EMBA Classmates Team up as Business Partners
An interview with Maryam Awan and Emile Massenat – Class of 2012
After meeting in the Telfer Executive MBA program, these classmates stayed connected after graduation and have now started a business together.
You met in the Telfer EMBA program – what was your first impression of the other? How much interaction did you have during the program?
Maryam: I met Emile in 2010 during my onboarding of the EMBA program. The first thing I noticed about Emile was that he was very well dressed. As a classmate, I found him easy to talk to, always kind, thoughtful and respectful. During our trips to Silicon Valley in 2011 and Brazil in 2012, we spent time together and I had the opportunity to get to know his fun side. He was our class president for which I referred to him as ‘Mr. President’ throughout the program. We stayed connected and a few years after graduating, our paths crossed as Change Practitioners. I have always introduced him to my network as Mr. President which may or may not embarrass him.
Emile: I met Maryam’s husband (Javaid) before I met Maryam. I met Javaid in 2010 and remember him being very friendly and easy to connect with. When I met Maryam and connected the dots, I was happy to see she shared the same traits of being easily approachable and relationship focused. Though Maryam and I did not connect directly through group-based activities in the EMBA program, I remember her peers commenting on how her years as a business owner were adding tremendous value to the work they were doing for the client projects. Several years after graduating, we ended up working together in a customer-client relationship and the rest was history!
Can you talk about what led the two of you to become business partners?
Maryam: I was hired at EDC during the last semester of the EMBA program and worked there from 2012 – 2015. During this time, I worked in Risk Management, Operations Excellence and Change Management. I fell in love with Change Management and decided to pursue more opportunities in this field. I joined NAV CANADA in 2015 as a practitioner and took on increasingly challenging roles within the Change Practice eventually leading the team. Emile was working at PWC as a Change Practitioner and decided to pivot into independent consulting in 2018. We talked about his journey as a consultant and his experience as an independent. In March of 2020, I was presented with an opportunity to interview for a consulting opportunity for a crown corporation. That led to my decision to leave my full-time job and start independent consulting. A few weeks later, Emile and I decided to start a company together and pursue consulting opportunities as partners. Awan and Associates was created on July 3rd, 2020, on Maryam’s front porch during the pandemic.
What is the elevator pitch for your business?
Awan & Associates is a boutique consulting company focused on delivering business transformation, change leadership and executive coaching services. Diversity & inclusion is at the core of how we do things, and we apply this lens as we make decisions for our business, partner with clients or work with other team members.
What sets your business apart from other boutique consulting firms?
1. We operate in both official languages.
2. We tailor our approach to our clients' needs.
3. We can easily scale up or scale down based on the scope and size of the initiative.
4. We put a lot of emphasis on knowledge-transfer to make sure clients can continue the work once we are gone.
What are the long-term ambitions for your company?
Our vision for Awan & Associates is to be the premier consulting team that focuses on supporting clients undergoing significant change within their organizations. Whether it is introducing new technology, moving to a hybrid working model or implementing a new policy, we remain focused on doing meaningful work and building organizations’ capability to lead and manage change.
Senior Manager, Planning and Capital Governance (NPI), Bell Canada
Personal and Professional Growth Through Lifelong Learning
Two years ago, Francine Lortie (EMBA 2010) was offered a Senior Management role to lead the Planning and Capital Governance team at Bell Canada and she surprised herself by accepting. “I never wanted a finance role but I really enjoy it. There are definitely things in this role that I didn’t know before and it’s allowed me to keep learning.” Francine surprises herself with how openly she embraces new challenges and opportunities. She attributes the development of her entrepreneurial spirit and leadership development to her experience during the Telfer Executive MBA program.
With experience in Marketing and Communications and being part of the Next Gen Talent Program at Bell, Francine’s Director approached her about doing an MBA or Six Sigma training program. “I had always wanted to go back to school and I already had an interest in broadening my understanding of business – an MBA seemed to be the right choice for me. My decision to choose the Telfer EMBA was threefold. A few of my colleagues at Bell had done the program and highly recommended it. I had done my undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, and after attending an information session, I left feeling that the Telfer program would offer me the opportunity to work with real companies in the community as well as provide a rich learning environment. It turned out to be the right fit for me and I’ve had no regrets.”
Francine’s entire career has been in the telecom industry and although she has held many different roles within Bell, differing perspectives were introduced to her in the EMBA program. “The class is made up of individuals who have diverse backgrounds and come from different industries. Not only did I hear various perspectives, I was able to work with companies throughout the program that were outside of the telecom space learning how other industries do business. My MBA experience opened my mind and brought me to a different level of analysis and capability.”
