Downtown Campus

Top 40 Under 40: Part 4

For 20 years, outstanding young civic-minded visionaries have been celebrated in the annual Top 40 Under 40. And, once again, it wasn’t only entrepreneurs and business leaders who were toasted at the Nov. 8 gala hosted by Avenue Calgary.

Although the Top 40 is often recognized as a who’s who of corporate Calgary, among this year’s honourees were many researchers, doctors, aid workers and charity founders with UCalgary connections. In fact, 21 of this year’s recipients have ties to the University of Calgary. We spoke to 20 of them in this four-part series.

Read on to meet this year’s crop of ambitious, talented professionals who were eager to reminisce about their times on campus, as well as share advice and wisdom. In Part Four, we chat with: Dr. Won Hyung (Andrew) Ryu, 36; Tara Weber, 38, MBA’17; Megan Zimmerman, 37, BComm’04; Jil Macdonald, 33, BSc’08; and Amanda Rae Storteboom, 32, BA’09.

Dr. Won Hyung (Andrew) Ryu

Who would have thought that a student who went to an elite arts high school in Toronto would wind up in neurosurgery? But that’s exactly what happened to Dr. Won Hyung (Andrew) Ryu, 36, MD, who is now a researcher and chief resident in neurosurgery at UCalgary. From helping develop a virtual-reality simulator that can assist neurosurgeons in practising surgeries to finding ways to help surgeons identify patients at risk for vision loss, Ryu will complete his residency in 2019 and has one regret. A few years ago, he turned down an opportunity to spend a summer as an exchange student in Japan during medical school. To this day, that decision sparks thoughts of “what if . . .” for Andrew.

His advice? Always taking advantage of opportunities that may come your way.

A guilty pleasure? I love to eat noodles. Any day I have off work [not many, since Ryu puts in 80-hour work weeks!], a bowl of ramen from Shiki Manya is on my short list of to-dos.

What are you reading these days? I am currently reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

What do you wish you knew more about? I wish I was fluent in more languages. I love travelling and I think being able to speak the native language can break down barriers and lead to unexpected opportunities as a visitor.

Any advice for students? Whether within your studies or outside of the academic arena, explore your curiosity, interests and creativity.

What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? As a neurosurgeon in training, I stand on the shoulders of great mentors who taught me the value of hard work and the constant pursuit of perfection.

Tara Weber, MBA’17

In her 15-year career as a reporter, alumna Tara Weber, 38, MBA’17, now the western correspondent for BNN Bloomberg, has broken stories that have led to major policy changes in numerous sectors that impact our lives on a daily basis. But not all of her jobs had such clout.

What was your worst job, ever? When I was in high school, I was a lifeguard at a waterslide park. We had to ride the slides at the beginning of each day to clear them of debris. Sounds fun, but it’s actually kind of gross!

If you went back to school, what would you take? I have a BA in English literature, a Bachelor of Journalism and an MBA. All were great options and continue to serve me well, but I think I am done for a bit! My next foray will be when things slow down again. Then I would go back and take classes in art history, English literature and law.

Biggest regret? I wish I had gone on one of the U of C exchanges or the “camping for credits”! Anyone who took those courses said they were life-changing.

A guilty pleasure? Chocolate. A single piece of premium dark chocolate.

To what do you attribute your current success? Perseverance. There will always be people who think you’re not capable or too inexperienced. Let that drive you forward to work harder. And always be open to big changes and challenges.

What are you reading these days? Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Do something unexpected. Take a course on a topic you know nothing about, travel somewhere completely foreign to what you’re used to, or jump out of an airplane. Do something that shakes up perspective … even if it just means taking a different route to work tomorrow.

What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? Don’t stress. Try your best, but remember, there is always another test.

Megan Zimmerman, BComm’04

Anyone who is able to lead a team that, last year, attracted 67 new companies to Calgary and created 5,700 new jobs deserves more than a few accolades. Precisely why Megan Zimmerman, 37, BComm’04, is a Top 40 Under 40 honouree. Business development manager at Calgary Economic Development, Zimmerman loves cereal and pedicures and isn’t short on advice for students: Don’t let your specific degree limit your possibilities. You’ve been given the gift of expanding your mind and challenging your assumptions — so use it!

Worst job? Waitressing.

If you went back to school, what would you take? Medicine or biology.

A significant memory from UCalgary? Bermuda Shorts Day.

What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? I did a North American geographic focus area and I learned a lot about Canada’s Indigenous people.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Hike the Great Wall of China.

What is the most annoying question that people ask you? How long does it take to curl your hair?

To what do you attribute your current success? Ensuring my cup is always full before I give to others. And being kind to everyone, no matter who they are and what position they hold.

Jil Macdonald, BSc’08

The youngest-ever vice-president at the Alberta Energy Regulator, Jil Macdonald, 33, BSc’08, thought she’d study medicine when she first arrived at UCalgary, but rethought that career path after almost failing chemistry.

