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The Hult Prize Journey by Fahad Tariq

June 13th, 2016 by ajoldersma

This article, written by Fahad Tariq, MBA 2016, was originally printed in The Globe and Mail on Friday, April 22, 2016.

One of the judges made her way to the podium to announce the next finalist. The tension was palpable among the 200 students who had travelled from all over the world to compete in the Hult Prize’s regional round of competition in England’s capital.

The Hult Prize is the world’s largest social enterprise competition that provides $1-million in seed funding to the group of students with the best solution to a defined social problem.

The students from more than 60 schools who had gathered in London had put in hundreds of hours to develop a compelling six-minute pitch to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems: low income. Specifically, this year’s challenge was to double the income of 10 million people living in crowded urban spaces by 2022. One of the speakers aptly referred to this as a “big hairy audacious goal,” a term coined by business consultant James Collins. But who better to address this hairy problem than a group of young, self-assured students from universities around the world with a resolve to make the world a better place?

Back to the judge. Four finalists had already been announced, with two open spots remaining, and she was about to announce one of them. Our team hoped our name would be called next. We were confident in our business model and were ready to represent our school, and Canada, on the global stage. “This team impressed us with their knowledge of the topic, and with their partners on the ground. Quite frankly, they made human waste sexy. The next finalist is the Ivey Business School,” the judge said, with a certain panache.

We were ecstatic. Our team of four made our way to the stage in the dimly lit Museum of London, ready to pitch our bold idea: improving income potential through better sanitation, by turning human waste into energy. It’s a crappy (pun intended) topic, but one that needs to be explored because it could very well be the future of renewable energy. It was fitting that the final presentations were in the Museum of London, a space filled with ancient examples of innovative solutions, from prehistoric axes to medieval ships.

As we began presenting, my mind flashed back to the countless days and nights we spent working on a solution to this problem. For us, this was more than just a competition. It was a unique opportunity to apply everything we had learned in business school to tackle a social problem that we were passionate about. We applied what we learned in our strategy class to develop a distinct value proposition, what we learned in our leadership class to work effectively as a team, what we learned in our marketing class to promote cultural adoption of our solution, and so on.

We live in a world where sadly there is no shortage of problems to solve. It was inspiring to look out into the audience and see students ready to address these problems in a sustainable way. Optimism is certainly their greatest strength.

Each member of our team presented part of the pitch, just as we had rehearsed many times. Our extensive research paid off during the Q&A session when we were able to thoughtfully answer the judges’ tough questions.

In the end, we weren’t selected as the winner to advance to the Hult’s final round, but the positive feedback we received from the judges and other students was tremendously encouraging. The experience of travelling to London, of presenting our idea to some of the top minds in social enterprise, and of coming together as a team has been immensely rewarding. It is, and will remain, one of my most memorable experiences in business school.


4 Important Tips on How To Approach Video Essay Questions

April 5th, 2016 by ajoldersma

The Ivey MBA Admissions team has implemented video essay questions as part of the application process. In this video blog, Recruiting Manager Julia Michienzi discusses why video questions were added and how best to approach them.

The four key tips she discusses are:

1) Dress appropriately — look professional.

2) Check your surroundings and make sure you have a quiet space prepared.

3) Do the practice questions — these will help you to get comfortable in front of the camera and give you a sense of the kinds of questions we’re going to ask.

4) Don’t overthink it! Nerves are normal.


A Calm Mind is Needed Amid the MBA Tornado

March 4th, 2016 by ajoldersma

Graham Matthews of Toronto is an MBA student at Ivey with a focus on marketing and entrepreneurship. In his first entry for The Globe and Mail‘s MBA Diary, Matthews discusses the importance of self-awareness and taking the time to reflect throughout the MBA experience. This entry was originally featured in The Globe and Mail

It’s easy to lose yourself in an MBA.

Before coming to business school I would say that self-awareness was a personal strength of mine. That’s not to say that I always made great decisions, but I usually felt a sense of clarity about myself, even with the uncertainty of leaving a job I loved to return to school at 30.

The MBA experience has certainly shaken that foundation. The makeup of an MBA classroom is instantly disruptive to one’s own world view. From Day 1, I was surrounded by people with incredibly diverse backgrounds, not just culturally but professionally and personally. Within the first week, Ivey’s career management team paved a path for the year ahead: developing our personal narratives, coffee chats, interview practice – all toward landing us a job we’d each be happy with. Then course content ramped up quickly with a steady flow of new concepts, readings, case discussions, competitions, and group work. Conversations with 150 new friends outside the classroom dug into past experiences, future ambitions, questions, and confusions.

