Jeffrey Ha’s first foray into post-secondary education did not go as planned.
After finishing high school at 18, he moved on to university but left after a couple of years.
“I didn’t really enjoy it,” he said.
He was computer savvy, however, and was able to get a job with no degree and little post-secondary education. Ha moved his way up over the years and worked for some major companies – Ticketmaster, Electronic Arts and Sony PlayStation – but, he said, his lack of a higher education was holding him back.
He got as far as becoming a director, but was looking to move into a more senior management role.
“One thing I discovered is that, as I moved higher in the business world, moving away from more technical-based roles, my lack of business education really came back to haunt me,” Ha said. “If you want to move from being a doer to being a planner, you do need to understand some of the concepts around the business world.”
That’s why in 2010, after more than 20 years in the corporate world, Jeffrey Ha decided to leave his job at Electronic Arts and go back to school to get his MBA. He said he looked at a few different MBA programs in Vancouver and was drawn to UCW because the continuous intake format would allow him to start sooner and complete his degree faster.
“For me, it was more about getting the education that I needed and getting it as quickly as possible so I could get back into the private sector,” he said, adding that one professor, in particular, helped him make it through the program.
“If it wasn’t for Dr. [Eli] Sopow, who is still at UCW today… I don’t know if I would have bought into the MBA program,” Ha said. “He impressed me so much personally. The whole education experience was so much better than when I went to university when I was 18. I just stuck with it and it just kind of grew on me.”
And it was in a UCW classroom where another idea started to percolate.
“I was sitting in accounting class and the professor is talking about the concept of inventory control and, you know, I’ve done that before, so I wasn’t really paying attention, but I remember thinking, ‘Man, he has a really cool job.’”
While he was still a student, Ha started talking to some of his UCW professors about what it would take to go into teaching.
After graduating with his UCW MBA, Ha landed a senior leadership role with Amazon in 2013. After a couple of years with Amazon, he moved on to Johnson & Johnson where he took a position as an operations manager for the national call centre in Canada.
However, he could not shake the idea that he might want to pursue another career path.
“While I had gone back to work, I started to take all the certifications, such as the provincial instructor's diploma program, to start to build towards maybe having a part-time job teaching,” Ha said.
He started out as a tutor and took some part-time contracts with private institutions. Then he got his “break” and was hired as a sessional faculty at Douglas College in 2015.
“And it kind of took off from there,” Ha said. And when a teaching position opened up at UCW in 2018, he applied, and the rest is history.
Today Ha teaches operations management, project management and human resources at UCW alongside several professors he learned from while he was a student.
“I always tell students, with the general MBA you understand business at a broad level, but the skills that we teach you, those are the things that sustain you from here on out,” Ha said.
Those lessons have paid off.
“I believe that because, when I reflect back on where I am today, it’s not because of the MBA that I became a teacher,” he said. “It’s the fact that I had the ability to learn and grow into this role as an instructor versus just being taught… I think that really was the lesson for me coming out of the MBA program.”
Published on Feb. 26, 2021.