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Merging Science with Business - Interview with Tulika Hoque

After speaking with Tulika Hoque, a 2021 University of Waterloo Alumni from the Science and Business Program, she shared about her amazing experience during her years of study and the new lessons she learned along the way. Through academics and cooperative education, these moments have taught her about prospective biotechnology fields that aligned with her passions and ambitions. From her encounters, she hopes that it can continue to aid her in her future career endeavors!

One opportunity Tulika would like to highlight was being a Product Manager at the LCBO Innovation Lab. This internship was where she coordinated solution development for prototypes, collaborated with a team of software developers and a UX designer, and conducted user testing for go-to-market solutions that have been applied to enhance client services. After asking Tulika about her journey, here is what she had to say about her undergraduate learning.

→ What intrigued you about the intersection between the Science and Business Program?

Tulika: “During my highschool experiences, there was an interest in both fields and I was undecided about science, for instance, in medical studies, and business such as working in commerce. In comparison to other universities, I would’ve had to compromise and choose one between the two areas. Through the Science and Business program, there could be more time to explore both areas in greater depth. As well, the University of Waterloo provides co-op terms which give experience into the careers available in each field too. Alongside working, I could learn about the subjects that I enjoyed within my academic courses.”

→ How do you believe your lessons and experiences in the Science and Business Program shaped your preparation for coops?

Tulika: For this program, there are ‘SCBUS Workshops’ specifically tailored to develop certain soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, project management, and public speaking through case studies, presentations, group assignments, market research, and strategic analysis.

In comparison to many other degrees, they might not have these types of lessons during study terms to develop the abilities that are provided through the workshops. For instance, there was a great emphasis on developing soft skills just to name a few such as analytical thinking, critical thinking, attention to detail, project management, leadership, public speaking. These qualities all prepare the students well and set them up for success in their co-op terms. These sessions teach you new skills that are needed to be successful and allow individuals to practice people skills via an academic platform.”

→ How do you believe this co-op position as a Product Manager helped you in terms of your career goals and further prospects?

Tulika: Specifically at the LCBO Innovation Lab, this experience involves creating digital products to improve experiences. My work involves working on digital projects and the technology behind the processes such as POS systems, internal commerce metrics and how to be innovative with research and prototyping.

I would be involved in the app building process and e-commerce products. By interviewing customers and different products and surveying their answers, I could input data into creating systems such as flavor and interests in products. Many of my work projects were centered around designing user interfaces for apps to interact with customers more efficiently and guide purchasing decisions, so knowing how to handle data and being data driven was essential in advocating your decisions. Using evidence was highly emphasized as data collection supported strategic decision making. Without the data to support, this made design and technological decisions difficult, so using data in your day to day job was the most effective way to create products! “

→ With your interest in business solutions for diverse companies, how have you found working at the LCBO product manager to be a particularly unique experience?

Tulika: “The opportunity is really unique because you get to create your own projects and see them through using the lab’s resources. It was our own responsibility to figure out the problems that customers are going through and create solutions that we think are fit to solve them. Overall, I had been an accountable leader.

There is a lot of ambiguity at times as you are in charge of the direction of the team, but as an inquisitive person who enjoys problem solving, I enjoyed going out of your way to find a solution and the autonomy in decision making

Furthermore, this is a co-op driven opportunity - the lab is there to help co-op students accomplish their goals and ambitions while working in communitech. Whereas in a corporate position, you are given a lot more direction, detail and tasks with clear goals, there would be more tiger regulation when told what tasks to perform. For the Innovation Lab, creative technologies are provided as resources to create new projects and there are provided tools and skills to work on your own goals and objectives. If you needed guidance from anyone, managers or full-time employees could help out!

Talking to different stakeholders and determining strategy as a product manager meant that I was the central point of contact; they are the person with the most context on a project. They know how these different projects would impact others and how certain components impact each of the stakeholders.”

Can you describe some of your day to day activities as a product manager for this company? What were some challenges you faced in the work and how did you overcome them?

Tulika: Most of my tasks involved the following: hosting daily standup meetings, directing and managing day to day work of UX designers, software developers. I would mostly \ help solve any problems that are preventing the team from achieving their deliverables.

On a daily basis, I would be talking to stakeholders. Talking to people every single day gave them the chance to provide updates on projects and seek help on any setbacks. Project management means figuring out timelines and deliverables, prioritization of tasks, and making sure we’re meeting our project goals

However, this job like most didn’t come without challenges. Knowing about the technicalities of the positions that you’re working with such as UX design and software development called me to be in charge of assigning tasks, so I needed to have a good understanding of their roles and capabilities as well as limitations. Learning about the technical terms and the key metrics of the different positions that you work with for projects was important as a product manager.

Trying to prioritize and think about what is important to implement in the products was my responsibility. Being a product manager means you have to learn how to defend decisions, and prioritize effectively to ensure you’re making the most of your resources and time.”

→ What skills did you find useful before at this position and what new skills have you learnt from your working experience?

Tulika:Before taking on this position, I had to have a concrete understanding of business strategy and market research. SCBUS workshops challenge me to work with others and demonstrate effective communication skills. Whether through conveying ideas or suggesting ideas for presentations, having these soft skills came in handy when taking on this job.

The top 3 skills gained from this position were leadership, project management, and stakeholder management. You are likely to come across these skills through leading meetings, understanding project deliverables, and working with different people to discuss certain projects.

You are given responsibility to direct the future of projects by thinking about strategy, skills and deliverables and being familiar about how certain details within projects are done.

This included talking to software developers, UX designers, and business leaders

There are many responsibilities when working with different teams to get an idea across hence, the power to make many decisions in this role is critical. Even through many of my program's science subjects, we develop the skills such as analytical and critical thinking mindset that clearly shined through in specific experiences. Analyzing decisions within industry work is not uncommon as logical thinking and attention to detail are major factors in performing excellence on the job.”

→ What inspired you to learn more about science and business intersections, and what would you recommend to someone who wants to learn more about this distinct interdisciplinary field?

Tulika: For me, there was a curiosity to be focused in both fields. As a Science and Business student, there are a lot of interests in working in diverse and distinct jobs. Even if you aren’t using both science and business directly, the two subjects offer the skills that are transferable by using the different spectrum of developed abilities within your academic career.

Some recommendations to current science and business students or potential individuals who are interested in working in this intersection would be researching the program, networking with others and sharing your ideas with people of the same energy.

Look at what science and business programs offer! Visit websites and look at typical first year courses to see if they interest you. Talking to students on LinkedIn is a great platform for connection where you can set up a relationship with who you want to learn more about in their field! Try to reach out and see what they did in the past and are doing currently.

As well, talk to people in different stages of the program. You’ll get a holistic view and what it means to people at different stages in their academic journey, so you can also see what kind of co-ops they did before.

Furthermore, match your own ambitions and interests to those you want to learn from as they can act as mentors. Since this program is filled with people with different goals, you can learn so much just from a simple conversation.”

Through the Science and Business program, you have the chance to develop a community within this unique field of study that advances the future for cross collaboration in intersecting areas!

About the Writer:

This discussion was conducted by Jessica Ng, a BSc Biotechnology/Economics candidate at the University of Waterloo. She enjoys collaborating with others of the same energy and passion in the Science and Business program such as Tulika, and would like to thank her for all her support in completing this interview! As a lifelong learner, Jessica is interested in exploring how biotechnology can improve the standard of living for all. Through her experiences on the Science and Business Association and the Fusion Conference Planning Team, she hopes to work with people that inspire her to optimize new experiences to develop her career and help build biotechnology’s bright future!

Contact Jessica Ng using the following social media links.



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