Nov. 23, 2020Print | PDF
After steady increments and trailblazing examples seen over the last five decades, women are increasingly occupying executive offices that were once exclusively held by men. North American organizations now count on women for nearly a third of their executive workforce and that number will no doubt rise as women continue to climb the corporate ladder and build companies of their own.
The training in core business skills and depth of education needed to rise to the top are fundamental parts of the Lazaridis MBA’s promise to its students. In addition to tangible benefits that come with earning a Master’s degree in Business Administration, the Lazaridis MBA sets itself apart with a strong sense of community and ongoing support for its students no matter which MBA format they choose to take.
"So much of your career growth comes down to timing and politics but you have ownership of your education and it’s one of the things you can invest in for your future growth."
The draw of that community attracted dozens of aspiring MBA candidates to an all-female panel discussion on Nov. 12 where three alumnae and one current student shared their views on leadership, personal growth, professional triumph, and what it takes to meet the high standards of the Lazaridis MBA program.
The evening began with an overview of each of the program’s location and delivery models, including full-time, full-time with co-op and part-time evenings in Waterloo; and the part-time accelerated, part-time alternate weekends, and the double degree MBA plus MFin option in downtown Toronto.
Toronto program recruiter Maureen Ferraro was the first to welcome the group to the virtual info session and summed up the ethos behind the Lazaridis MBA’s approach to developing its students. “Good managers and good leaders are not just defined by positions like ‘boss’, they can be anyone at any level of the organization who has the skills to lead and empower others – skills we teach in the MBA program.”
As it is such a versatile degree, the MBA attracts candidates from all professional and academic backgrounds and can appeal to a number of professional and personal goals, including a desire for career advancement; the need to gain more confidence, abilities or talents; an interest in changing jobs or entire industries; or even launching your own business. And with a female-to-male ratio of 6-4 in some classes, the Lazaridis MBA has established itself as a premier destination, especially among women, for those seeking to make an investment in themselves for the good of their future careers.
The evening’s panel highlighted the program’s versatility and appeal across professions with three graduates and one current student representing several MBA delivery formats:
Rachel Ostrander, Manager, Global Infrastructure Advisory at KPMG (Full-time MBA Co-op ’17)
Anjie Persaud, Relationship Manager – Commercial Banking at Scotiabank (Full-time MBA ’18)
Erika Friesen, Client Wealth Management at Gluskin Sheff (Part-time Toronto MBA ’19)
Judy Tran, Medical Lab Technologist, University Health Network Toronto (Part-time Toronto MBA ’21)
The following is a transcript of the panel discussion edited for brevity and clarity.
Where were you a few years ago, and why did you want to make a change?
Rachel: I was early in my chemistry career working as a lab tech and I hated it. I was in the process of applying to other entry-level jobs within a narrow field of opportunities with limited salary growth. I wanted to open myself up to the kind of roles that would take me on a different path and knew I wanted to focus on finance and strategy, so the MBA was the ticket.
Anjie: I was working full-time in retail banking at TD and had to decide where to go next. I was trying to decide between moving into business banking, investments, or leaving banking altogether. I saw my colleagues who were completing their MBAs and saw them getting accepted into the rotational programs offered by banks. I quickly realized the importance of getting the breadth of exposure during the early part of your career with the ability to see across the organization and applied to the Lazaridis MBA program.
Erika: I was working in mainly arts administrative roles and wanted to make a transition to finance. I was tired of working jobs with vague job descriptions that differed greatly from what I actually did. I attended the women’s MBA info night and made the decision to apply, figuring the GMAT couldn’t be worse than what I was already doing.
Judy: I graduated in 2017 and started my MBA in 2018 because I knew the healthcare world required a master’s degree for any kind of advancement and the MBA seemed like a natural fit for me. I still wanted to leave an industry switch open, but senior managers took notice of my educational goals and started to ask me to participate in new strategic initiatives which helped me gain exposure to other aspects of healthcare. A management position is now an option for me even as an MBA candidate.
What was your biggest concern about getting into the program and starting the degree?
Rachel: I’ve never been in a co-op program before and knew it was very competitive. I was also unsure about the positions I would get. Fortunately, the Laurier Co-op Office was fantastic and made sure I had all the resources to get a great job. I had so many offers that I had to turn many of them down. I appreciate that Laurier is a community school with a huge alumni network but still feels small.
