"The courses I took here at the University of Lethbridge prepared me for learning on my feet and helped me develop the right skills for my career path," says Mike Kawchuk (BMgt '15). Encouraging words from the Dhillon School of Business (Dhillon) alumnus who graduated with great distinction in 2015 with a major in finance. Now, Mike is a financial planner at Toronto Dominion (TD) Wealth and manages approximately $100 million in assets across 300 relationships. The Dhillon alumnus was asked to speak about his ULethbridge experience at our most recent open house. Here, Mike elaborates on his experience and shares how his degree helped prepare him for a successful career in finance.
Why did you choose the Dhillon School of Business?
"What really attracted me was it was close to where I was born and raised. I also really enjoyed the small class sizes and the hands-on learning experience you get with your professors. When you're in a class of 16 and you're having a dialogue with your professor, your learning experience ends up being a lot more hands-on and that prepared me for the workplace. I think a lot of my friends [who didn't attend ULethbridge] didn't end up getting that."
Did you take part in any co-operative education, or experiential learning?
"I had the opportunity to go on a couple of trips while I was in school. I did a work study in Malaysia for a finance firm for six months. I also had a chance to compete in New York as part of a finance case competition. As an undergraduate [student], we were competing against master's [students] out of some of the best schools in the United States. We came in second within the program, so we were very competitive in our class."
What was your most memorable experience at ULethbridge?
"I got involved in the Students Union and this is where I met my wife. She's from Calgary and we joke about me getting her to stay in Lethbridge. Taking a computer science class also stood out to me. I needed an elective and while programming might be useful, it was probably the hardest class I took. I spent many evenings up to midnight in the lab down at University Hall. I really struggled with it, but in talking with my professor and doing some programming and financial models with him, I ended up with a good final grade to the course."
How has Dhillon prepared you for today's work force?
"The economy has changed; the world is changing, it could look very different than what the jobs of your parents had. I think of how social media managers today are just jobs that didn't exist 10 or 15 years ago. I think ULethbridge sets you up well for a changing economy in a changing world. Liberal education at ULethbridge really helps you take different courses that you normally wouldn't take and apply it back to your field of study."
What did you do after graduation?
"I worked for Nesbitt Burns (the brokerage arm of Bank of Montreal) and that was a really tough job for me. I remember being in my training class and everyone was joining up with their dad's practice and I was just a little guy starting out on my own. I struggled in that for about two years and then I looked at what options were out there. I ended up moving to TD while pursuing my Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certificate and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certificate. I've been in the same financial planning role with TD for six years now. I manage about 300 households, some of [which include] a couple of generations, so I deal with grandparents, parents and their kids."
What advice would you give aspiring Dhillon undergraduates?
"I think a lot of people come in not really knowing what they want to do and I think your experience at ULethbridge lets you explore different talents. I think you'll find a way to be successful by following something you're passionate about. So, find what you're passionate about and you'll find your path. I think being forced to take some of those extracurricular classes or those different classes help you find that path that works for you and helps you figure out your skill set and abilities."
The Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge is known for its immersive experiential learning opportunities, connecting learners with industry, its supportive, personalized approach and for exposing students to emerging technology. Study options are available in both Lethbridge and Calgary.