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Finding Your Purpose

Written by: Tingqiao Zhang
Originally published at: A Few Good Minds Blog

It was a sunny afternoon when I attended a workshop hosted by SFU Net Impact, featuring Dr. Andrew J. Hoffman—a leader in using organizational, network and strategic analyses to assess the implications of environmental issues for business. Hoffman was promoting his new book: “Finding Purpose”. While he talked about sustainability in business, this caused me to think about what an individual can do to protect the environment and to create a better world.

There have been many reflections like this since I started the MBA program at SFU. After several years of working, when every day turned routine from 9am to 6pm sitting in a cubical, there was always a voice inside me eager to find a meaningful purpose. Therefore, pursuing an MBA is like a Gap Year for me—a year that I can realize a truer version of myself.

One of the key pillars of SFU Beedie’s vision is to educate business leaders to conduct themselves not only professionally but also in socially responsible ways. I experienced this vision throughout the entirety of SFU’s program. The first class we took in September was Business Ethics. During this course, we were tasked to list 27 things we wanted to do before we died. I thought I had so many things I wanted to do, but I stopped after the 20th item on the list. I noticed that all the items I listed were about me—me wanting to travel around the world, me wanting to go bungee jumping, me wanting to experience skydiving—but there was nothing meaningful in my goals. I then re-thought the exercise. What I discovered was that I wanted to help others. Two things came to mind that I could tangibly implement: volunteer more in my community and reduce my usage of paper cups. Now, I can proudly say that I’ve committed to these goals.

Another one of my favourite classes was Leadership. Even with so many leadership theories out there, it is still hard to define leadership in one sentence. In addition to academic teaching in class, one of our assignments was to interview local leaders in a real business environment. From this interview, I learned that as a leader it doesn’t matter whether you have hard skills or soft skills, what is important is to be yourself, to be real, and to be authentic. Many of our classmates had the same feeling by interviewing different leaders, which gave us a deeper understanding of leadership.

The more classes I took, the more reflections I had about the true meaning of life. Like Professor Hoffman said, “you never know how an MBA graduate can be influential to society.” Maybe I will continue to work in a corporate environment, maybe I will start a small business in the future, but no matter what I do, I know there are small steps that can be done to improve our community. Being responsible to yourself is to be responsible to society, and this is what I learned from my MBA program.

Tingqiao Zhang is a full-time MBA candidate at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. Originally from Beijing, she has eight years financial planning experience in several multinational corporations including IBM, GE, Nestlé and Penguin Random House. With her dedicated involvement to the SFU community, Tingqiao is currently a Beedie Student Ambassador and a Managerial Accounting Teaching Assistant. She is looking forward to new opportunities in financial planning and analysis, operation management and project management upon completion of the MBA Program. Find out more about Tingqiao through LinkedIn or contact her via e-mail at