Sean Xia

Clear Ocean Seafood Ltd./ Sirocco Food + Wine Consulting
Plant Manager / Consultant
Nanjing, China
Vancouver, Canada

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

Being the plant manager, I oversee the operation of the business and participate in business strategy decision making, including production scheduling, quality assurance and compliance, material procurement, logistics, sales/marketing performance, etc. Being a consultant, I help my clients to develop and implement applicable food safety programs, to prepare for inspections and to help ensure the compliance to the regulations.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

The master of food science program offers a comprehensive course on the food regulations. I still use the knowledge learnt from this course on daily basis when I need to navigate the food laws and regulations, and to interpret the rules to my clients. The HACCP course taught is also essential to my work. As it not only explains the food safety system in detail, but also help me to understand the key components to a food business. Besides these, the program also includes the introduction to business management, where I learnt my first accounting lesson. I cannot emphasize more that how much the basic accounting knowledge helped me to better understand the operation of business and to advance my career.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

The challenging part for my current position is to manage people and relationships. It took me several years to understand that business is not build solely on individual knowledge and skills, but on teamwork, trust and leaderships. Practicing your communication skills, being a good listener and remembering that trust is to be earned. These would be the suggestions I gave to my younger self, if there was a chance.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

No, my initial intention is to stay in labs to conduct research and analysis. My first job was actually in a lab. But during that job, the lab was struggling. And I noticed that a lab was a format of business as well and can only thrive under good management. That was when I decide to switch path to food manufacturing business and pursue a management career.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

The beautiful British Columbia, the welcome Canadian culture, and the stunning reputation of UBC as a top academic institute.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

The two amazing museums on campus. The beautiful beach just around the corner. An afternoon walk in the rose garden.

How did the graduate degree at UBC help you achieve your career and/or personal development goals?

I think the most import thing I received from the degree is not the degree itself, but the skills to work efficiently both independently and inside a team, and the mindset of continuing to improve myself. These skills help me to face the challenges, especially in the early years of the career, when I have to work independently with minimum experience and minimum senior supervision.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

My clients always consider me as persistent and "aggressive". I consider myself a problem solver. No mater how intimating the problem may seem, I will not back down or complain, but roll my sleeves and get to work. Also, I will always try to put myself in others' shoes to see their point of view, in order to find the common ground to solve the issues.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

There will be times that someone shuts the door right on your face. There will be many cold faces and rejects. But remember, it's not personal. They are just doing their job and mind their business. Eventually, you will earn their respect by being persistent and "aggressive".


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