Starting a career in a new country is a big challenge. Luckily, Bruce Zhou is up to it. Originally from China, he’s using his MBA to build a career in accounting in Canada.
Growing up in China’s Guangdong province, Bruce was interested in moving to Canada since high school.
Looking into Canadian universities, he soon came across Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. Won over by the school’s long-running bachelor’s degree in accounting, he leapt at the opportunity to study there.
To be awarded his CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) qualification in Canada, though, Bruce would need to work there for three years. Without work experience in the country, finding the right opportunities presented a challenge.
That’s where the MBA program at Edwards School of Business, came in. After completing his undergrad, Bruce applied for the MBA program to kickstart his career in Canada.
A welcoming environment
Edwards’ MBA offers an internship program, where students can practice their new skills in a real-world work environment.
With over 100 internships on offer each year, participants can apply to be matched with a role that suits their background and interests.
When Bruce applied to the internship program, he was accepted to a role with Canpotex, a leading Canadian potash exporter.
Potash is a vital fertilizer, underpinning global food production, and Canada is home to the world’s largest reserves—about one billion tons.
Canpotex currently exports potash to 60 countries around the world, contributing to global food security.
Before his internship began, Bruce was concerned about fitting in with his peers. As an international student, he would have a lot to learn about business practices in Canada.
Despite his apprehensions, Bruce entered a warm, welcoming workspace. “Every colleague wanted to help me achieve my goals and grow,” he says.
“I think it’s partly because Canada is a multicultural society as a whole,” he reflects.
At Canpotex, Bruce works in accounting, moving between departments to ensure that sales and reporting comply with international standards.
It’s a great match for his academic background, he says, and the work experience counts towards the three years he needs for CPA accreditation.
“Our company is also implementing a new information system,” he adds. “I help the operations, sales, and finance teams to integrate.”
So far, this process has involved testing the system, and helping different departments learn how to input data—amounting to $100 million worth of sales—consistently.
The work is varied and challenging, Bruce reports, helping him develop relevant skills for the Canadian job market.
“I think the biggest challenge is working in a very fast-paced environment, with shifting priorities,” he explains.
Communicating with colleagues in different departments has also been a learning curve: “Knowing their concerns and priorities is important,” he notes.
An eye opener
When Bruce first came to Canada, he only considered working with accounting firms.
“Today, I’m open to any opportunity that provides me with some good experience,” he notes.
Through his MBA, Bruce feels his eyes have been opened to the wider world of business—in Canada and beyond.
One of the most important things he’s learning at Edwards is the importance of strategy, highlighted through modules such as Tactical Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Business Planning.
“We learned that every region has their own version of strategy,” Bruce adds, “and leadership differs by region, too.”
Bruce was also impressed by how much the MBA has taught him about financial analysis.
“Every business activity is related to financial results,” he explains. “I need to understand how it’s interconnected.”
For anyone hoping to start a new career abroad, building the right network is almost as important as honing the right skills. Bruce’s MBA is helping him do just that.
At Canpotex, he is building relationships with colleagues in diverse roles. Back in the classroom, he had the chance to network with his peers, and local business leaders when they came to give talks at the school.
“It’s a valuable asset for MBA students who want to expand their network,” Bruce reflects.
Another valuable connection Bruce has made is with his mentor, an internal auditing manager who is helping him weigh up career options.
A future in Canada
The MBA curriculum at Edwards has given Bruce a broad understanding of Canada’s business landscape, but the internship has added something unique, he believes.
“I can see the big picture of Canadian business,” he says. “I couldn’t learn about the business environment in the classroom alone.”
Equipped with these experiences, Bruce hopes to remain in Canada when he graduates from the MBA. “It’s a very supportive working environment,” he says.
Of Edwards’ 2018 MBA graduates, 93% are currently employed, with 84% remaining in Saskatchewan.
When Bruce graduates, he is confident that with the right opportunity he can join their ranks.