How Ted Rogers Students Created the Business Career Hub with Graham Sogawa
The Business Career Hub has been a great resource for students at the Ted Rogers School of Management developing their careers. While these services have been around since the start of many of our undergraduates, it was not always here. I interviewed Graham Sogawa, Executive Director of the Business Career Hub to talk about the Business Career Hub, how it came to be, and how it has helped students!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your background, how you joined the Business Career Hub, and your responsibilities.
Graham Sogawa: I started my career as a recruiter, focusing on financial accounting roles, and I really loved hiring people, it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot to it that you can develop such as the ability to negotiate, so I spent a lot of time hiring talent. I was given the opportunity to move to the other side and take that experience hiring talent to help talent get hired and better navigate the job search process. I spent some time working on that side, before helping an organization to once again help companies hire talent. I was privileged to work with Canadian newcomers, working with persons with disabilities, support Canadian armed forces reservists, all helping organizations to hire talent and to connect with job seekers.
“Six business units that have a shared mission to drive the interrelationship between the Ted Rogers School of Management and industry.”
In 2016, I was invited to the Ted Rogers School of Management to chat with some students about the best job search practices, LinkedIn, and how they can work on their personal brand to connect with recruiters. There had been a full day of programming and I was the last speaker at three o clock, it was during summer and the school was empty. I was really shocked when the presentation started in the CPA lounge and the room was filled. Everyone was dressed professionally, and people stayed and asked questions. I was so impressed by the group of students that I went up to the university afterwards and told them they were doing something right here. I’ve been on campus at almost every university in Ontario and quite a few across Canada. I had never seen a packed room at the end of the day in the middle of summer when students didn’t even have classes. I think that led me to really start watching what was happening at the Ted Rogers School of Management.
Later that year, I saw that there was an opportunity to join the university as the Director of their Career Centre. I applied in 2016 and I met with Dr. Stephen Murphy, who was the Dean at the time, and Dr. Alan Goss, who was the Associate Dean of Students. They shared their vision with me and where they would like to see the Ted Rogers School of Management go. I felt that that aligned with my goals and skills, so I joined the university in September of 2016 and have been here since.
As the Executive Director, I have the privilege of leading the Business Career Hub, which is a collection of seven business units that have a shared mission, and that mission is to drive the interrelationship between the Ted Rogers School of Management and industry. These seven units all share that mission in common and they include our Career Centre, many students are familiar with the Ted Rogers Careers Team, who support them in connecting with employers and getting their resumes and cover letters together.
I think students are familiar with our growing Ted Rogers co-op program, and Bootcamps, our technical training programs. Something that students may not be aware of is that the Business Career Hub also includes our Alumni Community. There are 55,000 graduates from the Ted Rogers School of Management. The Ted Rogers Alumni team is part of the Business Career Hub, trying to foster those connections and keep our graduates connected to the school. I also oversee Corporate and Executive Education on behalf of the Ted Rogers School of Management. We take the curriculum learned in the classroom and deliver it to industry partners. So the faculty members that are teaching students may actually be teaching an outside corporate partner on a similar topic.
The sixth unit is sales and corporate partnerships. We lead the outreach activities to develop those partnerships with the industry, and my role is to coordinate the activities of those six units. It includes helping to shape the strategy, ensure that our goals and targets align with the Dean, and working on various projects that are set by the school, such as the growth of co-op a couple of years ago, or the continued growth and momentum behind Bootcamps.
The final unit, Hub Insights brings together all of the data collected by the Business Career Hub into a rich data set. This information helps to shape new programs, support students and faculty. In the coming months, the Hub will engage external partners to leverage the data when connecting with early talent. There are more than 30 full-time staff now in the Business Career Hub, so it’s really supporting those individuals, as they do a great job with their work.
“I think that’s a really cool story because the Business Career Hub came out of the Ted Rogers Students’ Society.”
Why did the BCH start? What problems were students at the Ted Rogers School of Management having before?
