People on a video call

Connections count

Wednesday, March 23, 2022 - 8:29am
Carla DeMarco
Master of Management in Innovation student veers from pharma to tech

MMI student Elizabeth LeeElizabeth Lee is convinced that information gathering and networking are key for exploring new territory.

In fact, it was finding the right connections that proved crucial for her current scholarly pursuits at UofT Mississauga (UTM) and budding career at a major software firm.

Lee began her academic path in life sciences in 2017 at McMaster and mainly had her sights set eventually on a future in pharmaceuticals. However, while obtaining her degree in UTM’s Master of Management in Innovation (MMI), the lure of an opportunity in tech turned her around to other possibilities.

“I was so focused on finding work in the pharmaceutical sector that even before starting the program I asked Afrodite Cruz [MMI’s Recruitment, Placement and Employer Relations Manager] about working in the pharmaceutical industry,” says Lee, who ultimately felt MMI was the ideal program for the next stage of her education and started out in the program last September.

“Afrodite really encourages students to explore different areas and through multiple conversations, I realized that the tech industry was for me.”

Now newly hired as a consultant with global software company Oracle Corporation, Lee is excited for this opportunity, and says it was speaking with various people that helped her to define this new path forward. Over the last year while in the MMI program, she initiated several virtual coffee chats and informational interviews with people currently working in industry and also graduates of the MMI program to build her knowledge base, as well as expand her network, and better identify her potential career prospects.

Equipped with a list of where recent graduates were placed, provided by the MMI program, and with a platform like LinkedIn to engage with either MMI graduates or organizational recruiters, Lee says there was no shortage of people to contact.

It was through one such random coffee talks that Lee eventually ended up with her current role at Oracle.

“I was chatting with a connection in pharma and mentioned to her that I had put in an application with Oracle, and, as it turned out, she had a close contact who worked there,” says Lee, who was subsequently introduced to that contact.

“This particular meeting and the fact that I mentioned my application put the ball in motion for meeting with this other person, who was already working at Oracle, and served as a tipping point for me making my decision about working there.”

Her consultancy work at Oracle is with NetSuite, an automated business software, and she engages with small- to medium-sized businesses to navigate Oracle’s offerings and help them customize their organizational needs.

For now, Lee is grateful for this chance conversation that shifted her path, and the specialized skillset she is developing, however she remains open to the possibility of switching to a position in the pharmaceuticals industry should the right opportunity come along.

“I think the most important thing is to find a position that helps you progress and build on those skills – like for me the technical skills, but also communication, teaching, and being detail oriented – that you want to work on,” says Lee. 

“I also realized that talking to people working in this area to find out about my different options in this field is the best way to make informed decisions about where I am going, and being open to the opportunities that come up along the way is essential.”