Jiayi Li sitting at a table with a cup of coffee looking out the window

International student finds dream job in Nanaimo

May 31, 2023

Jiayi Li’s innovation saved his company thousands of dollars

Jiayi Li can still vividly recall the step-by-step process of securing his dream job in Nanaimo.

All VIU Master of Business Administration students are required to do an internship to complete the program. After some research, Jiayi.  successfully pitched his skill-set to IWC Excavation.

“Although the primary goal of the internship was to learn and adapt to the Canadian work environment, I felt compelled to do more,” said Jiayi, who came to study at VIU as an international student.

Early on, Jiayi identified the need for a system that could send information about the fleet to the company’s main office in seconds. The new custom service cost IWC nothing more than Jiayi’s time because he built it himself, yet it has saved the company thousands of dollars.

“Jiayi has no problems identifying areas that need improvement and offering support or help to improve them,” says Geoff Schulson, IWC's General Manager. “Concerns about his motivation and ability to self-start were alleviated early on.”

Jiayi’s innovation paid off and since graduating in September 2022, he now works full-time as a project manager.

Here’s what Jiayi had to say about his background, his career and his experience at VIU.

What drew you to VIU?

The MBA program design and its stunning location on Vancouver Island captivated my interest. The program empowered me to leverage my professional expertise and past experiences, build my network and gain valuable experience in Canada. 

Can you tell us more about how you “self-marketed” yourself to IWC Excavation?

I can vividly recall the successful process of securing my dream job, which began with a self-assessment assignment to identify my strengths and weaknesses. Next, I explored the sectors and industries that I was most interested in working for. Then, I compiled a list of three companies I aspired to work for and focused on establishing connections with them. The instructors guide us in resume preparation and the faculty provide invaluable support in linking students to relevant networks.

I discovered that referrals play a significant role in job searching within the Canadian job market. But as a newcomer, obtaining references was a considerable obstacle. Fortunately, the course introduced me to a technique called cold calling. I did this to establish connections with potential employers.

I used this technique to self-market myself, getting an interview opportunity from IWC. After the interview, I followed up with an email to demonstrate my interest in the position and got a second interview, which allowed me to have a deeper conversation with the manager.

During your internship, you found a way to help save the company a significant amount of time and money. Can you elaborate on this?

During the interview, I told Geoff that my previous work experience, abilities and skills could benefit him. Shortly after I started, I looked at the company’s operational processes and current inventory to identify ways to improve management efficiency while keeping costs low. When I presented my idea, he fully supported it out.

Although I had no computer science background, I learned programming language during my MBA. I used this knowledge to build an automated cloud service for the company to track its fleet and update info to the main office in seconds, at absolutely no extra cost.

What was the biggest advantage in working with a local employer as a VIU student? 

VIU attracts students from all around the world and delivers its graduates to the community. The link between VIU and local employers is strong.”For instance, IWC provides on-site orientation for VIU Heavy Equipment Operator program students. . Many of my co-workers graduated from VIU, and I know VIU has become known for earning local employers’ trust.

What advice do you have for current VIU students on a similar trajectory as you?

Although I initially had doubts about the programming language course, the results have proven that the program’s design is scientific and systematic. It provides knowledge that goes beyond students’ immediate demands, allowing them to leverage their competencies to their fullest extent.

I understand that it may be easy to say but difficult to put into action. I was hesitant to connect with potential employers, but I eventually challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone. I found it helpful to ask faculty members questions and take advantage of the comprehensive support that VIU provides to students. This support greatly aided me in my job search.

Anything else you would like to add?

I am sincerely grateful to my General Manager Geoff Schulson for offering me the opportunity to work for the company. I understand that it was a risk for the company to hire an international student with no references. Despite this, my General Manager placed his trust in me and allowed me to try out all my ideas, even though some of them did not succeed. VIU serves as a guarantee to local employers and reduces their hesitation to hire VIU students, thanks to its reputation for producing highly competent graduates.

*Image by Dirk Heydemann of HA Photography

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