Latest Faculty of Information News

From China to Canada: BI grad forges future in data

Submitted on Wednesday, June 26, 2024

International students face unique challenges and possibilities when they come to study in Canada. For Bachelor of Information graduate Missy Zhang, embracing opportunities and keeping an open mind were key to successfully settling in Canada and finding a job post-graduation.  

Zhang transferred to the BI program in 2022 from Shandong University in China. Her background in accounting and business administration sparked curiosity about the broader technology and information landscape. “I was not only interested in the depth of the courses, but also the breadth,” says Zhang, explaining that she hoped the BI program’s interdisciplinary approach would help her explore her varied interests and discover a path forward. While she says some students entered the program knowing exactly what they wanted to do and how the program would help them achieve it, this was not the case for her.  

Photo of Missy Zhang

Zhang is now working as Materials Management Coordinator at HealthPRO Canada

Zhang’s initial interest in user experience design eventually gave way to a passion for data. Her favourite class was INF451: Information Design Studio IV: Information Visualization with sessional instructor Bianca DiPietro. “She introduced us to graphic design concepts and how to build interactive data visualizations. That was fascinating and exposed me to something I’d never imagined before.”  

The summer between her first and second year, Zhang worked with Assistant Professor Shion Guha on a research project using machine learning models for shelter resource allocation. She also held a work study position as a Business Analyst at Hart House Fitness Centre. There, she honed her analytical skills by extracting and visualizing data and creating an interactive dashboard. These experiences proved valuable in securing her full-time position upon graduation. 

The transition from China to Canada wasn’t without its challenges, particularly in gaining initial work experience and navigating the job market as an international student. Zhang drew strength from communities both on and off-campus. “The BI program is super supportive,” says Zhang. “We’re very close because it’s a small cohort and we have class together almost every day. We go to the same classes and do the same projects and assignments. That really ties us together.” She and other international students felt a sense of camaraderie and leaned on local students for advice about life on campus and in the city. Zhang also cites the BI Student Association’s mentorship program as being immensely helpful in her first semester. Zhang was matched with second year student Julia Wong, now a Product Designer at theScore. 

By the time she graduated, Zhang had already secured a full-time job as Materials Management Coordinator at HealthPRO Canada, a procurement company linking healthcare teams with suppliers for everything from furniture and medications to food and beverage. In her role, Zhang serves as a mediator between hospitals and suppliers, understanding the needs of both parties to facilitate contract agreements. “I think they hired me for my analytical skills,” says Zhang. “They’re bringing more of that talent into the company to help them understand their data and how they’re competing with competitors.

Reflecting on her experience, Zhang emphasizes the BI program’s focus on practical skill development and career preparation. “Some of the most important skills I learned through the BI program are communication and collaboration,” she notes. The program’s emphasis on group projects not only honed her technical skills, but also equipped her with essential soft skills highly valued in today’s job market. 

As Zhang makes plans to visit home for the first time since arriving in Canada, she reflects positively on her academic journey. Her advice to future international students echoes her own experience: “It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do when you start. You can still be successful.”  

Filed under: