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Bridging the gap

Smith students connect theory with real-world experiences

Connecting students’ classroom learnings with practical educational opportunities is a huge part of the Smith experience. From internships to capstone projects and living cases, there are ample ways for students to get ready for the job market.

Experiential learning opportunities are also a way for alumni to connect with the school and benefit from the skills and fresh ideas of student talent.

Lauren Thibodeau, BCom’93, has been tapping the Smith Commerce program for the past three years to help grow her company, SaaSCan, which provides research and advisory services to Canadian Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. “The SaaS ecosystem in Canada is large and growing, accounting for about half of the $9.4 billion invested by VCs in Canadian companies in 2022. It’s important for Smith grads who are interested in tech to be knowledgeable about this landscape,” she says.

Recently, Amy Zhu, BCom’25, worked with Thibodeau to create a SaaS map of Canada, a centralized resource featuring geographic and demographic data, standout company examples and accelerator and incubator resources. Kamal Deep Dhillon, BCom’25, took this research one step further and worked on an AI layer for the SaaS map that startups can use to support their growth.

“Working with SaaSCan and Lauren has been an incredible learning experience. I have relished the creative freedom to shape our report section, which has enabled me to foster new skills and refine existing ones,” Dhillon says.

Thibodeau has had six Commerce students work with her at SaaSCan since launching the company in the pandemic. She recently caught up with them during a virtual SaaSCan Smith alumni reunion. “I learn as much or more from [students] as they from me — from new tech, to fresh ways of problem solving, to creative approaches I’d never think of,” Thibodeau says.