Graham Sogawa: I’m glad you asked this question because I think it’s a story that we need to tell the students. In 2010, the Ted Rogers School of Management was in the market and the students began to express an interest in having a Career Centre that was dedicated to their unique needs and focused on business students. Up to that point, they had been supported by the central career centre.
But students at the Ted Rogers School of Management had looked at competitive universities, other business schools, and saw that those business schools had their own Career Centres. They had their own dedicated team to support them in connecting with the employers that they wanted to work with and to provide coaching and opportunities to develop around their interests.
At the time, the Ryerson Commerce Society, which is today the Ted Rogers Students’ Society, working very closely with the Dean, at the time, Ken Jones, and a gentleman named Wayne McFarlane, who was an executive in residence, put forward a proposal that the Ted Rogers School of Management would have their own dedicated Career Center. The Ryerson Commerce Society, the students [of the Ted Rogers School of Management], were so successful they were able to get a referendum held by the Senate in November of 2011, to have the students vote on whether they believed the Ted Rogers School of Management should have their own Career Centre. That referendum was successful, and the Centre for Career and Employer Partnerships was formed, which was the first name for the Business Career Hub.
“It came out of a desire from students to have their own dedicated service.”
I think that’s a really cool story because the Business Career Hub came out of the Ted Rogers Students’ Society. It was the students who firmly expressed an interest in a desire to have this centre. When I interviewed with the Ted Rogers School of Management, one of the things that really impressed me was in that interview panel. It included the President of the Ted Rogers Students’ Society, Nav Marwah. So when I was being interviewed for the job, it was so interesting to me that the school was asking a student leader to join the interview panel, to play a role in hiring the next leader of their Career Centre, and I think that speaks to where the Career Centre came from. They came out of the Ted Rogers Students’ Society, and it came out of a desire from students to have their own dedicated service.
The BCH came out of the Ted Rogers Students’ Society, and I would say that TRSS has remained the most important partner for the Business Career Hub over our journey, and I wanted to highlight in this question, what makes the Ted Rogers School of Management unique is this collaborative, supportive culture that we have here with students helping other students. You see it in Bootcamps where students are teaching other students the technologies they’ve learned on a co-op placement, you see it in the Ted Rogers Students’ Society where student groups are hosting hundreds of events every year, designed to help prepare and empower our students for their careers and build their confidence.
One of the things I look at when I look at the growth of co-op is, how did we get all these new employers? How did we grow from 200 co-op students to 2,000 in under five years? We did that because we had these great relationships. On one side, we’ve got the Ted Rogers Students’ Society, which hosts hundreds of events that bring hundreds of employers to campus who get to meet our students for the first time and are so impressed. They see students who are helping one another, who are collaborating, who are innovative, who are technically savvy. When employers come to a Ted Rogers Students’ Society event and they’re impressed, they call us and say they want to hire some of these students, they want to come on campus and recruit.
On the other side, we have alumni in the industry working who are incredibly loyal to the school and want to help the next generation of students succeed. I don’t think we’ve ever been turned down by alumni when we call them and say we would love to learn how we could partner with your organization and hire more Ryerson students for you. We always get supportive alumni and when you ask alumni why are they so willing to help, it’s because they’re recalling their time in the school and remembering all the amazing student group events they went to, whether it was the Ted Rogers Management Conference, the ITMSA conference or HRSA case competition. The Ted Rogers Students’ Society remains such a big part of the success and growth of the hub because they’re bringing employers together, they’re keeping this culture that is collaborative, cooperative and supportive going, that’s why we continue to work so closely. Brad Wells [the current TRSS President] is somebody that I speak to frequently. I run ideas and love brainstorming with him because the best way we can strengthen both of our organizations is by working together.
“Balancing the growth of student engagement with employer engagement.”
What were some of the challenges of growing the Business Career Hub?
The challenge when you’re trying to grow a student-facing service so aggressively is, how do you get the students to consider and to engage with your office? And for the Business Career Hub in particular, how do we encourage students to visit our offices earlier in their academic journey? Many students start to think about jobs closer to graduation. If you actually look at the data from many years ago, fourth-year students were the biggest user group of the hub services. The problem with that is, getting ready for your dream job may actually take some time because you want to take certain courses, get involved in different student clubs, and have different experiences.
