With a background in geology and engineering, Suriel Ruiz spent seven years working as a consultant in the oil and gas industry in Mexico. However, when the oil crisis hit in 2014, which saw prices plunge by 70% in one of the three biggest declines since World War II, Suriel was forced to reconsider the direction of his career.
“Initially, I was laid off,” he said. “But then there were no projects, so I wasn’t able to return to the company because the oil and gas crisis continued.”
Suriel moved from northern Mexico to the south of the country and took his career in a decidedly different direction.
“I had the opportunity to start my first business, a restaurant and bar. So a pretty big departure from working in oil and gas,” he said with a laugh. “I wanted to try it because I had this feeling inside that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
The next year, in 2017, Suriel started a second business venture selling advertising spaces.
But business was tough and he started thinking about making another big change.
Suriel said he always knew he wanted to move abroad at some point in his life.
“I was working for this oil and gas consulting company, and I had the chance to travel around the world for work,” he said. “So I used to say, ‘I want to move, I want to move abroad. I don’t know when, but I know that I will.’”
With his businesses struggling, Suriel decided it was time to make a change. He said that while he had the heart and spirit of an entrepreneur, he knew he needed more knowledge to be successful.
“I was an engineer running a business, so I had no idea what I was doing,” he said.
So, Suriel decided to cross two things off his list and moved to Vancouver to pursue his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at University Canada West.
He arrived in the city in the fall of 2019 and started his studies on-campus in the Winter (January) 2020 term. Soon, however, like students around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic meant all of Suriel’s classes were online.
He said making the switch to online classes was not an issue for him.
“I’m very adaptable,” he said. “It wasn’t a big deal for me… I think it was easier for me because coming from a warmer country, I’d rather be at home.”
Suriel was set to graduate in July 2021, and as he entered his last term at UCW, he started looking for work.
“I started to apply two or three months before graduation because this process can take time,” he said.
And Suriel set his sights high – only applying for jobs at medium to large-sized companies, like KPMG, PWC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and Teck Resources.
He landed several interviews, and turned down a job offer with another company, before accepting a position as a Digital Analytics Deployment Specialist at Teck Resources, one of Canada’s leading mining companies.
“I chose Teck because the area I would be working in is integrated operations,” he said. “I am working in all the areas – not just logistics, not just maintenance, not just water treatment – I need to see everything.”
“Because of the digital transformation, now you have everything connected. That is the vision. I like that vision.”
And while Suriel is currently working for a company again, his entrepreneurial spirit still burns brightly.
He wants to combine his previous experience in the oil and gas industry with the experience and knowledge he is gaining in mining to launch a consultancy business in the next five to 10 years.
“I mean, I’m seeing myself as an asset. I speak two languages that are very popular around the world. I have experience in these big industries. I have an MBA. I have a lot of experience implementing solutions,” Suriel said. “I think I can do that on my own.”
He said earning an MBA is about empowering yourself.
“Earning an MBA empowered me. It gave me the knowledge to be where I am in the position I have now,” Suriel said. “If I didn’t go through the MBA, I would be struggling with terminologies, concepts, structures and frameworks… And it’s not just knowledge. It’s a degree that gives you credibility.”