09/21/2020: QTMA hosted a fireside chat with Jei So, a COMM’17 graduate who is currently a product marketing manager at Clearbanc. We got to hear about Jei’s role at Clearbanc, her advice for undergrads, and her experiences in breaking into tech.

How did you get to Clearbanc? What’s your background?

  • Was part of Venture for Canada during undergrad (program that helps students gain important entrepreneurial experiences to succeed in the workplace)
  • Knew “literally nothing” about the tech industry when she graduated (Comm'17)
  • Didn’t think she was qualified to work in tech or fintech
  • Wishes she had a) Explored these opportunities earlier and b) Taken the harder courses to develop skills (ex. data analytics)
  • The main skill that she got out of her Queen’s classes was how to work effectively in teams
  • Believes that an Arts student with entrepreneurial experiences, leadership initiatives, etc. is more qualified than a Commerce student without similar experiences
  • Joined Clearbanc right after graduation
  • Clearbanc only had 17 employees when she joined, they now have over 200
  • Her application stood out because of her attitude and her ability to execute

What is Clearbanc?

  • Largest e-commerce investor in the world
  • Fund D2C and SAAS founders to fund their businesses without taking up equity (all data-driven)
  • Founded by Michele Romanow from Dragon’s Den
  • Tasks are completed very efficiently
  • Great leadership team
  • Accommodating; they make sure to find the perfect role for each person

What’s your role at Clearbanc?

  • Transitioned through multiple different roles, including sales, operations, social media, marketing
  • Currently a product marketing manager (PMM)
  • Responsible for communicating products to the market
  • Works closely with the product, marketing, and sales teams and has a lot of say with respect to the product, and optimizing for a specific metric

Why would you pursue a career in tech with a commerce background?

  • All businesses have technical components nowadays
  • Working at a tech startup gives you amazing opportunities since you have more responsibilities and more autonomy over projects
  • Builds entrepreneurial skills and you are able to learn through hands-on experience
  • At tech startups, you have the opportunity to work with and learn from a TON of super smart people

Any advice for undergrads?

  • Seek out opportunities that show initiative and skill
  • Start something from scratch and follow through with it (ex. startup, blog or podcast, Jei has her own podcast!)
  • Goal: gain experience and show the value that you can bring
  • Recruiters care very little about what you did in undergrad, they care about the value that you can add to their company
  • Having soft skills are just as important as having hard skills
  • Set smaller goals so you’re not as overwhelmed
  • Have a growth mindset, don’t close any doors just because you think you’re “bad at it”
Actions really do speak louder than words, [...] show me that you can add value [to a company]

How should I build my network?

  • When sending cold messages, BE SPECIFIC!
  • Cold emails work, but they have to be done right
  • Avoid “Can I have 30 minutes of your time to talk?”
  • Instead, say “I met you at x, I’m interested in y, I’d love to hear more about z”
  • Don’t be afraid to follow-up if you don’t get a response at first
  • The more prepared you are for coffee chats, the better the chance that you will stay connected with them
  • Ask for referrals or other people to reach out to at the end of a coffee-chat: “Is there anyone else you think I should talk to”?
  • If they say yes, your network gets expanded and you get validation that the chat went well
  • If they so no, either the chat did not go well or they don’t know anyone else you should talk to
  • Attend events and webinars, opportunity to gain knowledge and to network
  • Be genuine!