There is no question that Mila Lukic has achieved great things during her undergraduate career. In addition to her B.Sc. in molecular biology, biochemistry and business administration, Mila Lukic graduated this June with many accomplishments under her belt. One of her very important accomplishments is her completion of four Co-op work terms, each of which helped her immensely in developing her skill set and self-confidence.
Mila began her post-secondary career at SFU as an entrance scholarship recipient pursuing a general science program with aspirations of going into pharmacy. After a year filled with science courses, she began to hear about a joint major program in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Business Administration from others in her labs, thus piquing her interest. It was in these labs that she also heard about the Co-op program. “I originally wanted to finish school as soon as possible, but the Co-op program really broadened my mind,” she recalls.
By joining Co-op, Mila was able to complete four Co-op work terms: two purely science-related terms, and two business-related. Her first and second work terms were at Cardiome Pharma Corp. Her third placement was a part of the Encouraging Global Dynamic Entrepreneurs program (EDGE) in Scotland, and her fourth term was working for the SFU Small Business Consulting Group in SFU Surrey, BC.
At Cardiome Pharma Corp., Mila worked as a Support Synthetic Chemist in the medicinal chemistry lab, alongside a PhD research scientist as her direct supervisor. Her tasks included helping with special projects and synthesizing different relevant impurities for the drug that was in development. At first, she felt inspired from the caliber of her supervisors. “The team there was so smart, but they were also very nice and helpful, and the experience really allowed me to see how a successful biotech company functioned,” she says. While on the job, she also had the chance to meet people from the business side of things at Cardiome, helping her understand the many different steps required to create a new product, including research, testing, business development, marketing, etc…. After her first four months, Mila was given the opportunity to work on two of her own projects. “This opportunity really gave me a sense of contribution and accomplishment,” she notes.
After returning from her first Co-op work term, Mila took some Business courses, took part in few high-profile business case competitions and took MBB300, a course which is only open to students in her joint major program. Both the competitions and the course helped to build on her past Co-op experiences, while preparing her for her next work term. This time, she participated in the EDGE program in Glasgow Scotland. Here, she was part of a team of six working on consultancy projects for a small medical device company looking to market their prototype, and the Glasgow Community Central Hall which wanted to set up an income-generating arm-length entity. The team completed two consultancy reports and one business plan, which was presented in a “Dragon’s Den” type of setting, in front of a panel of industry judges and clients. “It was very intimidating…the judges drilled everyone!” she recalls. “Still, it was such an amazing and valuable learning experience.” The EDGE program has left a long-lasting impact for Mila, as she still keeps in touch with many of her clients and teammates. Some clients even implemented some of her team’s ideas! “I returned as a completely different person after EDGE, and it helped me decide to pursue a career in consulting,” she says.
Her final placement was a self-directed work term at the SFU Small Business Consulting Group in SFU Surrey, BC. Here she worked on several projects, including the launch of Canadian Network of Visual Analytics Centres (CNVAC) out of SFU Surrey, under the supervision of Dr. Ginger Grant. Another project included work for a health technology start up company, Progressive Health Innovations Inc. (PHI). More specifically, Mila was a part of the team that developed a marketing plan for PHI’s first product line, the Ankle Foot maXimizer (AFX), a foot and ankle strengthening technology.
In late June, Mila started working at Accenture, in the Management Consulting & Integrated Markets, Talent & Organization Performance practice group.
In the end, Mila is very glad to have experienced Co-op. “Students should not leave SFU without doing Co-op,” she says. “I can’t imagine my degree without it…I had so many unique experiences that helped me grow on a professional and personal level.” The program not only helped Mila find her niche, but her already stellar grades improved, due to the hands-on skills she had obtained. When it comes to life at SFU and experiences in the Co-op program, Mila’s advice is, “you get what you put into it,” and she has certainly followed her own advice.