YIP Alumni Interview (#2): Aaron Yim

Aaron Yim is currently studying engineering at the University of Waterloo and is a past participant of the Young Investor Program.

1. As a participant in 2014, what are some suggestions you have for YIP this year?

Aaron Yim

YIP did a great job of introducing basic financial concepts and terms.

It would be really cool if the program could talk about some situations where these skills come in handy, and the different tools that can help them apply this knowledge.

2. What is one useful thing you learned from YIP workshops?

Joe Ip’s workshop guided us through current events and likely reactions in company valuations, and in the markets.

The most important takeaway was not only to notice what’s happening in the world, but also to build an understanding around the consequences, and use it to put yourself in a more advantageous position.

After all, the only consistent thing is change, and where there is change, there is opportunity.

3. What made you interested in working on a start-up?

UW’s excellent co-op program has offered opportunities at large, medium, and startup companies. Here’s what I’ve found important to me in a job:

  1. Coworkers: An incompetent project manager, terrible boss or manipulative coworker can certainly ruin the work environment, and your work for you.
  2. Ability to make an impact: Imagine handing in an assignment that your teacher didn’t even look at. That assignment is a project that you spend half a year working on.
  3. Meaningful work: What brings meaning to you? Helping someone? Building something? If you’re spending 2/3rds of your day awake doing something you don’t consider meaningful, find a different ship to jump onto.
  4. Are you valued?: As to the startup environment, the smaller size and higher workload can contribute to what I personally enjoy in a job. Of course, none of this matters if you don’t have a choice of position or company to work for. Education isn’t necessary to be successful, but it certainly opens doors.

4. Where did you get the idea for your start-up?

I didn’t! I was offered an internship with them at a very early stage after my time at Shad Valley.

At Waterloo, however, we have a startup incubator called ‘Velocity’. They award ~125k a term, and offer office space and a residence for those interested in entrepreneurship. At some of their events, I met the founder of Sweat Free Apparel, a nanotechnology startup that makes undershirts that prevent sweat stains. He had this to say: “The easiest way to find an idea, is to reflect on your daily life, and recognize moments when you think life sucks. Then find a way to make your life better. Since it is a personal problem, you will be extremely passionate to solve it. That very passion, will also be the fuel that will tide you through the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey.”

5. What are some tips you have for students starting out in case competitions?

First of all, read. McKinsey’s books are a great deep end to jump into and learn about some of the analytical approaches and techniques that consultants apply to real life problems.

Studying different frameworks and understanding where they work best definitely helps familiarize with the challenges across different domains, contributing to a more well rounded approach to solving the multi-faceted problems that the cases present.

I also really enjoy learning from other case presentations. I keep track of what I was impressed by, and what I should be mindful of. After all, there’s always someone smarter out there to learn from.

As a side note, I was particularly impressed by the company at the Schulich Undergrad Consulting Conference. Together, we dissected the American Election about a week after it happened over dinner. Not only did the factors that contributed to Trump’s win become obvious, but it was also the first rational discussion about the election that I had the pleasure of being a part of.

7. Why did you choose to study mechatronics engineering?

When I initially decided, it was a process of elimination that led me to Engineering. A science undergrad would likely require further education, and an MBA was always an option if a pivot into business was something that I wanted.

Mechatronics Engineering sounded cool since I could combine my two passions: cars and computers. Looking back, I definitely got caught up in the excitement between the end of high school and university. Since then, I’ve actually transferred into Management Engineering.

Here’s how I decided on my transfer, and here’s what I would suggest to you:

  1. Reflect on your experiences, and really identify what kind of skills and experiences set you apart from others.
  2. Take a look at the upper year courses and specializations available. The courses before them exist to build you up towards them, and the result should be something that you’re interested in.
  3. Explore at the different careers available where your skills, experience, and character will give you the greatest advantage. Hopefully, the options are stable enough to account for some of the challenges that life likes to throw at you!
  4. In terms of following your passion, you’ll most likely discover others along the way.

8. What prompted you to choose to study in Ontario rather than British Columbia?

I love returning home to BC in between my school and co-op terms. Between great sushi, work-life balance, beautiful scenery, and some of the best skii slopes all within 45 minute away, it’s always a good time. These ‘quantities’, however, also exist elsewhere. Being adaptable is important to me, and so I took the opportunity to learn to find my niche in another environment. After all, it’s not everyday that the factors line up perfectly for a move across the country.

In terms of education, SFU actually offered a 12k scholarship to both myself, and another friend of mine who also ended up at Waterloo Mechatronics instead of SFU Surrey for the same program. Here’s why.

I visited Ontario in my Grade 11 summer on the way back from Shad Valley UNB, and here’s what I discovered then, and over time.

  1. Attitude: I was particularly impressed by the practical, forward thinking attitude. Ontario’s got the kind of environment that I’ve seen time and time again reward those who are willing to grind through the hard work. I’ve found that BC culture tends to be quite peacekeeping, sometimes at the cost of progress.
  2. Opportunity: The population and GDP of the GTA is about triple that of Metro Vancouver’s. The scale and resources available here aren’t something that I’ve been able to find in BC — Our 18 lane highways are still busy at 11PM at night.
  3. Money: Tuition here is easily double what BC schools want. Looking past post-secondary, however, the income tends to be higher and cost of living lower. Big 4 accounting co-ops in Toronto earn a salary of about 40k, rising to the low 50s in their final terms, with full time offers hovering around 60. This compares to full time offers in Vancouver that seem to start at about 38k. This applies across most industries, with the anomoly being tech. US tech firms prefer Vancouver due to its proximity to Cali, and some local companies are starting to move closer to their compensation schemes in order to attract or retain talent.
  4. Experience: Beyond the growth that comes with moving out, learning from what another culture and lifestyle has to offer is absolutely invaluable. Though health, weather, and money aren’t as great as they would be living at home, this is the one decision I will never look back on. Is it a challenge? Absolutely, but what you learn, and what you go through isn’t something that can be taken away from you.
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