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 The In-Class Assignment

  • School:  UBC Sauder School of Business
  • Student Level: 4th Year
  • Course: Supply Chain Management
  • Organization: BuildDirect

 The Organization:

  • Organization:  BuildDirect
  • Project Advisor: Dean Lunn
  • Position at Build Direct: Strategic Business Development Manager
  • Website:
  • Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

Meet Dean Lunn — strategic business development manager at BuildDirect.  With a team of close to 300, BuildDirect has become a recognized leader in the tech space in Vancouver and is the world’s leading online wholesaler of building materials. They’ve developed a unique culture and promote an amazing team environment in the form of great work community, work-life balance, staff trips, employee incentives, social events, growth opportunities and more — the perfect company for a student looking for post-grad employment opportunities.

This past September, Dean Lunn was contacted by the Riipen Team to discuss having BuildDirect participate in an experiential learning assignment with 4th year business students from the University of British ColumbiaWhether you’re a student, recent grad, of workforce veteran, you’ll most likely agree that it could be quite challenging to get this type of connection, let alone actual work experience with one of the top companies in your area while you’re neck deep in essays, projects, tests and dealing with the overall stress that comes along with being a student. You likely weren’t prioritizing building out your network of post-graduate opportunities. Then came graduation, and what seemed like the endless hunt for the right job

Well, what if that didn’t have to be the case? What if you had the opportunity to work with REAL companies on REAL projects and build out those connections and work experience before you graduated, for in-class course credit. In comes someone like Dean –an enthusiastic Riipen Industry Partner, keen to help bright young minds bridge this gap between post-secondary and their entrance into the workforce.

Dean, remembering the experience from his younger years and believing it was a good cause, took a chance.  He believed in “brand recognition with young folks coming up in the industry”.  He also used this as an opportunity to get intel from fresh and unbiased minds that could benefit future expansion opportunities for BuildDirect.

Dean found himself in a unique position and was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed it.  He was able to take on a role as a surrogate instructor and help advise the students, offering tidbits of knowledge that he had accumulated in his years in the industry.  Also, benefitting from the students’ knowledge of some of the most cutting-edge industry ideas that they were learning as part of their curriculum. Compared to some of Dean’s past experiences working with consultants, he found this to be a uniquely refreshing change. He found that he was able to work with the students in a more collaborative manner, offering input on the development and direction of the project. He even found that he himself really enjoyed this experience and has now become interested in exploring opportunities in education and the possibility of a future as an instructor following his career in this field.


When you buy a product or service, you don’t mind paying for it.  You generally expect to pay for it.  But the real question that we so often ask is “Was it worth it?”  Did the value you received from the product or service exceed your expectations?

From Dean’s experience, the project itself exceeded his expectations.  He found that his team received good insight from the students in a region that they previously had very little information about. Additionally, he found it to be a great way to build the company’s connection to students at the UBC Sauder School, allowing them the opportunity to flag these students as prospective candidates for future positions at BuildDirect.



One thing Dean highlighted as a major was factor how he saw the value in possibilities of working on an industry project with students from a brand awareness and recruitment standpoint. He wants to develop BuildDirect’s reputation on campus, in hopes of attracting future talent.

Project work is a great way to assess skill sets, work ethic, cultural fit, and more in a low-cost, low time commitment, and low-risk environment before you make the crucial hiring decision.

Branding within the school could prove to be a huge opportunity. While it’s too soon to tell, he says he definitely sees possibilities.  And, because of his positive experience, he now says that when a UBC Sauder graduate applies for a Business Development Position, he gives it a second look having had first-hand experience with the talent coming out of the institution.

He found the student insights useful and utilized this project as an opportunity to explore future expansion possibilities for BuildDirect.  The final report was key.  It gave insights into what different regions had to offer their company in terms of future opportunities in sales.

The students were well prepared for the meetings and they asked good questions. Most of the communication happened via Skype which really accommodated our busy schedules.  Students talked to clients that were often Tier 1 Opportunities.  For Dean, it was important that students passed on these clients to him to manage and work with directly once they’d been identified and qualified as prospects.




The short answer, yes!  Dean has already signed up to do another project with UBC this upcoming semester.  They don’t have an in-house research team, so getting these insights form students will be a great external resource he and his team can leverage.



During the submission process, there was an initial introduction that offered check-in opportunities. He thought the parameters of expectations were fairly detailed and found that it was useful in setting up expectations for both the client and the students to ensure that information was being shared and questions were being answered throughout the process — ultimately helping minimize roadblocks.  He would also suggest regular check-ins to keep everyone accountable.



With one project under the belt, Dean is ready for his second and is excited about the opportunity to connect with a new group of students. He’s looking forward to the next wave of reporting which he expects will reveal additional insights and perspectives for future BuildDirect expansion possibilities!