Top Talent: University of Toronto business student Vicky Zhao


Vicky Zhao, a student in the University of Toronto co-op bachelor of business administration management program with a specialization in marketing, competed in the Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec competition this spring.  She is currently completing the final semester of her degree, with the hope of graduating this fall.

Zhao describes herself as highly organized, dedicated, scrupulous and an avid list-maker.  She grew up in China and South Africa as well as here in Canada.  Vicky has also been actively involved in on-campus governments and clubs during her post secondary education, which she talks about further down in this article. Good luck, Vicky!

What career paths are you currently interested in?

I am currently interested in a career in marketing or advertising where I can put my creativity, analytical thinking and problem solving skills to the test. No matter what, I want to work in a fast-paced, team-oriented environment that challenges me to constantly grow and update my knowledge.

In your application to TalentEgg’s Top Talent Series you said you were torn between the visual arts and business.  How would your skills in drawing, painting and digital animation help you in a career in advertising or marketing?

This background defined me as an individual because I realized no matter what I did, I wanted to be creative, and to be able to influence others. For me, working in the visual arts would mean being able to use my creativity come up with new ways to see everyday things.

In advertising, there is that similar sense of influence. In fact, advertising is made to influence people and make them remember your brand. I consider it a type of problem solving that relies on creativity, inspiration and business acumen. Applied to marketing, I appreciate the challenge of taking ownership of a brand seeing your solution come to life. This type of problem solving is my strength thanks to my business background and my thirst to come up with new ideas.

How did your experience with Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec improve your marketing and advertising skills, and help you become an ideal candidate for an entry-level job?

I am the ideal candidate because I have experience being in both paid and unpaid capacities in marketing roles. I’m also a very quick learner, and I found that to be able to come up with creative ideas and solutions, you need be to be quick on the uptake, and weigh the merits of different approaches and new ideas constantly. The fast-paced nature of the Marketing landscape, and especially Advertising, would suit me very well because I like the challenge of staying constantly forward-thinking.

My experiences also allowed me to see that behind the glamour there is always a lot of hard work. Unlike the visual arts, business inspiration is rarely a “Eureka” moment, but the result of plenty of scrupulous research and analysis. This suits me fine, because I’m very determined and meticulous, which is why I majored in business in the first place.

How did growing up in South Africa influence you today?

South Africa was definitely the best place to be growing up for me. A very diverse nation that Nelson Mandela himself called the “Rainbow Nation,” it’s the first place I learned to be open minded, to learn the perspective of different types of people and to be unafraid of taking risks and exploring.

It was a beautiful country and my family did quite a bit of travelling. Even now, I hope in my career I get to travel across the globe. I had a very easy transition when I came here because Canada is also very multicultural, and I was able to embrace Canadian culture very quickly.

Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

Tell us about your experiences in student government and how that shows you’re going to be a superstar in the workforce.

I’ve been involved in my university ‘s student government for three out of my four years so far.  What I learned best from student governance is both how to be a good team player and how to be an effective leader. There is no substitute for getting to work and socializing with people who are passionate and conscientious on a daily basis. You learn tact, and how to adjust your working style to complement the others on your team.

Most of all, I loved making a difference and seeing its impact. I can’t think of a downside and I recommend other students get involved.

I’ve been able to balance the workload of becoming a senior executive with academic success, and been able to participate in many conferences, competitions (including Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec) and pursue my hobbies all at once. If I can rock all the above, I know I can be a superstar at work.

If an employer called your best friend for a reference, what would they say to get you the job?

“Vicky Zhao is a fourth year student at the University of Toronto in the co-op BBA management program specializing in marketing.  Having worked closely with Vicky, I have witnessed first-hand her strong work ethic.  Vicky is an asset to any team as she is able to prioritize and focus with ease.  She is well-rounded and able to effectively balance her studies and co-op placements with demanding extracurricular activities.  She is creative and full of ideas that are current, yet novel.  Finally, Vicky is self-aware; she plays on her strengths, yet constantly looks for ways to develop to her fullest potential.”

About the author

Danielle Lorenz is a long-time contributor to the Career Incubator. Danielle is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. When procrastinating from schoolwork, you will find Danielle lurking on several social media platforms and trying to befriend the snowshoe hares on the U of A campus.