Beyond the learning, Francine says she made lifelong friends with classmates who still connect to play golf and host barbeques together eleven years later.
Juggling a full time career, an MBA and raising two teenagers was a delicate balance for Francine. Upon entering the program, her children were 16 and 13. She admits she was a little nervous because they were at an age when you normally want to keep an eye on them. While she had great support from her family, she says making a few commitments to her family prior to beginning the program was extremely valuable. “One of the most important things I did was to commit to what things I was not willing to give up with my family no matter what. As a family, we decided that Sunday dinner was going to be sacred. If I were doing homework, I would shut it down around 4:30 p.m. and spend a few hours on Sunday evening with my family. I missed several things with them throughout the 21 months I was in school but it helped that I had made a commitment to them beforehand on what I would not miss.” Consequently, her family was very good about the whole experience and when she finished the program, she found her children, especially, to be more appreciative of the things she did for them before the program. “The day after returning from our final international trip, I got up and made banana bread for them and they were so excited because they hadn’t had my homemade banana bread in two years. It was good for them to see me go back to school – I think it demonstrated for them that learning is for life – you can do whatever you want at whatever time in your life – there’s no time limit.”
“I continue to have a wonderful and rewarding career at Bell. I am fortunate to have worked in a number of roles, which have allowed me to further develop my leadership skills. One of the greatest gifts my employer has given me is supporting me in my MBA journey. This experience not only expanded my network and enhanced my business acumen, but it also helped me to become a strong, confident people leader with a “sure, bring it on” attitude.
Director, Partnerships & Commercialization - Kanata North, University of Ottawa
Champion for the University of Ottawa in Canada’s Largest Tech Park
Veronica Farmer, EMBA 1996, has a lengthy history with the Kanata North Technology Park which is recognized as Canada’s largest tech park. Since the early 2000’s, she has been engaged with the tech community, working with companies such as, Tundra Semiconductor and Fidus Systems. In 2007, Veronica founded TrueCourse Communications Inc., a marketing communications company, which serves many companies and organizations locally, nationally and internationally. Balancing entrepreneurship and leading an active strategic marketing communications practice, Veronica worked closely with organizations who support the Ottawa tech ecosystem such as, Invest Ottawa and the Kanata North Business Association (KNBA).
In 2018, the KNBA approached Veronica to take on the role of Executive Director of the Association to cover a maternity leave. Having already worked with the Association as well as in the Tech Park for many years, it was a natural evolution for her to step into this role. Veronica quickly came to understand just how important a role the Tech Park played not only in Ottawa but, in the country. “Kanata North is Canada’s economic and innovation engine, contributing over $13 billion to Canada’s GDP and home to over 540 companies providing approximately 21,000 tech jobs,” she states.
In parallel and in November 2018, the University of Ottawa opened its doors in the Tech Park. The uOttawa Kanata North Campus was the result of the leadership of the University’s Vice-President of Research, Sylvain Charbonneau, and in partnership with the KNBA. In her role with the KNBA, Veronica worked closely with the University as it launched and set up to serve the Kanata North tech community. Fast forward to late 2019, given her unique experience and network in the Tech Park plus her skills and expertise, Veronica was asked to consider a role with the University as Director of Partnerships and Commercialization. Based out of the Kanata North Campus, she took on that role fully in January 2020.
“I think of myself as a champion for my colleagues and stakeholders at the University as well as the Kanata North tech community,” says Veronica. “My role is to help the University achieve their vision of bringing industry and research closer together. The University has an opportunity to help companies be successful and scale through a talent pipeline of students and graduates, customized training and educational programming, and a broad spectrum of solutions from access to researchers and students to lab and equipment to collaborative research opportunities.”
The University of Ottawa Kanata North Campus is located right in the heart of the Tech Park. Ideal for networking and events, it offers a state-of-the-art training room, boardroom, offices and collaborative spaces – open for the business community to drop by and use. “This is about establishing a collaborative environment to co-create innovation and we want to facilitate innovation in different ways. Whether it’s engaging researchers to help solve Kanata North companies with their technology challenges, or providing customized training, or hosting a discussion, I’d like the University to be at the center of the dialogue around innovation.”
Phase one was about opening the doors of the campus and making sure all stakeholders; uOttawa professors, students, alumni, researchers as well as members of the Tech Park, know they can access the space and fine-tuning what the University can offer this community. Phase two is focused on more fully implementing the University’s vision and to have the campus contributing to the success of the companies in the Tech Park and the Tech Park contribute to uOttawa’s success. “Building on the momentum to date, I am focused on fostering collaboration and partnerships between academia and industry that result in exceptional business outcomes for companies in Kanata North and for uOttawa researchers and students. I want the business leaders to see the campus as a place they can easily access the University’s talent, training and research, as well as leverage its local, national and global networks, reputation and reach.”
