Category Archives: Reflections

the end of the beginning

The last couple of months were a bit of a whirlwind from prepping for convocation and finally realizing that this experience is coming to an end.

Graduation was a special event that was perfectly fitting to close off these last three years. The opportunity to share my personal experience as valedictorian was an honour that I will not forget.

And so I will close off this blog for now (sorry yk!) As much as I would like to continue sharing with all of you, my infrequent blog posts indicate that this is one commitment that I will need to let go. Thanks to all of you for sharing this journey with me and good luck to those of you beginning your journey at Rotman.

“…now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” ~Winston Churchill


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The Value of an MBA


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GUEST POST: Entrepreneurship and the MBA

Button for blogI’ve introduced you to her before, but I’m excited to have the Beauty Nerd herself be a guest blogger to share her experiences as an entrepreneur in the part-time MBA program. She has helped me out before with great advice and now she is sharing her own advice on starting her own business and the decision to be a Rotman Morning MBA student! It has truly been a pleasure to see Connie’s business grow throughout the program (and she just celebrated her one year blogaversary!) She has really taken advantage of what she has learned and applied it to her company.

Since I’m not an entrepreneur, I am really glad to have Connie join us and give us her perspective. And for those of you interested in entrepreneurship, Rotman offers several courses, clubs and resources in this area. I also highly recommend the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit from Mars Discovery District and The Next 36 program, both closely linked to Rotman. I hope that you find Connie’s sharing helpful and don’t forget to check out her site!

Why hello there! I’m so honoured that Karina has asked me to write a guest post on her blog. I thought it would be nice to share with you today, my experiences in the part-time MBA program thus far.

Just to give you a little background about myself, I have a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, which was a deliberate and strategic choice to get myself into the cosmetics industry. Then, I made more drastic moves to pursue my dreams by moving to New York, attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, and eventually working for Bliss Spa where I developed skincare and bath & body products. When my husband found a job in Toronto, we had to move back to Canada and I began thinking more seriously about pursuing my next dream – starting my own skincare company. I must admit, doing an MBA was never part of my master plan. I was eager to start my company right away, and I didn’t want to wait for another two years to begin. Also, I couldn’t ignore all the critiques I heard about MBA programs (not Rotman’s specifically, but just MBAs in general) and questioned whether there was true value in doing an MBA. I thought to myself, so many entrepreneurs do not have those 3 letters behind their name, so was it really necessary? Was the hefty tuition, which could have been used to fund my startup (yes, I know – quite the opportunity cost), worth it?

After months of tormenting myself, I finally decided that I would pursue my MBA after all. Because my training was predominantly in science, I knew I had much more to learn about business. And boy, did I ever turn out to be right. Like Karina, I decided to enroll in the part-time program. Doing so, gave me the best of both worlds. I was able to start working on my company right away while learning all the basic tools I would need to succeed in business. It has been two years now, and I have enjoyed my journey tremendously. Not only have I been able to apply what I have learned in class directly to my business, but also I have met wonderful, wonderful people who have helped me along the way. My classmates have always been there for me in times of crisis – either giving me great advice from their own experiences or introducing me to their contacts that could help me out. I have met amazing professors, who are genuinely passionate about what they teach. I cannot stress how valuable it is to have access to brilliant business minds at your fingertips for advice and mentorship. Now, I like to view my MBA tuition as one big consulting fee. 🙂


I know I am a bit of an anomaly – doing my MBA while starting a business at the same time. But I hope that this will inspire some of you entrepreneur-hopefuls to follow the same path. Building a business is hard. Really hard. But I believe it has been less hard because I have been granted access to some of the best professors, and talented classmates, many of who have also become great friends. I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

UPDATED: Check out my own beauty essentials for busy MBA students over at Connie’s blog.



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Target and Innovation

It’s almost a guarantee that you will study Wal-Mart at some point during your MBA program no matter what school you are studying at. And while it is truly amazing the affect that Wal-Mart has had on many aspects of our economy (global and local), it does get a bit redundant studying the behemoth all the time.

That’s part of the reason why I am so happy that Target is coming to Canada (that and I’m an avid “Tar-gey” consumer!) It will certainly add a different point of view to the in-class Wal-Mart discussions especially with respect to the Canadian economy.

CNBC recently did a special on Target and it was good to get a glimpse into their history and operations. What I especially loved was how their focus on philanthropic values, led them to innovative solutions. The first one was hiring Michael Graves to design unique scaffolding during the Washington Monument restoration project. Not only was this a unique approach to scaffolding, it also led them to in-house designer products with Graves which soon became a key part of their competitive advantage. The special also talks about how Target redesigned their medicine bottles for their in-house pharmacy to help education customers on how to take the medicine properly and assist families with better medicine identification.

And speaking of healthcare innovation, I’ve also included a TED Talk about making medical test results easier to read.

I think both of these stories are yet more examples of how integrative thinking and business design lead to innovation. Enjoy!