Imagine standing in the middle of a tornado. All you can do is try to keep your feet on the ground, but no matter what you do you end up twisted around.

So what would you do? Do you focus on “the plan?” Do you revert to the familiar? Do you become the tornado?

In all cases, being mindful of yourself and your priorities is most important. One risk of going through an MBA experience, particularly an intense one-year program like Ivey’s, is that you begin to take on the identity of those around you. Long-term career ambitions, job applications, salary expectations, how you talk about your background, how you spend your free time, which MBA course work to do (and not to do) and so on, all become priorities.

My advice to anyone – business student or not – is to take time to reflect. What are your personal priorities? What are the components of a life that will make you happy? What are the sacrifices you’re willing to make, what are you not willing to give up? And then what does that mean for you as an MBA student or as a professional or as an individual? Of course we can’t control everything, even in our own brains, but we do have some autonomy and there’s power in that.

It’s also important to stretch yourself and jump into the tornado. In many ways that’s what this MBA thing is all about. Every week I’m here at Ivey I evolve a little bit, some weeks I evolve a lot. Some of these personal shifts are temporary, some will stay with me longer term. So I just try to take a moment every once in a while to be reflective about where I am.

By being mindful of our own identity and priorities we unlock a level of vulnerability. We can talk about our weaknesses as well as our strengths. We can describe what’s important to us in a corporate culture because we know what’s important to us. I would like to think that hiring managers pick up on this. If you’re a fit for their business, they will believe it because it’s coming from an honest place. If they don’t think you’re a fit, that’s fine. I’d rather we both know that now than in six months.

This is hard to do, in large part because we don’t have complete control of our brains and they are complex. I have found myself seriously considering roles that I almost certainly would not be happy with and was unable to explain how I got there. It’s a tornado, after all, and sometimes I don’t realize how much I’ve been twisted around.


Left-brained People Can Be Entrepreneurs Too

February 10th, 2016 by ajoldersma

This article by Fahad Tariq, Ivey MBA 2016, was originally published in The Globe and Mail on February 9, 2016. 

Being an accountant, I can safely say that I’m left-brained. That is, my thought process is (generally) based on logic, analysis and facts. Whenever I examine a business problem, I instinctively search for the numbers  market size, revenue growth, operating margin, you name it.

When I think about entrepreneurs, I imagine people who are right-brained – you know, the creative types. These are the individuals who come up with innovative ideas based on their superb imagination and intuition. These brilliant minds see the world differently than us left-brained folks, and they’re the ones best suited to become entrepreneurs, not us. But this is not accurate.

At the start of my MBA program, I convinced myself to get out of my comfort zone and to try something different, preferably something related to entrepreneurship. Like most people I dreamed of running my own company one day, but I worried that my thought process didn’t match that of most entrepreneurs. I decided to take as many entrepreneurship courses as I could and to attempt to launch my own business coming out of school, even if it was something small. If this business took off, then I would pursue it and, if it didn’t, it would be a learning experience. By starting small, I was hedging my bets (of course this was my left brain talking).

I had seen every episode of Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank and always wondered if my analytical thinking could prove useful in the world of entrepreneurship. What I learned after taking a number of entrepreneurship courses, developing multiple business plans and meeting with potential investors is that analytical thinking is extremely valuable, if not necessary, in entrepreneurship.

Yes, creativity is required because you need to come up with a new or better way of solving a compelling problem. But ideas are only the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey. The real challenge is execution. And when it comes to execution, a successful entrepreneur needs to be able to objectively evaluate the competitive environment, determine the segments and size of the market, develop revenue and expense estimates, and act according to this careful analysis. This requires a ton of left-brain thinking.

Even idea generation can be thought of as a systematic process – a process of identifying a problem faced by a large enough group of people who are willing to pay for a solution, and then working through potential solutions based on feasibility and industry analysis. This analytical approach should be encouraged because it is less prone to failure.

In terms of my own entrepreneurship journey, I’m working with a group of talented MBA students to launch a healthy, energy-boosting snack. Although at first glance this may appear a crowded industry, our detailed analysis shows that there is a particular segment of the market that is underserved. When we presented our business plan to a group of investors a few months ago, they were most impressed by our understanding of the healthy food industry and how we planned to carve out a niche, and not necessarily our base idea. We’re now in discussions with a prominent investor for seed funding, which is really exciting. Going through the process of developing a robust business plan has encouraged me, a left-brained accountant, to pursue entrepreneurship in some way.

