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March 14, 2017

Martin Zhao’s MIS Story

Who are you? Tell us about yourself.

I’m Martin Zhao and I’m a 5th year student in MIS here at SFU. My role in MISA is the VP of Internal Relations. Essentially I work a lot with the school faculty such as SEO (Student Engagement Office), professors, career advisors, and other clubs, in order to boost student engagement on campus and increase stakeholder buy-in with some of the staff at SFU.

It’s a relatively new role, so you’ll notice that it’s sort of a shared role with what the human resources does, but Tamara (VP of Human Resources at MISA) will work more on digital campaigns and internal scheduling, whereas I’ll be more on the ground talking to students and faculty to get engagement that way.

martin marge clubs day

What does MIS mean to you?

In layman’s terms, and what I tell everyone, is that it’s Business & Technology. There’s actually an initiative to get this name changed nationally from “MIS” to “BTM” (Business Technology Management). MIS exists because of a time when working with databases, using Pivot Tables etc. was a niche skill for a business person. Now things have changed, you’re not just managing information systems anymore as an administrative task, but rather working in a total crossroads between business and technology. On a higher level, it’s really is just technology. You’re may be bound to a certain business process, but you’re learning about different subsets of technology that you can apply to any organization and any industry.

“Now things have changed, you’re not just managing information systems anymore as an administrative task, but rather working in a total crossroads between business and technology”.

What kind of events have you attended in the past? What were the key takeaways?

martin team

The most memorable event for me, and the one that had the most profound impact was the MISA Mixer back in 2014. This was back when I was still a computing science student, and I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t really sure if it was the concentration for me. I wasn’t learning a whole lot and it wasn’t taking me where I wanted to be both in life and career wise. That year the Mixer was a sold out event. The professionals were very easy to approach and they shared a lot of knowledge about a field that I had no idea existed. Back then I had no idea that technology consulting even existed. I either thought you were in business, or you were a coder, but it didn’t strike me that there were so many opportunities available at the intersection of those two concentrations.

In terms of looking at that event in more detail, what stuck out to me was the range of people available to talk to. You saw professionals ranging from young to very experienced, and it was in a way that wasn’t very intimidating. It wasn’t really a panel, but rather everyone was mingling and sometimes you didn’t even realized you were talking to a professional. That was really the highlight, the quality and breadth of professionals at the event.

What advice would you give to a new SFU business student considering MIS among the other concentrations? How would you find your interests if you’re unsure?

If you genuinely don’t know what interests you, I would give you the following advice. Firstly, talk to someone that does something interesting. It doesn’t have to pertain to business or a technical focus in school. Find the key drivers in their jobs, and concentrate on their motivations and less about what they’re actually doing. For example, if someone is pursuing Blockchain technology to promote social empowerment (i.e. giving entrepreneurs financial support that they normally would not receive), and that resonates with you, you might consider that as a potential career or a choice for a concentration. After you’re motivated towards a certain goal/drive, then choose some related classes. In these classes, think less about what you’re learning, but how you can apply the skills you’re learning to your drives and what truly interests you.

“Don’t feel that a class or a concentration necessarily binds you in any shape or form. Those limits are limits you set for yourself.”

How would you convince SFU students to attend MIS Connect?

I think my answer for this question is going to sound very idealistic, but I’ll try and back it up with my own experience. Before going to the MISA Mixer in 2014, I didn’t know why I wanted to go, but I went simply because I didn’t know what else I could do. Speaking from my past personal experience, if you are someone who has a genuine curiosity and interest about what is out there in the world (career wise especially), then an event like MIS Connect is something you should definitely check out.

The pervasiveness of technology in everything we do is something you hear time and time again, but to put meaning behind those words is not something that’s always done effectively. There’s no better place to learn than talking to people whose livelihood is to apply technology in order to create value for their organizations.

martin chris boothing

Learn more about MIS Connect

  • 6 workshops to choose from led by industry experts
  • meet and network with other students interested in technology
  • build relationships with industry professionals and experts from various fields
  • learn how technology is shaping various industries, everything from Fintech to HRIS
  • discover how to incorporate and apply technology in your field

Location: Saturday March 25th, 2017 – Simon Fraser University (Surrey Campus)