Early in his second year of medical school, Jose Luis Avilez realized he wanted something different than medical school could offer. In his heart, he knew he wanted to study mathematics. It was a difficult decision, but by 2016 he was applying to universities.

“A friend of mine who studied at Waterloo told me about its program in Mathematical Finance and that it has a co-op program,” remembered Avilez. “I was sold.”

He transferred in Winter 2017 and remembers how cold it was. But the weather didn’t deter him from continuing and he counted the small victories as he studied Mathematical Finance. The first milestone was getting three interviews for his first co-op term and getting a job. Next, it was getting seven interviews the following round, and 30 the next. Avilez kept getting better jobs, scholarships, grants and awards along the way. When he looks back, he realizes all the hard work was worth it.

Although Avilez enjoyed co-op terms, he also tried his hand at entrepreneurship. He and two friends in Toronto participated in a University of Toronto hackathon one weekend. While pitching the idea, they caught the attention of program directors from the Creative Destruction Labs and won the hackathon. The team successfully applied to the Creative Destruction Labs program, received funding and graduated from the program last year.

The project is currently on hold,” reported Avilez. “My two co-founders chose to be part of a bigger startup and I took the opportunity to extend my skillset at GWN Capital where I previously had a co-op term.”

Avilez has always hedged his bets with pragmatic decisions, making sure that his skill set is as diverse as possible so that he can make it in industry. He’s decided his next move is a Master of Mathematics in Statistics right here at Waterloo.

“I decided to continue my education here for a few reasons,” he says. “The Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science is really supportive and I have access to world-class mentorship. Plus I can pursue research that is squarely within my area of interest.”

He also plans on getting back to travel when it’s available.

“I truly want to take a VIA from Toronto to Vancouver,” said Avilez. “I suggest that all my fellow graduates make a list of everything you want to do as soon as things are back to normal.”