Shifting career gears: A second chance at SAIT

International student Rigel is leaving no stone unturned while studying at SAIT
International student Rigel is leaving no stone unturned while studying at SAIT

“SAIT is what you make of it. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. The possibilities are endless.”

As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” After barely getting through his first degree and trying to enter into a workforce that looked grim, that’s exactly what SAIT international student Rigel Raju did. Taking a year to reflect, he decided to enroll in SAIT’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program and was sure to make it count this time.

What were you doing before you decided to come to SAIT?

In 2013, I moved from Thailand to England to begin my post-secondary education. I was pursuing a degree in Sports Technology at Loughborough University. I chose Sports Technology because I was an athlete and was also drawn to more scientific subjects in high school.

Rigel Raju and his familyI enjoyed my first year of the degree which mostly covered engineering and biomechanics. It was in my second year where we started really getting into sports technology, and that’s when I realized it was not the program for me. I wanted to drop out by the second half of my second year, but my parents urged me to continue as I only had one year to go and credits don’t transfer in England like they do here. So I persisted and after failing a number of courses and re-sitting the exams, I gained my degree, albeit with astonishingly bad grades.

With the Brexit referendum, opportunities for international students were limited enough, but add my poor academic record onto that with a total lack of work experience or extracurricular involvement in university, I did not stand a chance. I had two interviews, but failed to land a job. So, with my visa quickly expiring, the only thing left to do was return home to Thailand and consider next steps.

I spent a year focusing on myself. I indulged in my hobbies and interests, went to church every day with my parents and spent time learning things just for fun, like how to build a PC. Overall, it was the best thing that could have happened for me before I came to SAIT.

What made you want to attend SAIT and the School of Business?

Quite honestly, it was failure that drove me to do another degree. I didn’t feel confident in my chances of getting into a Master’s program with my grades, so I decided to do another undergrad degree in a different area of study. After hearing about some of my friends’ careers in finance, I decided I would give business a shot. I applied to a number of universities in Canada and was accepted into a few on the west coast, which I was partial to because of the milder climate. However, since my sister was already living in Calgary, I also applied to both SAIT and the University of Calgary. Once I received my offer from SAIT, my decision was made.

Though I had applied to other universities, I am positive that choosing to study at SAIT was absolutely the right place for me to continue my education. When I began my education here, I quickly came to realize that I really love SAIT. The small classes with plenty of attention from industry-expert instructors, the abundant opportunities to learn and grow and the community in general are all reasons why I am proud of my choice.

What has your experience in the BBA program been like so far?

Nothing short of absolutely fantastic. I have got everything I could possibly ask for and more from my time at SAIT and the BBA program. As you can imagine, the class sizes are a huge differentiator between SAIT and my previous educational experience. It makes a lot of difference when you can raise your hand in a class of 40 and have your questions answered right away by the instructor. Doing the same thing in a lecture hall of hundreds is not as easy.

Additionally, I would say access to instructors outside of the classroom is also much easier at SAIT. Booking meetings and interactions with instructors are much more common at SAIT than at my previous university. Something that really surprised me, that I’m still grateful for today, is the access to our academic chairs and deans as well. I have had the pleasure of working closely with the academic chair of my program, Bill Ross, and the dean of the School of Business, Janet Segato. Their level of commitment to supporting students and ensuring they succeed is really the epitome of an educator from my perspective.

You have really put yourself out there and have been involved with several initiatives during your time at SAIT. Why do you feel this level of involvement is important?

Involvement in the community for me has been an evolutionary journey. When I began at SAIT, I did not have any sort of urge to get involved. I was content to focus on my academics and do really well there. My only goal was to graduate with a 4.0 GPA. However, with the hindsight from my previous degree where I did not get involved in any clubs or activities, and with the awareness that I had absolutely no work experience, I knew I had to do something. At this point, joining a club was a way out of my comfort zone and I knew this level of involvement was necessary to build my employability and my resume.

As I began to join more clubs, try new things and learn about different opportunities, I started to realize I wanted to have a lasting impact during my time here at SAIT and I would do as much as I could to achieve that. Based on this new goal, I started to take on leadership positions wherever I could with the simple aim of making a difference.

This level of involvement really showed me that I am capable of much more than I ever thought possible. It made me realize that my limits are defined only by my mindset and attitude. Since being at SAIT, I’ve been involved with Enactus, SAIT Finance Club, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Peer Mentorship, Student Investment Management Trust, SAIT Board of Governors, Saitsa Board of Directors, Saitsa Finance Committee and SAIT’s Academic Council.

What have been some highlights for you since attending SAIT?

There have been so many highlights that it’s hard to pick from them — here are a few:

My experiences with the instructors, specifically Harry Vadalkar. While I’m used to the traditional teacher/student dynamic, when we have discussions or ask Harry questions, he asks us for our opinion and values our input, understanding that we all bring something different to the table. I also have a huge interest in tech, but am no expert — so it’s amazing to be able to talk to Harry about the application of this technology into the world of finance. In fact, I remember in one class, when we were working through some questions, Harry wrote a program and demonstrated it in class. It gives us a nice insight into technology’s impact on the financial industry and gets us excited about the possibilities and makes us want to learn more about it ourselves.

Phi Theta Kappa group photo

Participating in the Enactus regional and national competitions. Going from being so nervous that I was almost crying before a presentation, to being part of a presentation team for Enactus SAIT at nationals in Vancouver in 2019 was an incredible experience. The times spent with friends during these competitions were also unforgettable and memories that I will cherish forever.

Being named a Top 100 Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa in the world — this put our chapter in the top 8%. We also won awards at the international level for our projects including the President’s Student Leadership Award in 2020. Also travelling to Seattle and Orlando for regional and international conferences was absolutely incredible.


Serving on SAIT’s Board of Governors and Academic Council has made me feel like part of something bigger and in a position to make a difference. Being on both really humanized people in authority for me. I was sitting in meetings with people that we hear about, who make big decisions at SAIT — it’s been a humbling and eye-opening experience.

There are definitely more, but these are the first that come to mind.

What would you say to someone who’s considering attending SAIT?

At this point, I would say it’s not even a matter to consider — just go for it. If you prefer applied learning to reading and theory, SAIT is the place for you. If you’re looking for a place to try new things with the support of friends and faculty, SAIT is the place for you. If you want to attend classes at a beautiful campus (where blended learning is available), SAIT is the place for you. I’m sure these are all things you have heard or seen before — but what I would say to you from my own experience is that SAIT is what you make of it. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. The possibilities are endless.

Learn from a SAIT and industry expert in finance

Harry Valdakar profile photo

With a background in tech and finance, SAIT Financial Services instructor Harry Vadalkar (MBA, CFA) realizes the value of technology’s impact on the industry. “Financial robo advisors, artificial intelligence-based insurance underwriting, high frequency trading and decentralized finance has provided new opportunities and challenges,” he says. Fascinated by all things fintech, Vadalkar has his finger on the pulse and encourages his students to do the same. “To be future-proof, learners should be tech savvy, think critically and anticipate the new wave of fintech that is upon us.”

- Harry Vadalkar, Instructor, Business Administration

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