FREDERICTON – Growing up, Daniel Purcell used to stop by in Fredericton as he traveled from his home in Ontario to his parents’ home province of Nova Scotia. Today, the MBA graduate from the University of New Brunswick Fredericton is in the provincial capital full-time, helping software company 3D Planeta grow.
After graduating from UNB’s MBA program with a concentration in entrepreneurship in April, Purcell started work right away as the business development analyst at the software company.
He says the experiential learning components of the MBA program helped him make the transition from school to work easily.
“Companies now are looking for two-to-three years’ experience and that’s just not attainable when you’re just out of school,” he said. “Having an experiential learning program where you’re working with real companies, with real money, means you’re getting experience before you actually get work.”
He says experiential learning means while students are getting graded in class, they’re also gaining experience that’s relevant to life and work. That’s experience he can put on his resume and LinkedIn, too.
“It’s just something to show that you did something else other than learn from textbooks, and that you’re engaged and willing to learn,” he said.
Purcell didn’t start in business. With an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from UNB, he wanted to pursue medical technology and pharmaceutical sales. His past work experience at IBM also instilled an interest in technology.
This is what initially led him to the MBA program, but his path soon took a more entrepreneurial direction.
“Being in Fredericton where there are lots of startups, I got exposed to several ideas and how businesses grow. And I got pretty interested immediately,” he said. “[The MBA program] was a great networking opportunity meeting different people in all different sectors, and it helped me shape a direction I wanted to go in.”
Purcell was part of the Venture Analyst Leadership Program (VALP), where he took the Venture Assessment course. In that course, taught by Raymond Fitzpatrick, the director of investments at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, he was able to work with fellow students in conducting due diligence on startups.
That’s also where Purcell learned the strategies to determine whether or not certain markets are worth pursuing, and how to gather relevant information for a business.
It was there where he and fellow students learned how to invest.
In fact, students in this course also decide whether or not to invest up to $25,000 from the Fraser Student Venture Fund in a company tied to a UNB student or alumni, with the potential to earn returns and grow the fund.
“It wasn’t just textbook learning. It was real work,” Purcell said.
3D Planeta, which offers advanced 3D land and sea visualization technology for sectors like emergency response, defense and land exploration, was the fund’s first investment.
It was through the VALP that Purcell was connected with 3D Planeta’s founders, leading to his hiring.
Purcell says it wasn’t just the hands-on education in the MBA program that helps him excel in his role. His overall time there as a student, including his extracurricular activities to help garner sponsors for scholarships, and as a student assistant at the MBA office, also gave him key skills.
“It was a lot of networking and making friends,” he said. “It’s something I take pride in. I like reaching out to people and start building relationships. Those skills translate everywhere.”
“When I’m reaching out to find new market opportunities, I kind of have to start a conversation and see where it goes. All that stuff – learning how to talk to people and understanding personality types and how they respond, it’s all valuable, whether it be in my role now or anywhere,” he added.
He said it’s thanks to the entrepreneurial mindset he encountered in the MBA program that he got the opportunity to work with 3D Planeta.
“Just being exposed to that environment and joining a new network of people – because I’m from outside the area – was really beneficial for me. The experiential learning helped me get my foot in the door.”
This article was sponsored by UNB Fredericton’s faculty of management.