Any advice for students? I really had envisioned being a doctor for so many years, but my chemistry mark left me in a what-does-it-mean state. I ended up taking a geology class as a science elective (it was that or zoology at the time) and I loved it. It was my first foray into that world and it totally changed my path. Be open.

If you went back to school, what would you take? Data science, no question on this. At the AER, we have started to leverage the artificial intelligence and machine learning tools in my teams to solve complex regulatory problems and it’s fascinating.

A significant memory from UCalgary? Twofold — the hours I spent studying in the library in the “new” computer rooms cramming the night before an 8 a.m. exam. And the hours I spent at the Den having drinks.

A guilty pleasure? I love reality TV. It is an odd way to de-stress, as you really do not need to focus on it. Nothing really happens in a 60-minute episode, but I love it.

Worst job? Working at Orange Julius at the age of 14. Even at the time, I remember saying, “I do not want to work here for the rest of my life.” . . . Sometimes there is always a lesson, it just takes some time to figure it out.

To what do you attribute your current success? Being flexible to change — and knowing you may not know the exact path forward for yourself. My ability to be open when an individual saw something in me that maybe I didn’t see. Or, saying “yes” to a new role that I didn’t have a lot of experience in . . . this has enabled me to be adaptable, love change and be confident in the unknown.

What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you? When I think about luck, I look at those who surround you. I am very lucky to have met my husband in a happenstance random occurrence back in 2009. Through that, I gained an amazing partner and a beautiful son.

Amanda Rae Storteboom, BA’09

Over the five years Amanda Rae Storteboom, 32, BA’09, was the director of Integration and Special Projects at CUPS Health Education and Housing, the non-profit increased its annual operating budget from $10 million to $17 million. Her colleagues claim the international relations major was instrumental in CUPS’ growth, due to Storteboom’s implementation of operating efficiencies. Now based in Toronto, she gives a shout-out to UCalgary faculty — Dr. Karen Benzies and Dr. Carla Ginn — with whom she worked closely on several special projects.

What do you miss about student life? At the time, I didn’t realize that being an undergrad was about having unrestricted time and opportunity to be curious and further research and explore absolutely any topic that interested me. Your assignments just basically give you a framework within which to do that. Your entire job in university is just to be curious about the world and ask questions. How incredible!

Any advice for new students? Enjoy the process. Do not be in a rush to get through. Ask questions and not just specifics about the assignment — ask the big “why” and “how come” questions. Lean in to the real conversations. And be curious. Everything, every system, every thought paradigm, every way the world works was created by us humans. Which means everything can be changed by us, too. If you can see something does not fit, call it out, build a team around it, seek to change it. For the introverts: it can be tempting to just want to absorb all the information, but use your time in school to practice using your voice, too. The world needs you to speak up.

If you went back to school, what would you take? Public health. Design thinking. Or maybe neuroscience or epigenetics. These things may seem random but, if you ever wanted to have a conversation about it, I could tell you how I see them as interrelated.

A significant memory from UCalgary? Pulling all-nighters in the MacKimmie Library Block with my fellow students. We would stock up on the five-cent candy bags from the Stor to keep up our energy all night.

Worst job? Working at Brentwood Starbucks — 6 a.m. shifts so I could be in class by 2 p.m. Lifting those heavy rubber mats on the floor behind the counter was the worst. #barristasearntheirtips

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Travel outside of North America. If you are a student doing a semester abroad, this is a great way to spend time in another country. I would recommend visiting the International Centre to find out what opportunities and financial options are available for you to take advantage of. Travel will, for sure, give you new perspectives on the world, help you get to know yourself better, and may even completely change the trajectory of your career or life.

Last but not least of the class of 2019 Top 40 honourees with UCalgary connections is Peter Oliver, BSc’05, Co-founder, Beltline Neighbourhoods Association; Lead Product Design Engineer, General Dynamics Mission Systems — Canada.

Top 40 Under 40: Part 1

In Part One, you’ll meet: Vivek Shraya; Allison Onyett, BA’09; Dr. Kirsten Fiest, BSc’08, PhD’14; Dr. Kimberly Williams, MD’14; and Dr. Rita Watterson, MD’13.
Read Part 1 »

Top 40 Under 40: Part 2

In Part Two we interview:  Dr. Tolulope Sajobi; Derek Luk, BN’07; Christina Hassan; Kye Kocher, BA’11; and Dr. Prism Schneider, MD’08, PhD’08.
Read Part 2 »

Top 40 Under 40: Part 3

In Part Three we catch up with: Corinne Ofstie, BA’05, BSW’12; Jason Kingsley; Matt Toohey, BA’05; Jerilyn Dressler, MSW’15; and Dr. Amy Metcalfe, PhD’12.
Read Part 3 »

Out Now: Fall/Winter 2018

From intercultural classrooms and study abroad programs to career paths and life in Qatar — our international issue is here. 
Read the magazine »