We started to really encourage first-year students to walk into the Career Centre and allow us to help them learn more about the different programs and degrees, and where those programs could take them in their career. We wanted to encourage students to come in and ask for help finding a part-time job, or come into the Career Centre and get help applying to co-op, that was challenge number one, getting students involved.
I think the second challenge was getting employers to come to campus, getting them to start looking at the Ted Rogers School of Management. It can be challenging because a lot of the recruitment teams will go where they had success in the past. They have limited resources, they can’t possibly visit every university in Ontario, so they tend to prioritize schools based on where they’ve seen success in the past. As we were trying to get going, we were really having to get out there and talk about who we are as a school and encourage employers to consider visiting the Ted Rogers campus.
I think those would probably be the two biggest obstacles whenever you’re trying to grow a Career Centre or co-op office, you want to grow your student engagement, but that needs to be in balance with your employer engagement. You don’t want to be bringing all these employers to campus and not have students interested in connecting with them, but you also don’t want to have all these students who need help and are looking for services, that aren’t seeing any employers come to the campus.
One of the most challenging parts is to make sure that the companies that we’re approaching to talk to about our students and asking to come to campus are the same companies that they want to work for. Just because I think that an organization is great or interesting or growing, doesn’t mean that that organization necessarily aligns with their career goals and interests, and that feedback is so important when students tell us the companies they aspire to work for so that the Business Development team can really focus on connecting with them.
“Come in and do a mock interview with us the night before your big interview.”
How does the BCH help support TRSM students in their career journeys? What types of services do they provide?
Graham Sogawa: The Ted Rogers Careers Team, the Career Centre and services are available to all students. For first-year to final-year students, even Alumni enjoy continued access to the Career Centre. The services are really tailored to the needs of the individual, they can be a beginning point to help you explore and discover where it is you want to go in your career. That’s often the hardest question, what do I want to do when I graduate? What are my strengths? What are my interests?
We can play a big role in helping students to explore the market. Once they’ve identified where they want to go, I think the Career Centre is able to drive a lot of value in helping you to identify what activities and programs, services, or opportunities you should take advantage of to start moving in that direction. If you want to work in consulting when you graduate, there are so many opportunities within the Ted Rogers School of Management to build up your experience and to get opportunities, where you can build and develop the skills that are desired by those industries in those companies.
Then for students, as they’ve gone through their journey and gather those experiences, whether those are case competitions, joining a student group, participating in different events, attending Bootcamps, we can help a student bring it all together in a really powerful resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, social media presence, and then ultimately an interview. I think interviews, like any skill, are something you get better at with experience and with practice. I’ve always said to any job seeker, I would rather you come in and do a mock interview with us the night before your big interview. If you have an interview for your dream job and you’re feeling nervous, you know that’s where we can help to help you to shape your answers.
Those are the services that the Careers Team offers for the students that drive a lot of value. It starts from helping you to explore and understand the market, and over that journey of four or five years, culminates to getting you prepared for that graduate interview in your chosen field.
“I think that’s really unique, we don’t just go to Corporate Canada and say hire out students, but we spend a lot of time asking them, what are the skills and technologies that are in demand right now? If you can’t find those skills and that experience in the market, how can we expose our students to those?”
What makes the BCH different from other career services at Ryerson or support for business students at other universities?
Graham Sogawa: The Business Career Hub prides itself on being very unique in how we’ve approached career services, cooperative education, and supporting the student population of the Ted Rogers School of Management. The level of partnership that we’ve pursued with our employer partners, but also with our students and our student groups, and then, finally, with our faculty partners. I always looked at the Business Career Hub as driving the interrelationship between the Ted Rogers School of Management and industry, that our goal is to be engaging our students, our alumni, our faculty, and our employer partners. I think we’ve developed very successful partnerships with each stakeholder and I think that’s been a big part of our success and makes us very unique.