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Convocation 2011

Well, it’s not time for my convocation yet (one more year!) but I wanted to post the Morning MBA 2011 Valedictorian Address by the one and only Jaime Stein as a good reminder of everything we have learned so far and much more to come in this last year.

I was so touched by Jaime’s address not only because it was extremely well-written, but because it really captures the essence of the Morning MBA program here at Rotman. It is a program like no other and attracts an MBA community that you will not find anywhere else. Guaranteed. I read Jaime’s speech aloud to fellow classmates sitting out on a patio tonight celebrating one of our birthdays (Happy Birthday Mariana!) It was a perfect moment and I think that we were all a little different afterwards (truly a sign of a great speech).

It reminded me of last summer when we had a bit of a break from class (finally!) and a few of us got together thinking about our first day of school. None of us knew each other then and now we have lifelong friendships.

Without further ado, Jaime’s address is quoted below and it is also available on his blog. Congratulations Jaime & the class of 2011! Can’t wait until it’s our turn 🙂

Rotman School of Management Valedictorian Address
Morning MBA Class of 2011 by Jaime Stein

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent the morning class of 2011 on this significant day.

It takes an extraordinary person to commit to a program that requires you to be in class by 7 o’clock in the morning. Strangely, many of us were not morning people prior to attending Rotman. Instead, we were driven into the morning program as a result of family or job commitments. But I’m sure many of us would not choose an alternate path if presented with the same option.

In fact, the past three years have taught us a valuable lesson on how to balance priorities and gain the most out of life.

I would like to travel back to august of 2008 when we spent the afternoon running around the ROM competing in teams to solve problems. We were vulnerable and shy – except for the group labelled ‘orange’ by the colour personality test. But we worked together and it became clear from day one that we would be a part of something special.

Our class bonded quickly and we soon came to recognize that this was not your typical Type-A, win-at-all-costs group of MBA students.

I come from the world of sports where leadership, loyalty, teamwork and integrity are paramount. And when you encounter someone from this class you quickly discover that each and every one of my classmates possesses these values. Our class refused to let anyone fall behind and when someone did struggle, we picked them up off the floor like a good teammate would on the field or court. It was this attitude that created the foundation for a series of lifelong friendships.

The greatest part of the past three years may have been what transpired outside the classroom. From exchanging financial management advice for babies with Louise and Deepta… Political discussions at the pub with Richard… Energy saving tips from Harneet… Or sharing a love of fine coffee with Andres… We were always learning from each other.

And why not?

This is a group with remarkable backgrounds from engineering to finance to law to physical therapy. From environmental science to political science. The military. Biology and physics.

We have covered the globe with our travels and possess a unique worldview.

This is a group that has been there, done that. And has the battle scars to prove it.

Despite the rumours that three-year students don’t frequent venues like Cheval, we tore the roof off Levack block during 90s night and managed to rack up a four-figure bill at The Madison. Which I had to cover because the PSO’s credit card didn’t work! Thanks Dana!

Allow me to add that some of the last people standing at grad ball were the students with kids – nothing beats exploiting your parents as babysitters for an extra hour, even if the coach has turned back into a pumpkin and the glass slipper no longer fits.

Over the past three years we have endured long nights and early mornings. And early mornings following long nights fueled by copious amounts of second cup coffee.

Not to mention the crazy commutes by people like tony from Ancaster or Chinkal to Charlotte, North Carolina multiple times per week. But the real story here – the “so what” as Asher Drory likes to say – is the ROI from our time at Rotman.

But I’m not talking financial ROI. I’m talking about our investment into reversing Canada’s declining population.

Despite all the added pressure of pursuing an MBA, I’m proud to declare that the morning class of 2011 has invested in people – to the tune of more than a dozen babies born since we entered the program in august 2008. Including both Vince and Nick who managed to overcome the pressure twice!

For those counting, that’s an infinite return on investment if you ask any smiling, sleep deprived new parent still trying to deal with the challenges of a morning MBA program in addition to a full-time job!!

In fact, our class had so many babies that we were often mistaken for a new division within the PSO!

While we have each achieved our individual goal here today, it would not have been possible without the support of our families.

On behalf of my classmates, thank you to our husbands, our wives, our children and other family members who put up with our absence for the past three years. You were our support system. You gave us strength to achieve our goal.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the entire Rotman community including the PSO, IPSO, CCC and other staff who enabled us to succeed. You nurtured us. Guided us. Helped us. Greeted us with smiles at 6:30 in the morning. And sent us a lot of informative e-mails… For this we are thankful – but not for the e-mail!

To our professors – you are world class. You deserve enormous credit for making us the people we are today.

You have told us that the highest compliment we can pay you is an e-mail or phone call down the road to say thanks and refer back to a piece of learning from today. I have no doubt your phones will ring and your blackberries will buzz with tales of triumph and stories of success from the seeds you planted today.

So even though you gave us “B’s” when we deserved “A’s”. And the odd “A” when we probably deserved a “B”; you supported us in every way possible. Thank you.

