When Makgofe Mathipa came to the University of Toronto four years ago, she was determined to learn as much as she could about economics and business. And she did – through engaging in-class discussions, collaborating on projects with her classmates and completing internships.
However, she wasn’t prepared for how much she’d learn about herself.
After completing a variety of courses at Rotman Commerce, Mathipa, who is graduating with a bachelor of commerce degree as a member of University College, discovered a passion for user-focused design and marketing. Outside of the classroom, she looked for ways to elevate her fellow students and became heavily involved with Black Rotman Commerce and the First-Year Learning Communities (FLC) program.
Before she heads off to a new role at brand loyalty firm Bond Brand Loyalty, Mathipa takes a moment to reflect on her time at U of T, what she’s looking forward to next and what she hopes incoming and current U of T students will keep in mind as they pursue their studies.
What drew you to U of T?
I received the Top Achievers Scholarship from Botswana, my home country. Essentially, I was given a full-ride scholarship to study at the university of my choice. The opportunity pushed me to think about what I wanted to get out of my four years at university. I realized I wanted to get as much exposure as possible to different cultures.
From what I’d seen online, I knew Toronto was a diverse city. I love how big St. George campus is and how it is very much a part of the city. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I was going to get exactly what I was looking for: exposure to different cultures, environments and industries.
What inspired you to focus your studies in marketing and minor in economics?
One great thing about U of T is that I was able to explore my curiosities, and my program’s flexibility allowed me to mix and match courses. When I came to U of T, I thought I wanted to be an investment banker. I intended on mainly taking finance and economics classes. Then, I took a marketing course in my first year, and I thought, “I really, really like this.” I was in denial about this for a long time because I was so set on investment banking.
Going into my third year, I decided to take more marketing courses. I really enjoyed learning about consumer behaviour, and I realized how essential marketing is to business. Eventually, I dropped my finance focus and specialized in marketing. I minored in economics because I’ve always been curious about economies of the world, and there are many intersections between marketing and economics.
During your studies, you served as the conference lead for Black Rotman Commerce and as a FLC peer mentor. What motivated you to pursue these leadership opportunities?
The Black Career Conference, which is organized by Black Rotman Commerce, is very important to me because I see how it fills in the gaps and helps under-represented Black professionals and students connect. I think the conference does excellent work in supporting international students.
When I came to Canada, I knew nothing about the job market here. By attending events like this conference, I was able to network and discover roles and companies I hadn’t heard about. In fact, I ended up getting an internship at CIBC the summer after my third year because I had connected with a recruiter at the conference.
Having reaped the benefits and seen the event’s impact, I wanted to be a part of the organizing committee in my fourth year so that I could help someone else in the same way I was helped.
Similarly, when I had the opportunity to apply to become an FLC mentor, I thought about myself as a first-year student and how I had benefited from the program as a mentee. I really wanted to do the same for first-year students.
Makgofe and fellow Black Rotman Commerce executive member Zimman Yousuf organized the Black Career Conference earlier this year.
What’s next for you?
I’m excited! I'm going to be living in Canada for the foreseeable future. I will be joining Bond Brand Loyalty as an associate consultant in a few weeks. I’m very interested in learning more about human-centred design principles, which Bond uses to solve problems. I’m also looking forward to working with my former professor, Jennifer Nachshen, who is a consulting director there.
What advice do you want to share with incoming U of T students?
First, take time to discover yourself. The most important lesson I took away from my time at U of T is that we are constantly learning about ourselves, in terms of our abilities, passions and ambitions. Give yourself time to figure it out.
Second, you are allowed to change your mind. In my case, I went from wanting to be an investment banker to management consulting to pursuing marketing. Learning about what you want is a journey and it takes time. Don’t be scared to change course.