Polytechnic institutions offer expert-led, industry-relevant training for high-performance talent. In this Q&A series, graduates from across our member institutions discuss how a polytechnic education helped propel their success in diverse fields.
Polytechnics Canada sat down with Meti and Massi Basiri, two 2014 graduates of Conestoga College’s Business Administration – Marketing Advanced Diploma Program and Fitness and Health Promotion Diploma Program. They are co-founders of ApplyBoard, the world’s largest online platform for international student recruitment and one of the fastest growing technology companies in Canada. The pair has also been named to three different Forbes 30 Under 30 lists. In this interview, Meti and Massi explain how their education at Conestoga provided them with the skills needed to found a unicorn start-up.
Polytechnics Canada: What made you choose Conestoga as part of your learning journey?
Meti & Massi Basiri: Conestoga provided a breadth of programs that suited our unique passions for our future careers. The flexibility, program timelines and focus on practical skill development that would be applied to our everyday work post-graduation were all very appealing. From our perspective, Conestoga was also, and continues to be, one of the most advanced institutions for evaluating international student credentials. This factor made us feel more confident and welcome throughout the entire process.
PC: Polytechnics like Conestoga are known for their hands-on, experiential learning opportunities and vast employer networks. How did these opportunities and resources set you up for entrepreneurial success?
M&M: As we grew up, entrepreneurship was already on our minds as a career path that we wanted to take. Pursuing our education at a polytechnic institution like Conestoga made sense for us in how it approaches education through doing, through collaboration and through learning based on experience, not just theory. Whether it be capstone projects, guest speakers or internships, Conestoga provided the range of opportunities that suited our needs and the needs of the business community. These opportunities included being able to take advantage of the Conestoga College Centre for Entrepreneurship and additional resources such as mentorship and support services for budding entrepreneurs. These made a big impact on us.
PC: How do opportunities for work-integrated learning benefit international students?
M&M: Regardless of their country of origin or unique needs, international students are coming into a new environment. They are in a new country, often needing to adopt a new language, a new level of independence and expectations, let alone the fact they are studying at the post-secondary level. Work-integrated learning gives international students tangible and intangible benefits such as interpersonal skills development, language confidence and simply having a “Canadian” workplace experience. These are essential experiences for all students but, for international students in particular, they help network and build community, cultural understanding and opportunities post-graduation.
PC: How does setting aside time for skills development benefit new entrepreneurs?
M&M: You cannot stop learning as an entrepreneur. The second you do is the second your competitors have the chance to outpace you. Being an entrepreneur entails wearing many hats from the technical to the personal. You can’t be a specialist and be an entrepreneur. Broadening one’s skills as an entrepreneur allows you to see multiple perspectives and understand how to interpret any number of factors whether it be financial, legal, marketing, sales or technical that will inevitably impact your business. Building those skills will help you thrive during uncertainty, hire for those skills and plan for future opportunities. Upskilling opportunities are critical.