It’s clear to me that left-brained people are more than capable of becoming successful entrepreneurs and should not be afraid of going down the new venture path. The notion that all successful entrepreneurs are simply creative geniuses is false. There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who developed and executed their ideas based on logical thinking and thoughtful research, with a hint of originality, and I hope to join their ranks in the future.


Secure Your Future: Take a Break to Earn Your MBA

February 5th, 2016 by ajoldersma

This article, by Sharon Irwin-Foulon, Ivey Executive Director of Career Management and Corporate Recruiting, originally appeared on the Huffington Post Blog on January 28, 2016.

It’s often said that the best companies do more than just survive a downturn; they also position themselves to thrive during the subsequent upturn by making investments that enable them to grow when the economy rebounds. The same strategy can be applied to your career.

That’s why MBA admissions at Ivey tend to be countercyclical and we see an increase in applications during economic down periods. Many thoughtful candidates understand that applying to take a year out of work to invest in themselves and build new skills for their future careers is the best personal insurance they can have when the economy is uncertain.

That said, it can be difficult to leave the workforce, especially when you have no assurance you can get back in. Knowing if the time is right for you takes some deeper thinking to ensure you feel confident in the investment you are making.

Here are some things to consider:

Are you sure you won’t be welcomed back?
It is often surprising to me when high achieving MBA applicants, who are clearly doing well in the firms they are a part of, are reluctant or uneasy to speak with their managers and HR teams about the possibility of taking a break to do an MBA, with a plan to return to the same company. No firm wants to lose great talent. If you are thoughtful about planning the conversation, conducting it in a professional way, with a clear case on why this is a good time to step out for only a year, the conversations most often go well. Once at school, the MBA students work with career coaches at Ivey to manage the relationship at the company they were a part of, negotiate new roles and/or the terms for a return. It might actually be easier than you think!


Is your professional development on track?
In uncertain economies, some firms decide to wait out the storm and hold off investing in training and development. In some cases they might suspend planned promotions or movement of their people. If the company you work for is not investing in you, it might be time to invest in yourself. Taking the time to do an MBA ensures that you are still learning and growing, at a time in your career that has the potential to be transformative. Coming back to the market a year later also ensures that the skills you bring are even more developed. You will present as a stronger, more mature candidate than you were just one short year ago.

Your new skills are what makes the economy grow.
One year may not be enough time for the economy to recover. But, your new MBA will give you a refined skill set that may be exactly what businesses need to solve the complex people, operations, marketing, and finance problems they’ll experience if the market constricts for a longer period of time. The world’s best MBA programs prepare you to be part of the teams that will move companies forward, whether in cautious or growth periods. Applicants choose to do an MBA because they have clear goals of what they want to achieve and what they will bring to the market following the program. Doing a program like this, at the right time in your career, can help you take control of what comes next. It may be a better time to seize the opportunity than you first thought.

Do you have the experience to make it work?
Who should consider the MBA right now? People who believe they are ready for change and growth should consider the MBA during these economic times. But remember, stepping out for a year and investing in an MBA is a big commitment. Don’t rush it. Meaningful work experience will help you get the most out of your time and ensure the investment pays off for you. Talking with the admissions team will help you define when the right time is. They are here to help!


Don’t Rush the MBA Decision: Not All Work Experience is Created Equal

January 15th, 2016 by ajoldersma

This post by Sharon Irwin-Foulon, Executive Director of Career Management and Corporate Recruiting at the Ivey Business School, originally appeared in the Huffington Post Business Blog on January 14, 2016.

We all know some things look good on paper but don’t always work in practice. And that sentiment should be taken into consideration when deciding if the time is right for an MBA. Just because you have the two years of experience that many of the world’s business schools require, doesn’t mean you are ready for an MBA. You should think more deeply about how to get the most out of your investment of time and money before applying to an MBA. We often see applicants rush this decision. At the Ivey Business School, we believe that a key question candidates should be asking themselves before applying to an MBA is: Does it make sense for me to get this degree right now? Here are some things to consider:

1.The admissions teams can help: The admissions team at Ivey is not in place to scrutinize or judge applicants. Instead, an important part of the team’s role is to ensure that you make the best decision possible, so you can get the most out of the program and contribute to the class community in a meaningful way. Where you are at in your own work journey before you arrive is a critical part of a successful outcome. Talk to us. We can help.

2.Quality over quantity: Be prepared to talk about the kind of work you have done. We are not interested in the length of time you have spent collecting a paycheque, but instead your ability to talk about the quality of work you have done. Tell us about the interactions you have experienced with internal or external clients and the projects you have contributed to. Bringing these kinds of experiences to formal classroom discussions is a critical part of learning in the case study classroom.

