Life after UBC may feel like a millennium away, but our undergrad years zip by faster than we can say "Tuum Est”. What does the other side look like?
Devon Wong, a UBC alumna who graduated in 2010, offers advice, reassurance, and a glimpse into life after grad!
A full-circle career journey
After a very eventful 9-year journey, Devon was radiant with wisdom, passion, and stories to share.
Devon’s love for film began with an ‘amateur’ video project for her Directed Studies class. After graduating from UBC with a Major in Sociology and Minor in Gender Studies, she continued exploring this passion and soon made a name for herself as a video creator in the non-profit space. She went on to do projects for the Museum of Vancouver, David Suzuki Foundation, and even for the City of Vancouver.
Little did she know that this passion was only the first chapter of an exciting journey. There was so much more that Devon wanted to experience.
“It’s important to cultivate curiosity. Don’t think you need to land on one specific thing or one dream or one goal. Life is complex, and it should be. You should explore all the different avenues available to you.”
With curiosity in mind, Devon sought to see more of the world and explore new avenues. In 2011, she discovered a program called “Princeton in Asia”, where she was paired to work as a news reporter with a Princeton alum in the Philippines.
“It was like night and day compared to life in Vancouver,” she explained.
Having lived in Vancouver all her life, an experience abroad was a rewarding adventure. In 2014, she even documented a big typhoon and the ensuing recovery efforts as a filmmaker for the United Nations!
Excited by the opportunities in Asia, Devon moved to Singapore. “I worked in television for a year and a half, and it was so much fun. I met so many people from different backgrounds, and it was a young and exciting environment.”
Devon did programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and even produced and directed her own series.
“It was a steep learning curve for me, but all worthwhile.”
She then dipped her toes into advertising but learned it wasn’t for her.
“I really want to ground my work in my values. I had to ask myself, ‘What do I want to do? What makes me happy?'"
“Some people answer it quicker, but you know, things change,” she pointed out. “After years of something, you might decide you want something different. It’s important to normalize that kind of self-reflection and question-asking. People need permission to evolve.”
She has since moved back to Canada, and is refocusing her efforts on work with non-profits in Vancouver as a communications consultant. With her work, Devon has made an impact in the women’s leadership space and is now on a mission to revitalize our city’s Chinatown.
So what’s next?
“At heart, I enjoy change,” she said, “In fact, I’m planning to move to Australia next!”
Devon’s guiding compass
“Seeking challenge was always a big one through my 20s,” she stated. But now, she’s switching gears to choose work based on alignment with her values.
“I think it’s important to embrace things that are not just challenging for the sake of challenge, but that help you reflect on who you are and how you want to show up in the world.”
Devon is living a journey that she never would’ve foreseen when she crossed the graduation stage.
“Part of it is embracing this change, and saying, “I’m just going to live every day as best as I can, and make connections as best as I can.”
The gift of UBC
Devon’s 5 years as an undergraduate student at UBC were invaluable.
“Something as simple as finding the right mentor, or finding the right professors to encourage you to take on projects beyond the scope of coursework were so helpful,” she said.
“Even now, I find that I can come back to UBC and reconnect as alumni. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.”
Devon told me she found many key allies and mentors throughout her time here who shaped her journey for the better.
A flashback to grad day
With a laugh, Devon described her graduation moment as "anti-climactic".
“I was working at David Suzuki during my last semester. On graduation day, I got on a bus to UBC, walked the graduation stage, then went straight back to work.”
Devon recalled that she didn’t feel too scared about crossing the stage; she was already working at the time.
“[My mindset has] always been a balance between a) take it as it comes, and b) being goal-oriented. I’ve worked since I was 15, so work was never a stranger to me—I was always doing something.”
Devon stressed that you should allow yourself to take detours and change your mind. Crossing the stage is scary, but embracing uncertainty and following her heart brought her on a journey she wouldn’t trade for the world.
“For me, I knew generally that I wanted to work in media in Asia, so I fulfilled that goal. But in terms of hats I’ve worn and the organizations I’ve worked with, never in a million years would I think I would be doing a commercial for Oreo or working for the UN,” Devon reflected.
“Looking back, I can connect the dots and see the career that I’ve built in this path. It hasn’t been linear, but I feel that getting comfortable with the unknown doesn’t put you in any [worse] of a place than people who claim to know exactly what they want. Because that will change.”
Devon’s best advice is to open yourself up to new experiences and take it one day at a time.
“Truth is, you have no idea what will happen in the future, and you should embrace that. Life would be so boring if you knew exactly where you’d be in 10 years.”