Alex Zhu (he/him) is a third-year student in the Computer and Financial Management program, in the Faculty of Math. He is a recipient of the Co-op Student of the Year Award for his role at Mastercard as an associate consultant intern. Alex discusses his journey navigating the corporate world while diversifying his professional skills.
“At Mastercard, my main role was to advise clients across insurance and retail about topics and initiatives that were top of mind for their management and executive teams."
"In these roles, we used data tools and analytics and conducted customer and market research to provide the best recommendations for our clients.”
“I had the privilege of being able to fill a big pair of shoes as an interim project lead. In this role, I was able to step up and lead client engagements."
"It was a valuable opportunity for me as a co-op student to take that extra step and go above and beyond the role that I was given and practice a variety of skills like project and stakeholder management.”
Q: Do you think the leadership skills you picked up will help you in your future co-op and career?
A: “Leadership wasn’t something that I expected to pick up as a co-op student. I expected the work to be other people leading me. Having leadership as a skill in my back pocket is going to be valuable for me going into the future not just as a resumé item but as a personal confidence element. Being able to say that I led major initiatives in my co-op positions gives me a sort of confidence that I never thought I would gain this early on. I will bring this with me to all my co-op positions and future work.”
Q: Is there anything else that co-op has taught you?
A: “Co-op has taught me to be resilient and to not be afraid of asking for more opportunities. I have learned to be proactive and ready for whatever comes my way. Having an open mindset and striving to stay a step ahead of my work, leaving time for new opportunities, has helped me make the most of my co-op experience.”
Q: Have your past co-op experiences helped you prepare for this work term?
A: “One of the beauties of co-op is that I can experience many different jobs and industries. Each job, in its own way, helps me build up to the next one. In my past co-op experiences, I built technical and soft skills that I was able to bring to this role. This helped me become a better co-op student and leader and helped me step into the role with confidence.”
Q: What does it feel like to be the recipient of the Math Co-op Student of the Year Award?
A: “I feel really honored to be given this award. It will motivate me to work harder in the classroom and the workplace. In my first year of university, I lacked confidence and didn’t think I would accomplish much given today’s unbelievably talented pool of students. Winning this award now has shown me that anything is possible if you work hard and follow the goals you have set for yourself.”
Here are some thoughts Alex would like to share about his co-op experience at Mastercard:
Finding the link between your academic knowledge and professional skills could be the key to ensuring you are ready to take on new roles now and in the future.
“Through co-op, you are able to get industry experiences that help inform what kind of skills and attributes are most valuable in the workforce today. This understanding helps me dictate the kind of courses I want to take and what extracurriculars would benefit me the most. I am able to understand how to make myself future-proof and future-ready to the best of my ability.”