3.Failure is good for success: In the interview stage of your application, we are looking to hear about how you helped to move the organization or projects forward and the failures and successes you had on the way. Discussing failures is important because you can use them to explain why having an MBA might help you to do things differently if you had to do them again. Looking at the typical Ivey MBA class, the average number of years’ work experience is closer to four or five. While some students have less, this is the typical timeframe because it often takes that long to prove yourself at an organization and have the types of successes and failures that give you this depth of thinking. Reflect about what you have learned from your organizations and colleagues. This can make the difference between presenting as a moderate or a fantastic candidate.

Assuming that the requisite two years of work experience is enough to get you into the MBA program is a sign that you may not be thinking about this investment of time and money in a critical way. Instead you might be merely seeing it as a credential. To get the most out of your investment, don’t rush the decision to get your MBA.

 


Not Too Late to Apply for March 2016 Start!

December 18th, 2015 by jcipparone

It’s that time of year where many of our MBA candidates are wondering if it’s too late to apply for our final deadline of January 11th, to start our program in March 2016. The short answer is no – it’s not too late! Find out how our timelines work and what you need to provide to ensure you have the chance to join us this March.


My Hardest MBA Class – by Fahad Tariq, MBA 2016

November 24th, 2015 by ajoldersma

This piece was originally published on November 23, 2015 as part of The Globe and Mail’s MBA Diary series.

“So do you feel transformed yet?” my friend asked jokingly. He was referring to a unique course that I’m taking at business school: Transformational Leadership. The course focuses on leadership of the self and on character development – topics that most academics and practitioners have neglected, instead favouring traditional strategic leadership theories. With transformational leadership, the thinking goes like this: Leadership is more than simply leading other people and organizations. It involves looking within, recognizing one’s values, beliefs, biases and, yes, even feelings. Effective leadership requires self-awareness about one’s character and morality.

After reading the course outline, I was intrigued by what seemed to me a very philosophical subject. I decided to enroll. After all, how could I expect to lead others without a little bit of introspection about my own character and values? And in any case, I thought the class would be easy. Boy was I wrong.

On the first day of class our ardent professor told us, “This will be the hardest course you take in the MBA program.” Her statement was not hyperbole; she was absolutely right. Reflecting on who you are as a person and remaining committed to your values sounds a lot easier than it is. Throughout the course, I had to think deeply about my failures, regrets, role models, motivations and aspirations. It was an exhausting exercise meant to make us aware of why we act the way we do. The end goal was to develop the positive character traits that every successful leader must embody, including integrity, courage, accountability and humanity.

One of the highlights of the course occurred when Holocaust survivor Eva Kor spoke to us about how she forgave the Nazis for their crimes. Ms. Kor, now 81 and an American, lost most of her family in the Holocaust and was subjected to human experimentation at Auschwitz. Despite her harrowing experience, she found the capacity to forgive and to move on with her life. This to me was a clear example of resilient character. She could have been vengeful, and justifiably so, but she recognized she could have a greater positive impact by demonstrating magnanimity.

As the course comes to an end, I’ve been trying to synthesize all that I’ve learned and I think the following quote captures it well: “Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” If I’m fortunate enough to be in a leadership role in the future, I’ll know to pay close attention to my beliefs and to align my actions accordingly, even when there are powerful situational pressures. In this way I hope to chart my destiny. I’ll know to tap into different character traits depending on the situation. Some situations will require confidence, others humility. I’m sure I’ll face ethical dilemmas regardless of where I work and so it’s imperative that I’m committed to my moral values.

I’m convinced that courses like Transformational Leadership should be mandatory at all business schools. It’s a well-known fact that many of the corporate “leaders,” brokers and bankers who were responsible for the 2008-09 financial crisis were graduates of top business schools. Perhaps there was something fundamental missing in their education. The financial crisis, along with the plethora of other corporate scandals, perhaps could have been avoided if leaders had demonstrated courage, integrity and accountability, even in situations where they did not have an incentive to do so. On this point, U.S. ethicist Michael Josephson said it best: “People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world but because they refuse to be changed by the world.”

True leadership requires continuing introspection and strong character. So to answer my friend’s question, “Do you feel transformed yet?” I say: not entirely but I’m grateful to have started the journey.


Why Quality Matters

October 30th, 2015 by ajoldersma

With our Round 4 Application Deadline coming up on Monday, November 23 we thought it would be worth talking again about the importance of quality, what that looks like in an Ivey MBA candidate, and why it matters so much in the classroom.

