A place to call home

Student Close-Up: Zay Ya Min Yin

By Kevin Manne

Zay Ya Min Yin stands in the hall outside Lockwood Library on UB's North Campus.

Photo: Tom Wolf

Zay Ya Min Yin grew up in Papua New Guinea, moved to Myanmar as a teenager and began his college career in Singapore. So when he decided to pursue a college degree in the U.S., he wanted to find a place he could call home.

He was enrolled in a pre-college diploma program at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) when he connected with faculty in the UB School of Management, which has offered a collaborative undergraduate degree in business administration at SIM since 2004. 

“An American education has always been my dream, but tuition is expensive and nobody from my family went to college in the States, so I thought maybe it wasn’t possible for me,” says Min Yin. “But I earned a scholarship and looked at all the clubs that UB offers and the huge international population, and I knew there was going to be a place for me.”

Min Yin enrolled in the school’s new Bachelor of Science in information technology and management program, an innovative curriculum that is one of few nationally—and the only such undergraduate program in the State University of New York system—that focuses on both technical and business skills. 

Now in his third year, he’s gaining practical programming experience while developing critical soft skills and learning to leverage technology to deliver results. With these new skills, Min Yin landed an internship at Strayos, a Buffalo-based startup that serves mining and construction companies with underground mapping. 

“I was so happy when I got the internship with Strayos and I couldn’t have done it without the Career Resource Center,” says Min Yin. “The CRC staff helped me with all the things I needed to know about the job search in the U.S., like how to email and talk to a recruiter, and how to approach someone from a cultural standpoint.”

While most students would have stopped there, Min Yin went on to not one but two more internships: one with Tellus, a Silicon Valley real estate startup, and another with Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 company in the beer, wine and spirits industry. 

Despite three internships, a part-time job and averaging 18 credits a semester to graduate in three years, Min Yin remarkably has maintained a 4.0 GPA. 

His secret? Creating side projects using the knowledge he gains in the classroom. 

In one such project, Min Yin was inspired by a statistics class to put his data analytics skills to use. With the help of UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars, he connected with rental startup Whose Your Landlord. There, he analyzed the company’s potential in the local real estate landscape and presented his findings to its leadership team. 

“It’s a really great way to add value to your education and get higher grades,” he says. “You obviously can’t do it for every class you’re taking, but for the subjects you’re really interested in, you can use it as a way to stay engaged.”

Oh, and he also wrote a book. 

As part of Georgetown University’s Portfolio Expansion Project Fellowship, Min Yin penned the 45,000-word Codes and Kingdoms about the intersection of emerging technologies and humanitarian issues. 

After graduation, Min Yin hopes to pursue his dream of working for a big tech firm on the West Coast. He also plans to explore more of his new home.

“I really like going for road trips, and I haven’t been able to do that since I got here because I’ve been really busy and then COVID hit, which made it pretty impossible,” he says. “I love going with friends to places I’ve never been before. That’s my favorite way to blow off some steam.”