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Irene Yang, BEngM '01

(Electrical Engineering)

From a wide range of interests to a job with many angles

Most people will say that their undergraduate days played a big role in shaping their lives and futures. But Irene Yang takes that one step further, offering three pretty specific examples.

Along with earning the electrical engineering and management degree that would launch her into the world of high-tech to start her career, Yang also met her husband Stephen Yang at McMaster.

And, in 1999, she took part in an exchange program with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University that included an internship with Motorola.

“It was my first overseas plane ride and the exchange exposed me to studying living and working abroad,” says Yang, whose career has since taken her to jobs in Japan, Thailand, China, Brazil and cities across Canada and the United States.

“It was eye-opening, but the year was amazing and life-changing.”

Along with spanning three continents, Yang’s career has included both engineering roles and business responsibilities.

After graduation she worked in the tech industry, eventually holding global leadership roles in semiconductors product management and strategic marketing with AMD.

She also earned an MBA and her master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT.

She then shifted to a role in management consulting with McKinsey before joining global chemical giant BASF about 8 years ago.

As Director of Business Development and Innovation for BASF Canada, Yang leads sales and new business development, plus everything innovation – from digital marketing and e-commerce to startup and university research partnerships.

“I am involved with a broad range of industries including cosmetics, automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, mining, plastics, and batteries and electronic materials,” she says.

It’s a job that fits well with her broad range of interests and the variety of skills she’s developed over the last two decades.

“The future of innovation involves sustainability and inclusion of different backgrounds,” she says.

Her advice to students is to stay agile and seek resilience.

“Try things before ruling them out,” she says. “Be open minded and embrace change, whether it is a different role, company, industry or location.

“But at the same time, try things out long enough so there is learning and experience. Don't give up too early.”

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