of classes in Fall 2006 was that I was surrounded by some wicked smart people. Coming from a small town with limited academic challenges, MATH 135 served as a truly eye-opening experience. Not only was I taken aback by the quality of the instructors and the lectures, but my classmates never ceased to amaze me with their impressive ability to quickly grasp concepts that eluded me for days (and occasionally, years.) It was, and remains, a humbling experience.

Lifelong Friends: That said, one of the “glass-half-full” upsides of the rigorous academic environment was that you never suffered alone; you had an entire peer group that suffered with you! Staying up all night on CO350 assignments, celebrating minor milestones (completing part 1a of a 20 question practice set!) and cursing your professor’s name served as great social glues. To this day, many of my closest friends are the ones that I made in-class during my first semester.

High ROI of UWaterloo Education: In line with the previous points, we often asked ourselves as students, “what’s the point of all this?” Well, having worked across the world in a variety of functions, I can see the true, differentiating value of my UWaterloo education. Over the past five years, many of my colleagues have studied at prestigious Ivy League institutions. Never once did I feel under-equipped, as the rigor of my Math training prepared me well to succeed in challenging environments. With our southern neighbors often paying over $200K for their undergraduate degree, I can say with great certainty that the UWaterloo degree delivers a far superior ROI while getting you just as far (if not further).

Namibia

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch – I can be reached on LinkedIn or at kou.kenneth@gmail.com.

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