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Sept. 27, 2021Print | PDF
Lazaridis School of Business & Economics graduates do more than help businesses grow – they're changing how companies work. One of those graduates is Priscilla Li, alumna of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program at Wilfrid Laurier University. Based in London, UK, Li, the head of Capgemini's Applied Innovation Exchange, focused on making digital transformation benefit humanity. It's the perfect role for Li – leveraging her experience as a leader in innovation and technology and her time at the Lazaridis School.
Li's career has taken her to the UK and beyond – but she works to stay connected as a proud alumna of the Lazaridis School. She's had the opportunity to work abroad, which we we're encourage our undergraduate students and co-op students to consider. Li is also a member of our Dean's Advisory Council, giving her both an inside view of what's happening at Laurier and an opportunity to share with her network in the UK. Our international alumni help us grow our global alumni network to benefit current and future Laurier graduates.
We were excited to sit down with Li because her career is driven by innovation in technology, focusing on making things better for companies and people. She's a young woman leader in a senior position at one of the world's leading digital innovation labs. Her confidence is inspiring, as is her story – which, for us, begins when Li was applying for university.
Choosing a business school is a significant decision, one that Li did not take lightly. She applied to many of Canada's top business schools – but it was her visit to Laurier that sealed the deal. "I had a different kind of feeling of belonging," said Li. "I liked the sense of collaboration that the school offered. It was very different from how I felt about the other business schools."
The sense of collaboration was just a part of Li's decision-making process. The co-op program offered Li the opportunity to put her learning into practice before entering the job market. "The fact that you get to apply it right away in a business context really drove a lot of my career decisions," added Li.
One of Li's co-op placements was with a consulting firm named Digital 4Sight, founded by blockchain pioneer Don Tapscott. "It was a small consulting firm and I got to set up a kind of research consortium with a bunch of writers – people that really were publishing really interesting things about the hyper-economy and social responsibility back in those days," said Li. The firm was looking into concerns around triple bottom line reporting and other financial issues that would eventually bring down some of the biggest companies in the world. "This was before Enron. We were ahead of our time in terms of transparency and the need for businesses to respond to changes."
Working with Digital 4Sight brought Li to Palo Alto, California, where she found herself surrounded by global C-suite leaders. "That was a really amazing co-op experience. I never imagined I'd be rubbing shoulders with these leaders," said Li. She was given one of the best suites because they thought a 19-year-old must be a mover and shaker at the conference. "I was very lucky to be part of a small group of really intelligent people trying to make a difference."
From her experience in co-op placements to her time in the classroom, Li was inspired to pursue marketing roles in high-tech companies after graduating. One professor, in particular, had an impact on Li choosing to go into high-tech product marketing – Suan Getchell. "I say that because she was teaching a high-tech marketing course, and she was an Asian woman," said Li. "I don't think that people can fully be in the world if they don't see themselves in it and I realized, you know what I'm not excluded in that."
One of the projects in Getchell's class had Li looking at high-tech companies that inspired her – including Apple. This was in the early days of the iPod – before the launch of the iTunes music store and iPhone. Her research into the company led her to invest in their stock. "I invested in Apple early because I had done the research that the class required. I'm not gonna lie, I made some money off of that right," Li joked.
I spent five years in product management and product marketing roles at Bell Canada before deciding to return to school for an MBA in Strategy and Technology at the University of Cambridge. It was an opportunity to build upon her learnings from Laurier. "I was proud to say I'm coming from a university that I considered to be in the Silicon Valley of Canada," said Li.
Moving to the UK to study was one of the pivotal points in Li's life. Even though the UK and Canada share a common history and language, navigating the differences helped Li build even more confidence. She said both Laurier and the University of Cambridge have very collaborative environments – along with diverse student bodies. "I was lucky to sit in the class of 50 other cultures and nationalities," added Li. "I'm really confident, especially after that experience, to say I have something quite unique to bring to the table and new points of view."
Studying and working with people from different countries and backgrounds helped set Li up for success in her role with American Airlines as their Head of Digital International based in the UK. It was a unique experience – a Canadian working for a U.S. airline at the UK office. "It was a great fit considering, again, my multicultural background and exposure and understanding and empathy of different cultures," said Li. In the role, she managed teams from Japan to Spain to Peru to the U.S. and was responsible for their multiple international websites.
It was also a different experience for Li as the airline announced they were entering bankruptcy protection a few days after receiving their job offer. "I was like, there is no job offer on the table, but I remember emailing them and saying are you sure the offer is still on the table." The airline replied right away that it was. American Airlines and U.S. Airways would eventually merge to form the world's biggest airline – and that meant a great deal of change that they needed her skills and experience.
Today, Li puts those skills and experience into her work as the head of Capgemini's Applied Innovation Exchange. Many of the lessons and learnings from her time at Laurier play a role in her day-to-day activities. She said her experience at Laurier taught her to explore and flex her natural sense of curiosity. "I've demanded that my jobs going forward," said Li. "I'm so glad that I had a lot of that breadth in school to be able to see all these different angles."
That ability to see different possibilities and bring in other views helped Li decide to join Capgemini. "I don't know if I'm a typical consultant, but they love that I had this appetite for problem-solving. The thread is always ‘we're going to push the art of the possible’. That's what this job is about. How can you solve the most complex problems using new approaches and new technologies?” she said. “I'm so lucky to have that job, and what drew me to it is that variety."
Note: As of publication Pricilla is now Head of CX, Innovation & Technology at frog, part of Capgemini Invent
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