To Rick Powers and to Jim Fisher. You welcomed us into the program on our first day at Rotman. Your effervescent personalities and attention to people will not be forgotten. Rick was the father of our program and we are proud to be the second ever morning class to graduate from the Rotman School of Management.

And finally, thank you to our dean, Roger Martin. Your guidance and leadership has established the Rotman School of Management among the greatest business schools in the world. You have inspired a new generation of leaders – a generation that understands the importance of putting the needs of others first.

When I received my acceptance into Rotman in the spring of 2008, I thought I was the smartest person in the room. And now, as we leave here three years later, I realize that there are 300 people who are smarter than me. And that’s just in this room.

One of the great lessons we take away from our program is humility. Be humble!

Too often we read stories of business people gone bad. The Enron’s. The Worldcom’s. And the Madoff’s of the world. What you don’t often hear about are the stories of business people who’ve done good. Which is why I would like to highlight some of the causes that gained from the selflessness of my classmates:

1. Canadian blood services
2. Room to read
3. Water projects for developing countries
4. Becel ride for heart
5. The united way

…just to name a few.

These initiatives benefited because we at Rotman constantly strive to make the world a better place. We will leave our mark on this world.

But the world is changing. And if we learned one thing here at Rotman it is that we can also change. We can adapt to new ways of thinking. New teams. New ideas. New mental models. And that is something we can take with us into the workplace and help transform business in this ever-changing ecosystem in which we now operate.

When we leave here today we won’t just be leaving with three new letters behind our name. We will be leaving with an obligation. An obligation to represent Rotman in everything that we do. An obligation to be ethical – because we now represent thousands of people who came before us and the thousands more who will surely follow. The strength of our degree is what we make of it. Our future is in our own hands.

When I started my undergraduate program I was told: “Look to your left, look to your right — one of you won’t be here next year.”

Instead, as I look out here today upon a magnificent group of people I can’t help but smile at what is to come.

Leaving this institution will be hard. Especially for Mihnea who turned the fish bowl into his office. But what I will miss most are the people.

Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it is gone – and as the weeks have passed since our final classes you begin to understand why our time here at Rotman was truly special.

While this is an emotional time, I would like to draw upon the words of the great statesman Sir Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

It is the beginning of the next chapter in our lives and a chance for some of us to start fresh. A chance for others to use these new skills to continue their rise to the top.

This is a room of strong individuals who will no doubt go on to accomplish amazing things. But we are strong because of each other and we are stronger together. We must go forth into the world and support each other and support our school and continue to strive for greatness.

As the good doctor, Dr. Seuss once said: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.”

We may cross the stage this afternoon as individuals, but we graduate today as one. As the Rotman School of Management’s class of 2011.


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Retooling HR


Although my Operations Management course was one of the toughest yet (watch out for those of you who will be taking it in the future), it was possibly one of the most relevant to my current role. Coincidently, my Vice-President of HR had asked his team to read the book Retooling HR by John Boudreau. It is published by Harvard Business Review and focuses on using business tools and concepts to make better decisions about the talent in your organization. One can actually think about the supply and demand for talent using supply chain management concepts.

In HR, this not only provides credibility to programs that are often perceived as non-essential, but it allows HR Business Partners to have intelligent conversations with their relevant business groups. For those of you interested in strategic HR management, I highly recommend this book. I have copied the abstract from the book below:

HR professionals have made major strides toward becoming strategic partners. But they need to do more – by generating value through savvy decisions about talent. HR leaders typically assume that, to make such decisions, they must develop sophisticated analytical tools from scratch. Even then, the resulting tools often fail to engage their peers. In Retooling HR, John Boudreau shows how HR leaders can break this cycle – by adapting powerful analytical tools already used by other functions to the unique challenges of talent management. Drawing on his research and examples from companies including Google, Disney, IBM, and Microsoft, Boudreau explains six proven business tools leaders already use. And he shows how HR can apply these tools to talent management. Examples include: Using engineering tolerances to find pivot points that job descriptions miss Using inventory and supply-chain analytics to ensure a ready supply of the right talent Applying logistics tools to optimize succession planning and leadership development Adapting consumer research tools to find untapped value in total rewards Retooling HR builds on Boudreau’s bestselling book Beyond HR, which traces HR’s evolution as a decision science. For HR professionals seeking to sharpen their decision-making prowess, this provocative new book blazes an innovative new path.

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The Socratic Method

One of my professors uses the socratic method of teaching in his class which means that there is a good chance you will get “cold-called” and that you will receive feedback in front of the whole class. While intimidating, I can respect this method as my professor said that he uses this to help prepare us for our jobs after we complete the MBA program.

Since I work in a large, fast-paced, corporate organization, I agree that this method will certainly prepare students for what they may face “in the real world”. There are many times when I need to debate with others to make important management decisions and am often “cold-called” during meetings. One of our guest speakers, Reza Satchu, also uses this method for his class as he believes that you learn best when in “maximum discomfort”. I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I was highly uncomfortable during this class!

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