Top Talent: UBC’s Sauder School of Business graduate Marina Tran-Vu


Marina Tran-Vu graduated from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in 2010 with a Bachelors of Commerce with a focus in marketing.  She is currently working as a media planning assistant for Cossette Communications.

Tran-Vu recently placed first in the first annual Endeavor Non-profit Consulting Case Competition for young professionals.

Jenkin Au, a fellow Sauder alumni says that “Marina has profound insight to whatever situation she is faced with.”

This experienced world traveller took some time to answer our questions.

What career paths are you currently interested in?

I am currently interested in anything to do with brand management and advertisement.  More specifically, I am interested in consumer packaged goods (especially food products, beauty products, entertainment products and apparel).  In the future, I would like to be a brand manager for companies like Nestle, Lindt, Holt Renfrew, Revlon, L’Oreal, LVMH, Gucci, Unilever or EA Games.

I would like to represent these kinds of companies for two reasons.  First, these are all brands and product categories I love – if I don’t love the brand, how could I expect to do a great job marketing it?

Second, a brand manager’s role is to see the big picture – my career experiences have been in doing everything at the customer level and working my way up to understand the “big picture.”  I believe because I have this understanding of how things work from the ground up, it will give me a big advantage in working in the brand management field.

Tell us about something you’ve done that is completely unrelated to your current career path that shows you’re going to be a superstar in the workforce.

I co-founded the first student-run Investment Banking Competition in Canada in 2009 at the University of British Columbia.  I did this because I saw a need for students to get exposure to the incredibly lucrative industry of Investment Banking.  The competition exposed them to investment banking professionals in the field and tested their skills solving an investment banking case in an intensive 12 hour competition.  This shows my ability to be an innovative entrepreneur who is able to see their ideas through to fruition.

What have your Top 3 life experiences been, and how can you relate those experiences to your career?

My first experience was working internationally at a religious Hong Kong Financial Firm.  While I was there I learned how to adapt to a different culture where I didn’t speak the language, learned different cultural etiquette, and I learned about a different religion through my work experience.

Living in a country where I couldn’t speak the language made me learn to not only adopt basic language for the country, but also taught me to use body language in order to communicate with the locals.  A big smile when asking a question always helps!  In terms of a religious firm, the company I worked for was a Christian-based financial firm.  This means that while the company role was to provide financial services to its clients, these services were offered on the basis that they aligned with the religious and moral beliefs of the Christian religion.  It was a great work experience because I learned more about a religion that I wasn’t familiar with, and I also go to exchange my own beliefs to a very open-minded organization.

Bungee Jumping in Hong Kong

My second experience was travelling to Toronto for a week to speak with brand managers and marketing executives in the field.  While I was there, I learned how valuable it is to build a network, what opportunities are available outside of Vancouver, and the value of looking to others to gain knowledge.

As a student coming from Vancouver looking to build a career in a large city like Toronto, it was important for me to gain knowledge about the marketing industry in the city to ensure it would be an area where I could expect to be able to fully develop my career.  The fact that I reached out to individuals who were seasoned in the marketing field and in career roles that I aspired to attain in the future not only gave me insight in to what a brand manager role expected from any potential candidate, and also helped me to build a network of people who I could trust for career and professional advice.

A bonus is when I build such a great relationship that they become a mentor for the start of and throughout the rest of my career.  Also when I was looking to get recruited by a firm, speaking to the senior professionals at these organizations gave me an advantage when I was looking to hear quickly about positions that were open.

My third experience was travelling to Korea by myself for two weeks.   The experience allowed me to learn how to be open to meeting new people, how to embrace living in new environments, and how to integrate myself in a new culture.

Why do you want to work in the United Nations?

Coming from a family that was originally from Vietnam, my parents taught me about the poverty they experienced growing up.  As an individual born in Canada, I could not possibly understand the extent of poverty that is experienced in a country so far away.  Therefore, the reason why I want to work for the United Nations is to really gain an understanding of the struggles that the majority of populations in third-world countries experience.

As well, I would love be able to give back to the country that my parents were from.  Vietnam is a beautiful country that is bogged down by the after-effects of the Vietnam War and poverty.  I know that under all the grief that has stricken the country there is a potential to show the world how extraordinary the people and the land truly are.

What makes you a “Type A” personality, and how does that fit in with your career goals?

My Type A personality is expressed in the fact that I am consistently involved in everything that interests me.  I love to be busy, having my time taken up by work, case competitions, volunteering, taking French lessons, playing sports, etc.  I have always been heavily involved in volunteer work, athletics, academics and extracurricular activities since high school and hope to continue to do so.

I am also very forward-thinking, always looking for the next thing that interests me, something I want to pursue or that next opportunity.  Even though I have a full-time job, I don’t want to revert to a state where I will settle just for working and being content with having that as the activity that occupies most of my brain power for the rest of my life.  I like to be constantly stimulated, and I keep that up by being involved in various things, and making sure everything I am involved in, I am on top of and execute well.

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.