Grad brings unique approach to job thanks to R&I

Artem Mekshun is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), International Commerce and Global Development program. During his studies, Artem spent time with R&I’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team as both a research assistant and then research associate. He is currently employed by General Mills Canada Corp. as a financial analyst.

While at NC, Artem received both a Niagara Scholar Award and an International Student Scholarship, was on the President’s honour roll three times and was a board member for the Niagara College Student Administrative Council.

Tell us about where you work:

I joined General Mills Canada Corp. as a financial analyst in November 2020. The company is a food manufacturer that operates in the CPG [consumer packaged goods] industry. It owns a strong portfolio of famous consumer brands such as Cheerios, Liberté, Yoplait and Nature Valley.

Before assuming my recent position with General Mills, I spent about nine months working as a data analyst at Acosta, a leading retail broker in North America.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

I work in the sales finance function and my main responsibility is partnering with our Loblaws sales team to deliver our company’s financial objectives, such as reported net sales, profit and return on investment (ROI).

What I love about my job is the amount of impact that I can have on the company’s profit and loss statement with my actions. From day one, I was given a lot of opportunities to interact with our customer development managers and assist them with driving growth for our brands on the shelves of Loblaws Companies Limited. Also, I love the fact that I have an ability to work with brands that are enjoyed by millions of people in Canada.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

My work experience as both a research assistant and a research associate were instrumental to my decision to further develop my career in the world of CPG. During my time there, I had a lot of opportunities to work with Niagara-based food and beverage producers and to learn specifics of this industry. As a result, I had a chance to utilize this knowledge and experience to bring a unique perspective to the table both as a data analyst at Acosta and as a financial analyst at General Mills.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

My favourite project with R&I was a market research project that we conducted for a global manufacturer of alcoholic beverages. This was the first time that I had a chance to work with such a large company and the amount of responsibility that I felt was overwhelming. Nevertheless, together with my team, we were able to establish an effective framework for meeting all the required deliverables. As a result, we were able to deliver the project on time and to fully meet our client’s expectations.

My biggest lesson from this project was the importance of learning how to work in a team. This skill largely benefitted me in my future roles since the success of most of the projects I worked on heavily depended on my ability to effectively collaborate with my teammates.

“During my time [at R&I], I had a lot of opportunities to work with Niagara-based food and beverage producers and to learn specifics of this industry. As a result, I had a chance to utilize this knowledge and experience to bring a unique perspective to the table.”   

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I come from the Northern part of Ukraine, from a 1,300-year-old city called Chernihiv. Canada was my No. 1 country when it came to deciding where to pursue my post-secondary education. The reason I chose to go to Niagara College stemmed from its strong reputation in Ukraine and some great recommendations that I received from an agency that was helping me to immigrate.

I really think that Niagara College is unique in terms of the value that it can provide to its students. Can you name another educational institution that takes pride in providing high-quality education to its students and that brews its own beer, distills its own vodka, makes its own wine and grows its own cannabis? The choice to come to NC was an obvious one!

Most memorable experience at NC?

I have two most memorable moments at Niagara College: The first one took place in March 2017, when I heard the results of a student election to the NCSAC [Niagara College Student Administrative Council] office and learned that I had just been elected as a director of clubs for the [Daniel J. Patterson Campus] in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was filled with joy and happiness.

The second one occurred in March 2018, when I heard the result of a student election to the Board of Governors of Niagara College and learned that I had lost in that election. I felt quite devastated, but I did learn a lot from that campaign.

The bottom line is that two of my most memorable moments at NC are related to participating in the college life that goes way beyond pure education. I strongly recommend any NC student to take advantage of hundreds of extra-curriculum opportunities that the college provides. These opportunities will eventually comprise your most memorable moments of the student life.

Is there a particular mentor at R&I who influenced you?

I believe that multiple people at R&I were crucial for my personal and professional development. Among them are: Paula Reile [research project manager, Business & Commercialization Solutions], Kristine Canniff [research project manager, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre], Neil Wilkinson [former research project manager, Research & Innovation]. All of them made their contribution to my learning and development, for which I am very grateful.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Never underestimate the power of teamwork and diversity of opinions. Quite often, having a well-rounded brainstorming session with your project manager or fellow research associates (even if they are not directly involved in your individual project) can constitute a difference between a successful project and a failure.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

In the real world, simply being book-smart is not enough. Companies are built on relationships and therefore one’s ability to effectively bond with other people is valued much more than one’s college grades. During the college years, it is vital for students to learn how to build successful relationships and how to effectively collaborate with others.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

My proudest achievement since graduating is proposing to the most beautiful girl in the world (Yuliia) and organizing an amazing wedding celebration a mere two weeks later.

After proposing, Artem and Yuliia were married two weeks later and live in Toronto.

Interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I am pursuing the CFA designation and, as a result, I often burn the midnight oil studying corporate finance and preparing for the upcoming exams.

Also, I love travelling and exploring new places. Every long weekend, I am doing my best to discover another natural gem of this beautiful country. My other passions include football, exploring new cuisines and playing board games with my friends.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Every human heartbeat is an entire universe of opportunities. Take them!

Also, Bitcoin is overpriced 😊