Jump to alumni
Graduating year: 1993
Program: Science Honours
Minors or specializations: Physics
Co-op program: Yes
Co-op positions: IBM – Technical Writing/Product Support; Pratt & Whitney (engine company) – technical writing; Litton Systems (military contractor) – Tech Support
First Position: (after graduation): Attachmate Inc – Technical Writing and Product Support
Current Position: Senior User Experience Designer, Riot Games Inc.
Favourite Transferrable Skill: Technical writing (clear written communication); Problem solving (methodology applied when solving physics problems is similar to that used when solving problems in game design)
Hi! I'm Alan Shen, Applied Physics Grad, Class of '93. I'm originally from Toronto and grew up in Etobicoke on the west side of the city. After graduation, I spent a few years working as a tech writer before moving to Seattle in the late 90s to pursue a career with Microsoft. The company was the perfect place for me to learn new skills, take on new roles, and help imagine the future of entertainment by helping lead design for products like the Xbox 360 and Zune. After living in Seattle for 15 years, I got tired of the rain and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I find myself today.
Today, I work for Riot Games, the creator of the popular game "League of Legends". I'm leading the UX design for Project L, an amazing new fighting game I can't wait to share with players (when it's ready!)
Over my career, I've worked with some amazingly talented folks at companies like Microsoft, Google, and LG. I do believe my time at Waterloo opened doors for me at companies like these and certainly help shape how I approach product design, which is admittedly non-conventional. I've never asked for permission to apply for a job I thought I was unqualified for. Advice that has served me well on my career journey is to always be open to unexpected opportunities. At the minimum, it'll be a chance to grow and learn. At best, you could discover a career path that was previously hidden from you. Ultimately, pursuing endeavours I have passion for has guided my career. I hope you will have success in discovering your passions!
Feel free to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @yoyogadget
Graduating year: 2006
Program: Mathematical Physics
Further Education: UW MSc 2007; UW PhD 2011;
First Position: Consultant, Boston Consulting Group
Current Position: Managing Director, Co-head of Energy Transition – BMO Bank of Montreal
Favourite Transferrable Skill: Problem-solving – being able to take in context and design a way to solve a problem has been most applicable
My career journey has been a winding path, based largely on a combination of luck and finding jobs that valued my background for the training it gave me in critical thinking and problem-solving. Immediately after Waterloo, I was lucky to get a position with the Boston Consulting Group. They viewed my PhD as the equivalent to an MBA and work experience. From there, I have been fortunate enough to use my interests and experiences to craft my subsequent roles, including my current role, which helps companies to acquire financing as they attempt to transition to a net-zero future and create a positive social impact.
Some of the relationships you make during this time will follow you forever – I met my wife during my time at UW. I took the academic approach to university – class, study, research, repeat. At some point during my academic career, I received this advice and it stuck with me - “Feedback is a gift.” I like to joke that it’s often much like an ugly piece of China that no one asked for.
Graduating year: 2006
Further Education: M. Sc. Theoretical Physics, McMaster University
First Position: Sales Rep, GoodLife Fitness
Current Position: Vice President, Ecosystem & Alliances – Indicodata.ai
Favourite Transferrable Skill: Work ethic and critical thinking
My career journey has been pretty varied but has always been driven by curiosity and learning to fill my knowledge gaps.
Broadly speaking, my journey has been: in sales -> finance - technology consulting -> finance -> technology strategy.
Leaving grad school, one thing I didn't know was what I could do other than research. So, in hindsight, my first job as a sales rep at Goodlife Fitness was a perfect start. I asked every person I sold a membership to about their academic background, what they did for a living, and what they enjoyed about their job, giving me exposure to a whole world of career paths.
After Goodlife, I moved into consulting, first as a tangible asset valuation consultant, then into technology. In asset valuations, I filled a gap in my education in basic accounting. In technology (as SAP), I started to learn business strategy and how organizations implement changes. I was never satisfied with just implementing, so I moved into a pre-sales consulting role at Salesforce, where I learned how senior executives ultimately make a buying decision and how to help them along that process.
From here, I moved to Birch Hill Equity Partners to learn how organizations even decided that they needed to do something different in the first place. I wanted to know how boards arrived at a decision, not just an individual line of business, and how to make those choices successful.
From that last stay in private equity, I have moved back into technology - first back to Salesforce and now to Indico Data - in strategy roles where I am currently practicing as an "operator," driving strategic transformation from the inside and owning the success (or failure) of projects. This past phase has been the most rewarding by far.
Look outside of your program early on in your education to familiarize yourself with the opportunities that are available. The skills you build in science are so transferable that you can do basically anything, it's just about having a wide aperture and knowing the possibilities. Try and make a point of networking outside of your program.
Graduating year: 1989
Program: Science Honours
Minors or specializations: Biology
MSc, Microbiology & Immunology (1992)
Masters, Health Administration (1994)
First Position: PR Manager, CHEO
Current Position: Founder, Chief Sustainability and Business Development Officer - The House of LR&C
Favourite Transferrable Skill: Problem-solving. The scientific method teaches us to break down problems into manageable pieces, research and re-test our hypothesis and that’s incredibly transferrable.
My passion for companies with purpose need to always be learning and desire to surround myself with smart, creative and innovative people all contributed to a career path that spanned a variety of roles across seemingly unrelated industries.
My first ‘real' job after university flowed from a practicum during my business degree as PR Manager at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. After 3 years of learning the ropes, this led to a Communications Director role at the BC Transplant Society where I was introduced to the world of Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals. This was the perfect match for my combined passions of science and business, and I spent the next 13 years in the field both in California and BC.
The skills learned through communication and PR were the perfect basis for a career in Investor Relations essentially connecting the scientists to the money people on Wall St. I then started a strategic consulting firm called THInc, traded the scientists for engineers when I had the opportunity to work in Solar Energy and helped Whistler Blackcomb to navigate being a publicly traded company.
When the CFO of lululemon recruited me in 2011 it offered the opportunity to work at an iconic company with one of the best business models in retail. In addition, then CEO Christine Day was looking for someone to build the company’s sustainability platform giving me the perfect opportunity to put my newfound education in CSR to work. After 3 exciting years at lululemon I joined Christine in a start-up frozen food company. I learned so much in the start-up environment and re-ignited my consulting practice spending the next few years consulting with a variety of companies lending my expertise and gaining experience in different business models including SAAS at Hootsuite, franchising with 02E Brands, more vertical retail with Saje and Aritzia.
Now it has come first circle and I have joined Christine Day once again as a founding member of a company dedicated to 'making sustainable fashion the effortless choice' Today I am the Chief Sustainability and Business Development Officer of The House of LR&C - this is the role I have been working toward my whole career - I am an owner, helping to change an industry and creating a legacy.
Don’t put pressure on yourself too early to choose a career – pursue education to build a foundation, create a life-long love of learning and that will lead you to a career you love rather than a succession of jobs.