“It was an interesting concept because it leverages the Ted Rogers School of Management having this unique collaborative supportive culture.”
Bootcamps has grown now to 25,000+ students attending Bootcamps every year, thousands of students getting credentials, now receiving Microsoft credentials. That growth came from partnerships with student groups such as the Ryerson Investment Group helping us to get Bloomberg Training up and running, the Ryerson Data Science Association helping us to get Python and R training, the Ryerson Marketing Association helping us to launch our Branding Bootcamp series, and the Ryerson Consulting Association, who helped us to build the first consulting program. When you look at the success of some of our student-facing programs, it was because we were able to partner with the student groups, and the student groups are already doing all these amazing, really creative things to give those students those experiences. By partnering with them as opposed to competing with them, I think we were able to build faster and build better.
I look at our partnerships with Corporate Canada, I think that employers are really pleased by how we work with them and try to make the process of hiring students, whether it’s co-op or grads, really easy and fast. But we also look for creative partnerships. I think about companies like BDO, who recently came on campus and taught our accounting students how to use Caseware, or I look at the partnership we’ve had with companies like Deloitte, Traction on Demand, and Slalom Consulting who have trained our students on how to use Salesforce. I think that’s really unique, we don’t just go to Corporate Canada and say hire our students, but we spend a lot of time asking them, what are the skills and technologies that are in demand right now? If you can’t find those skills and that experience in the market, how can we expose our students to those?
And then finally, with faculty partners. The faculty have been incredibly supportive of the growth of co-op. In fact, faculty members are one of our best sources of leads for new co-op jobs. As an example, Dr. Ron Babin in the Business Technology Management program connected us to several stakeholders from his career, including a contact at KPMG who started hiring grads and co-op students, and today is one of our largest stakeholders at KPMG. Our faculty have fantastic networks through their careers, through their research and our one of our most common lead sources for co-op jobs.
“The co-op model has been proven to help graduates successfully launch their career, you need the experience to get the job, and you need the job to get the experience, and the co-op model works. So, growing co-op helped out students to connect with their career goals.”
What are some of your favourite projects and contributions to the Business Career Hub during your tenure?
Graham Sogawa: The growth of co-op. In 2016, we had approximately 200 Co-op students across the twelve Bachelor of Commerce programs at TRSM. Today, we are well over 2,000 co-op students, and we are maintaining employment rates that are industry-leading.
We grew co-op for a couple of reasons, one being the co-op model has been proven to help graduates successfully launch their career, you need the experience to get the job, and you need the job to get the experience, and the co-op model works. So, growing co-op helped our students to connect with their career goals.
“2,000 students every year advocate and impress people on behalf of the school.”
The other reason that growing co-op is so important is, when you have a large co-op program such as ours, 2,000 students every single year work in 2,000 different roles in corporate Canada and impress more than 2,000 talent leaders every year. A large co-op program allows the Ted Rogers School of Management to expand its brand presence, prestige, and employers’ understanding of who we are and what makes us unique.
Without a co-op program, employers only learn about the Ted Rogers School of Management at the point of graduation. With a co-op program, they get a chance to hire you for your first co-op work term. Let’s say they’re incredibly impressed by the quality and calibre of your work, they’re going to hire you back again, and potentially even again. That gives them the opportunity not only to get to see what our school is all about, but also to get to see how you grow professionally, like going back between corporate and academic endeavours.
So, growing co-op benefits all students at the Ted Rogers School of Management because 2,000 students every year advocate and impress people on behalf of the school. A lot of the top companies we work with are committed to Ted Rogers hiring because of the actions and accomplishments of one student. I can name a number of firms and tell you the student who went in there and blazed a path through that organization and opened doors for other students to follow, so co-op growth is definitely number one on the list.