Quality Matters

Although we receive hundreds of applications each year and our process is competitive, Ivey is looking for great people, not just great applications. With Case-Method Learning, the quality of your classmates truly matters at Ivey more than it might at other programs — this is because much of your learning is done through the contributions of and discussions with your classmates. Your class will be full of people who have had unique experiences and come from diverse backgrounds ranging from military and medical to banking and consulting to arts and communications to law and engineering.

What we are looking for is the best MBA candidates; those who show leadership potential, bring a strong professional skill-set, and have demonstrated a track record of success and achievement in their work experience.

What does a quality candidate look like?

Management experience and 700-plus GMAT scores do not guarantee admission just as lower GMAT scores and entry-level experience do not automatically eliminate candidates. We want well-rounded people who will both contribute and be willing to learn from the contributions of those in the class; candidates who recognize the skills and knowledge they bring to the discussions and who have an established, focused goal to accelerate their career success. A quality class is only achieved through thorough evaluation of complete applications, a rigorous admissions interview process, and an understanding of the candidate’s fit.

Recruiters respond to quality

Our selective evaluation process ensures that our recruiters are getting the top talent they have come to expect from Ivey. In fact, our recruiters see Ivey’s admissions process as a type of pre-screen for the high-calibre candidates they are looking for because they are familiar with our rigorous admissions process. It’s why our recruiting partners continue to come back to Ivey year over year (even in tough market conditions when they may not be recruiting from our competitors) and why our employment rate is the highest of all the Canadian business schools (92% for 2014). The top organizations in the world recruit at Ivey because they know we have skimmed the top of the pool for the best talent.

Meeting the challenge

If you want to learn from the best, you have to be surrounded by the best. That’s why we put our students in a classroom full of people who will motivate, challenge, and support each other. The entire environment at Ivey is dynamic and collaborative; your faculty and fellow students will support you in your personal and professional growth, encourage your development, and push you outside of your comfort zone to build your confidence and leadership skills. At Ivey we believe that education can be a transformational experience and it’s our job as the Recruiting and Admissions team to put together a class that makes this transformation happen. It’s an intensive and challenging year that will push your boundaries — but quality candidates who are up for the challenge will gain more in one year than they could have ever expected from any other MBA program.

If you want to learn more about what we’re looking for and how our admissions criteria aligns with your background and experience, please get in touch with us at mba@ivey.ca or submit a resumé for feedback — we’d be happy to speak with you!

 


What I’ve Learned From My MBA – by Christina Rupsingh, Ivey MBA 2016

October 2nd, 2015 by ajoldersma

This blog was originally published on LeanInCanada.com

The first day of my MBA journey at the Ivey Business School is one I will never forget. I remember walking into my first class with one of the outstanding faculty at Ivey, Dennis Shackel. We were immediately pushed outside of our comfort zone after he selected students at random to impromptu present (or sing!) in front of the entire class. That day, I knew that the journey I was about to begin would be a transformative one.

Before pursuing my MBA, I worked for Manulife Financial as part of a Rotational Program, moving from Information Systems to Product Development and finally Global Strategy. This was an incredible experience for me; my colleagues and mentors helped me to shape my career and solidify my career goals. As co-founder of Lean In Canada I decided that, after five years, it was time to embrace our mission and lean in to my own goals and aspirations of becoming an MBA graduate at one of the top business schools in Canada. As the months progressed, I was completely overwhelmed with the unique learning style, school work, and group case studies. All of my classmates are outstanding, and sitting in on case discussions was intimidating. At Ivey, all students are high achievers and active participants, not only in class discussions but in extracurricular activities. My peers have definitely influenced me in terms of how I approach business challenges and have also motivated me to take more risks.

One of my favourite quotes is by Alan Cohen: “There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power,” and this is truly how I feel today. I am so happy that I took on this challenge. I am pushing my limits and I recognize the importance of staying actively engaged and involved as well as being open to new experiences. In her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg states that women are less likely to go for “stretch opportunities” — an imperative part of the conversation as we work towards gender equality. This is clear as only 30 per cent of my class are women. The group of women that I am a part of is absolutely incredible, and every day in class I see stereotypes being challenged. I am proud to be a part of this circle, and I hope that more women take the leap as I can sincerely say the experience has surpassed all my expectations and has truly challenged me as a person.

With the upcoming recruiting season, I know some of my biggest challenges are ahead of me. I will take every opportunity as a chance to grow both personally and professionally, and if I have learned anything so far, it is to dream big and aim high regardless of what the outcome may be!