Working for Your Passions Part I: An Idea and a Hope

Working for Your Passions Part I: An Idea and a Hope

By: Christopher Maringka
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In the past, when I attended professional networking or other gala type events, I always introduced myself as a Management Information Systems student who has passion for technology and consulting. I kept it as straightforward and as professional as possible, thinking that adding any personal traits would only hinder others from understanding my professional persona. However, outside of these events, I am known as a sport enthusiast – I play soccer and basketball if the weather permits, snowboard during the winter, and occasionally I go fishing to enjoy nature (and hoping to catch dinner).

While these two personas perfectly describe who I am, I have had the tendency to keep them separate because, in reality, combining the two and make a living seemed unlikely. That is why it took me by surprise when Mike Cornford, my business mentor, told me about an opportunity from Mitacs to conduct an academic research project abroad on ANY topic of interest as long as it aligns with my field of study. After I inquired about the program further with the Mitacs representative and the SFU International Co-op Coordinator, Amy Lee, I enrolled in the program and was able to declare it as a self-directed co-op.

Pre-Departure: When an Idea is Still an Idea and I Could Only Hope That it Will Work

The unique thing about Mitacs’ program is that I had the autonomy to create my own project as long as there were two faculty members, one from Canada and one from the designated country, interested in my project and willing to be my supervisors. I contacted my past and current professors to talk about the program, my interests, and to see if they would give me a positive reply. While it took some time, I was lucky to find a faculty member at SFU, Dr. Daniela Blettner, who was interested in my idea and introduced me to her colleagues working in Central, or Latin, America. My designation was Brazil and, because of this, I became certain about the topic of my study: soccer.

I wanted to see how my expertise in Management Information Systems could bring positive contribution to soccer clubs in Brazil, and it took me a while to design a study that fits this concept. Finally, I planned to study how technology and data analytics can be used to make soccer clubs in Brazil more competitive in respect to field performance and business. I would conduct interviews with various stakeholders of the clubs who participated in one of the most prestigious national soccer tournaments in Brazil, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, collect common stories based on the opportunities and challenges they are facing, understand their current technical level and possibilities to adopt data analytics, and prepare formal documentation to share these insights.

After identifying the project that I was going to do, I started to be more proactive in bringing it forward. I began cold e-mailing several local organizations in Vancouver, attended several professional networking events, asked for a private appointment with professionals in related industries, and applied for academic awards and grants. In doing each of these things, I talked about my project in hopes of gaining insights and perhaps sponsorship to raise research funds. Through all the effort, I gained valuable professional networks, advice and academic articles related to the project, in-kind sponsorship, and academic grants and sponsorship, which prepared me well for my departure. Through my pre-departure preparations, I gained confidence for this project and begun to see my plans start to take shape.

SFU Co-op

Lead image by Fabio Menotti/Ag Palmeiras/Divulgação  


Next, Christopher arrives in São Paulo, Brazil and carries out his research project. To continue following his journey, read Part II


The SFU Co-op office and the OLC acknowledge the recent events that significantly impacted the Brazilian soccer community. Our heartfelt condolences go out to family, friends and fans of Associação Chapecoense de Futebol and all who have been affected by this tragedy.  


Beyond the Article: 

  • Connect with Christopher on LinkedIn.
  • Christopher wrote and published an article on Mitacs' website as well. Read it here
  • If creating your own co-op opportunity is something that appeals to you, check out this three-part series that guides you through the need-to-knows of a self-directed co-op work search. 
  • As Christopher outlines, establishing professional networks is a must for any professional opportunities to take shape. SFU alumna, Melissa Chungfat, walks you through how to succesfully attend a networking event on your own
Posted on December 01, 2016