Number two on the list is Bootcamps. Bootcamps are designed to bridge the gap between industry and curriculum, the idea that curriculum is going to teach you a lot about how business works. But every day, businesses are adopting and adapting new technologies to help them run. That’s the hard part, how do you get experience working on those platforms? The crazy idea of Bootcamps was, as we grow co-op and more of our students are gaining that experience and industry, what would happen if we empower those students were learning those technologies on co-op placements, to come back to the school and teach their fellow classmates? It was an interesting concept because it leverages what I was talking about earlier, the Ted Rogers School of Management having this unique collaborative supportive culture.
So we launched Bootcamps in 2017 as a pilot project. We hired a few students who are really good with Excel and we ran Excel workshops. The sessions not only sold out, but students were writing us asking when were we going to do more, so we hosted more and we started to really think about what other technologies are expected to understand and what they’re struggling to get experience with. That’s where we had this crazy idea, every year since Corporate Canada shares with us 10,000 job postings for co-op, what if we took those 10,000 postings and extracted from them, the requirements, and the technologies most commonly listed? Then, we find the students that know how to use that technology and deliver Bootcamps. We have these job postings, we can identify the technologies and demand by industry, we have students learning them on co-op placement, we can hire them to teach their fellow students.
Bootcamps didn’t just work, in their first year, we had 500 students attend Bootcamps, last year more than 26,000 students attended, not registered, for Bootcamps. We see students taking Bootcamps from first year all the way through their fourth year, alumni continue to take Bootcamps, we’ve issued thousands of digital credentials, and this year we partnered with Microsoft so that students can become Microsoft Certified on platforms, such as Microsoft Office and Power Platform.
So those are two things that I’m really proud of. I got to play a role in the rapid growth of co-op and the emergence and development of Bootcamps, those are things that I’ll look back on fondly when reflecting on my time with the Ted Rogers School of Management.
“Sephora became the largest employer event we’ve ever hosted.”
What are the future plans of the BCH to continue to expand? What are some upcoming projects, collaborations and offerings that you are excited to share soon?
Graham Sogawa: We have a couple of exciting things we’re working on. The first is a program to support students that have chosen not to pursue the Co-op option. While co-op has grown and become successful, co-op is not accessible to all students. We are looking at a program that can help students to gain those critical experiences, skills, and exposures by following a path across their years of study that is designed to connect them with that desired career path. If you are interested in capital markets, technology consulting, or social media marketing, there is a pathway through the school, including student group events, initiatives, Business Career Hub Bootcamps and programs that will allow you to start developing those competencies. I’m really excited about this program, a professional experience program for non-co-op students.
We want to continue to grow and accelerate co-op, we want to strengthen co-op by going after the employers that our students dream of working with. We saw that, for example, this year when Sephora came to campus virtually and became the largest employer event we’ve ever hosted. That was always owned by the banks, the banks were always the biggest event we ever hosted but this year it was Sephora. So we want to continue to listen to students and figure out where we want to go next in terms of growth of co-op and the employers that we need to attract. Pinterest just posted its first co-op job and it attracted almost 100 candidates in applications.
Bootcamps is something that we want to continue to grow and strengthen by focusing on partnerships with the industry where students can have access to more industry-certified credentials upon graduation. We want to align our Salesforce training with some of the Salesforce certifications and exams to help students really combine not only their degree, but with some professional credentials when they enter the job market.
And then, finally, continue to strengthen the alumni community. The Ted Rogers School of Management has an incredibly loyal and committed group of alumni who are willing to do things to help the next generation of grads, reaching out to them and having those conversations and asking for a bit of their time. I think there’s a huge appetite amongst our alumni to give back, and we can show them the ways they can contribute. We can show them the different ways they can contribute and help them become aware of it.
“The Ted Rogers Students’ Society remains such a big part of the success and growth of the Hub”.
That concludes this interview with Graham Sogawa, talking about the Business Career Hub. It was exciting to learn more about how the Ted Rogers Students’ Society helped create it, and its consistent contributions to help the Business Career Hub in its mission to connect Ted Rogers students to the industry. We hope that you learned a lot about the Business Career Hub, make sure to make use of its many resources to land your dream job!
By: Sukhman Basi