Anjie: I was also very nervous about the finance part but the profs understood that we come from a variety of backgrounds. I found the heavy use of case studies and the course structure to be very accessible.
Erika: I was definitely afraid of the technical side of things like accounting, business operations, and the GMAT because I basically had to learn math from scratch, not having taken a math test since grade 10. Fortunately, learning math as an adult is completely different because it’s about putting your mind to it and less about having a natural talent for it.
Judy: Having peers experiencing the course material with you can be helpful because you get to work and struggle through it all together, and once you understand it together it’s very satisfying. One of the issues that I was concerned about being part of the alternate weekend format was only seeing profs seven weekends in a term, but I was pleasantly surprised by the reception from them.
How have you changed?
Rachel: I came into the co-op program not knowing what I wanted to do, luckily in my first co-op I got to go to a consulting firm in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was the first time in my professional life that I found what I wanted to keep doing. That lead to a second co-op at KPMG where I got an offer before the term ended. My network in the cohort are fantastic and I have a group of people I keep in touch with still.
Anjie: I participated in the MBA Games in Ottawa where we competed against other teams from around Canada. You learn to build comradery with your teammates which is a useful skill as you can’t always choose your groups in the workplace.
Erika: I gained a self-confidence I didn’t have before the MBA and it was a relief to realize that. I’m proud to have been accepted into the program and feel very fortunate to have staff encouragement through the application process. Public speaking is also a valuable skill I learned because I was able to clear the hurdle of presenting to large classes without notes.
Judy: The Live ICE (Integrated Case Exercise) Competition is when you’re confronting a real problem at a real company. You and your team present a recommendation to the company and the best recommendation wins. This experience teaches you how to think on your feet and gives you an opportunity to see real executives who show you how they’re thinking about a problem. To do well, you have to respond quickly and professionally while making a three-hour case look like you’ve polished it for weeks.
What research did you do and how did you choose Laurier?
Rachel: I really wanted a co-op option so that narrowed the field because not a lot of other schools offer one in their MBA programs. The ones that do often have one eight-month co-op term but I liked the two, four-month work terms the Lazaridis School offered. I narrowed my applications down to three schools and chose the Lazaridis School because it had the best reputation for having a great community.
Anjie: The Lazaridis MBA was the only program I considered applying to. I knew a number of colleagues who completed it and said it was great and is where I ended up going.
Erika: The schedule needed to work for me as I was working Monday to Friday 8 - 4:30 and it needed to fit in that. Cost was a concern as well and I was continuously surprised by the great reputation as I learned the Lazaridis School is very well-respected on Bay Street and in Toronto generally.
Judy: I knew I wanted to work full-time and was looking at morning-only MBA programs in Toronto which was not ideal for me. The evening options were also not appealing because of my work schedule. The Lazaridis MBA program offered weekend options and was more affordable compared to other great schools of the same caliber.
What competitive edge do you have now for the future?
Rachel: I now have lots of tools and confidence that you can only get by succeeding at something difficult. I am still at the beginning of my career but have been promoted three times and have my own team which wouldn’t have happened without the MBA.
Anjie: An understanding of the good investment I made in myself now and for the future of my career. So much of your career growth comes down to timing and politics but you have ownership of your education and it’s one of the things you can invest in for your future growth.
Erika: I came into the program with a degree in Art History and quickly learned that my background helped me stand out among my classmates who came from engineering or math backgrounds and were limited in their writing experience. This helped me understand that what I saw as a disadvantage was really an advantage and from there I saw the degree as something I knew I could achieve. I’m very fortunate for my time at Laurier. I was hired by my current firm and saw a 100 per cent salary increase from my previous job. That was an amazing feeling of validation for me.
Judy: Even though I’m still in the program, I’m already working with senior management and look forward to interviewing and referencing my experience in my next endeavour.
The Lazaridis Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program offers programming in Waterloo and downtown Toronto in a variety of formats including full-time, part-time, co-op, and a double degree option with an MFin. Our alumni information panels and virtual information nights run several times every term and anyone is welcome to attend. To learn about all of our sessions, visit our events page.
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