Business Planning Specialist at Dassault Systèmes
Jennifer is originally from Taichung, Taiwan and graduated from Tufts University in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics. The latter major was an intentional choice that afforded her the STEM OPT extension.
Tell us about your career path
Once I was accepted to college, I knew I wanted to start my career in the US, to at least take advantage of the 3 years of OPT, but I wasn’t completely set on staying in the country beyond that. I knew I wanted my career to be a global one, so I didn’t mind trying out another region if the opportunity rose.
Growing up, my career interest was always in International Relations; my dream job was in the UN or the WTO, but once I got to the US, I quickly realized that it was not the most viable path for my situation for a variety of reasons out of my control, so I had to pivot. I explored career paths from International Relations research at think tanks, investment banking, to consulting. I knew vaguely that I wanted roles that were relationship-oriented. Ultimately I ended up targeting business roles at technology companies with an international footprint.
After my junior year of college, I started interning for my current company – Dassault Systèmes, all the way to graduation–first in corporate social responsibility, then in business development (sales). I put an emphasis on networking internally – I made an effort to introduce myself to everyone I met at the office, leveraged my alumni network within the company, involved myself in projects promoting the internship program, and made sure to build a relationship with the University Recruiting team in HR. I also had amazing managers who proactively connected me with different people in the company based on my interests. My goal was to really be top of mind for any role I was targeting once the company started hiring, and it worked. When I graduated, I worked elsewhere for six months, but I made sure to keep my connections updated on my progress. When a role reopened, I was immediately contacted about it, invited to interview, and ultimately accepted the offer.
How was Canada part of the strategy?
Canada was never part of the strategy, but I rolled with it as the opportunity arose. When I found myself graduating into the height of covid, May 2020, without a full-time offer in hand, my internship team connected me with one of Dassault Systèmes’ reseller partners in Canada. Despite the pandemic, they were expanding into a new sales territory, and I accepted the offer – the only one I had. My top priority then was to use up the least amount of unemployment days allowed on OPT and maintain work authorization while I continued looking for US-based opportunities, so I stayed in the US while working remotely for a Canadian company. A US-based job was still my goal, but Canada was an acceptable backup plan, especially since I completed part of my education in French, which offers certain advantages in Canada. As a general note, Canada has less stringent immigration requirements for skilled workers, and it could be a nice alternative if the H-1B doesn’t work out.-
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Although there were practical challenges during the job search, such as getting to the final stages of an interview then realizing visa sponsorship was an issue, the biggest challenge overall was staying mentally confident and positive when it seemed like I was “failing” at what I came to the US to do (get a job in the US). Staying positive was important because that confident (or lack of) attitude spills over in interviews, if I couldn’t convince myself that I was qualified enough, how could I convince an interviewer with minimal knowledge about me that I was the best candidate?
How did you overcome that challenge? What were the most helpful resources during this time?
It required a mindset change where I wasn’t measuring myself based on the outcome (i.e.: I still did not get an offer) but based on the progress (i.e.: I landed X interviews this week or I made Y networking calls this week). To measure progress, I treated the job search like a sales job – I set KPIs on how many outreaches (LinkedIn messages, emails) a day I made to get informational interviews, how many informational interviews I converted from those outreaches a week, and how many job opportunities I uncovered from informational interviews. I tracked everything in a spreadsheet, CRM-style. That gave me mental reassurance and concrete evidence that I was progressing, and even if I didn’t have an offer in hand yet, I could see I was going in the right direction. The most helpful resource I found was my university alumni network — I had the most success getting informational interviews from alumni and learning about opportunities or getting referred to more people in their network to speak to.
What’s next for you?
I’m happy to say that I think I’ve found my career footing in sales strategy, I really enjoy what I do, and I’d like to continue this path for a while. I started on an H1B last year (2021), so I’m planning to stay in the US for the next five years or so, but then I think it’s time to find my way back to Europe, either in France or the UK. I used to be adamant about starting an MBA in the next few years, but now I’m more flexible about that idea. If there’s one thing I learnt, it’s being open to any possibility and rolling with it!
What’s your advice for international students?
I always think back to this analogy my parents said to me during the job search — imagine you’re a well-oiled race car, you may be fast, but if you choose to race on pothole-filled dirt roads, you may not go as fast as racing on a smooth paved track.” Admittedly there’s another argument that “diamonds are created under pressure,” where adversity creates resilience, but my takeaway from the analogy is not to avoid challenges and take the easy road, but to be open-minded, flexible, and strategic about what opportunities you search for and how you leverage opportunities to get to your goals.
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