Lilin Zhang: Turning Passion into a Career

When Lilin Zhang started her job in early 2020 as a business development associate at Acuitas Therapeutics, a Vancouver-based biotechnology firm, she had no idea what the next few months would bring. In fact, just a few short weeks later, she found herself part of the team working on the development of various vaccines for COVID-19. 

A big part of Lilin’s job is to connect with partners that use the company’s specially-designed delivery technology. The technology produced by Acuitas is an important part of the vaccine process that makes sure that the treatment gets into our cells.  

In addition to her work supporting the business side of the company, Lilin helps to put initial legal agreements in place with new partners. She also takes charge of, and provides support for, projects in marketing, finance and human resources. She is always quick to jump in where needed and finds that she learns a great deal by doing this.

Lilin moved from China to Canada when she was six years old. Growing up in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she found that playing sports was a great way to make friends in the community. Lilin noticed the positive effect of sports on her physical and mental health, which inspired her dream of working in an area that had some connection to health care. In secondary school, she joined a business club, which opened the door to wanting to learn more about the corporate world. That’s when she knew that she wanted to put her two interests together into a career. Lilin’s dream to have a career that included both health and business shaped her decision to complete a Bachelor of Kinesiology and a Master of Management degree at the University of British Columbia.

Outside of school, Lilin took on a range of jobs and volunteer roles that would help her gain skills. “I wanted to make sure that I had some experience in the two sectors in addition to my education so that when I graduated, I could find a job that would be both challenging and rewarding.”

Lilin credits much of her career success to the big sacrifices her parents made for her. She says, “My parents gave up their deeply-rooted life in China to make our home in Canada, and they did so with very little resources. They wanted to give me the opportunity for a better life. I have seen them work hard their entire lives to be able to take care of our family. The drive for all of my efforts is to make them proud and to give back to them for everything they have done and continue to do for me. They are my inspiration.”

While currently working from home because of the pandemic, Lilin says that she still gets to connect with her co-workers. They have biweekly check-in video calls with the entire team and access to an internal company communications channel where staff can chat and share photos, videos and news — similar to how it would be if they were all in the office in person. Lilin says that it has helped the team to stay in touch.

For those looking to jumpstart their career, Lilin’s advice is to be open and flexible stating, “If you are prepared to take on different tasks that support the needs of your organization, you never know what might come from it. You could spark an interest in an area that you didn’t know you had.” She adds, “Be open to opportunities that come your way and always put forth your best effort — you never know where that might take you!”

Are you looking to build a career you can be passionate about? Take a Career Compass quiz to help discover the right path for you.

Check out Working during COVID-19 for additional resources to support you during the pandemic.