President, Kingsford Consulting Ltd.
Go Faster and Have More Fun - that’s what Andrew Penny, EMBA 1995 helps his clients do and he has also made it the motto for his own business. His company Kingsford Consulting Ltd., serves $10-$100 million dollar businesses in the private sector who want to accelerate their growth. His company helps them identify opportunities to increase revenue while at the same time operate more efficiently – going faster and having more fun. Andrew explains that the motto all started with the Telfer Executive MBA program.
Prior to beginning his Executive MBA degree, Andrew worked in the automotive and telecom sectors. Through these roles he developed skills in business development, marketing, recruiting and channel development. Subsequently, he took on business development roles in technology startups and really enjoyed the buzz. He was interested in taking on leadership roles but didn’t have the broad business skills and knowledge to be as effective as he’d like. To gain these skills and awareness he joined the Telfer Executive MBA program.
“The best part of taking the EMBA program was finding out what I didn’t know. Going through the program allowed me to have conversations with peers about finance, HR, accounting, governance issues etc. - things that just didn’t cross my path in the business development world. Upon completing the program, I had the confidence to walk into any room and talk to anybody about any aspect of business. I might not have been an expert in all areas but I understood the game.”
During his time in the program, Andrew worked for three start-up companies and, while he enjoyed the excitement of these roles, he did not enjoy being blindsided when the companies ran out of money. “I told myself I’m never going to sit in the backseat again. I want to be in the front and have ownership in the business; I want to be in control of my own destiny.”
Andrew launched his consulting career as a solo consultant and over the last twenty years has built a solid consulting business. Initially his company’s services focused on marketing and sales channels. Today Kingsford Consulting Ltd. works with larger companies and their owners on corporate strategy, market entry, operational efficiency and often is asked to help with legacy, next generation and M&A work.
Andrew admits there were moments in the Executive MBA program where the workload seemed insurmountable - but it had to get done. It tested what he thought his limits were. Even today when he has an impossible deadline, he thinks back to his EMBA deadlines and how he was able to stretch to get them done and is able to dig in and get the job done. All while going faster and having fun.
Twenty-four years after graduating, Andrew is still an active alumnus. Each year he mentors an undergraduate student at the Telfer School and loves it. “The individuals I mentor are always bright, enthusiastic and open. I learn so much from them. It gives me a window into what people their age are thinking. As much as I enjoy giving back, I really do get more out of it than they do. Many of my clients are selling to that twenty-something market and understanding how they think allows me to provide better advice to my clients.” Andrew has also acted as a project advisor for work being done in the Executive MBA program and refers potential candidates.
“Before starting the Executive MBA program, I had been out of school for about twenty years; it was like going through a boot camp for your brain – you are exposed to a fire hose of new ideas and new content and have to dig deep to be able to process it. It made me realize that learning is indeed a life-long activity. In terms of my professional development it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done”.
Executive Director, CALDO, Consortium of Canadian Research Universities
After traveling to Canada to study, Rodrigo Delgado, EMBA 2013 knew he would be back. A native of Santiago, Chile, Rodrigo traveled to Montreal, QC for the first time in 1996 and later in 1997. His international exchange experience left him fascinated with Canadian culture and motivated to return to Canada the first opportunity he had.
Upon completing his exchange, he returned to Chile to finish his bachelor’s in business administration and begin a career with Santander Financial Group, first as a banking account executive, then Product Manager and later Manager, e-business. From 2001-2011, Rodrigo held a series of management positions in the marketing and consulting sectors in Chile. It was during this time when he began to think about going back to school to reinforce his management skills.
Rodrigo concluded that an international MBA would help validate his professional experience abroad and move his career to the next level. While studying in Chile was an option, he regarded this as an opportune time to travel back to Canada. When his wife, a Canadian, secured employment in Ottawa, Rodrigo applied and accepted the offer to study at the Telfer Executive MBA program.
“One of my goals in coming to Canada for an EMBA program was to gain more international experience and learn how to do business in Canada. I wanted to better understand how I could facilitate more opportunities for Canadian companies to do business in Latin America. Understanding the cultural differences and business styles, in addition to speaking the languages from each side of the continent would be quite helpful to allow companies and institutions to reach international markets. The result after the EMBA program was very positive. I learned a lot through the program’s six consulting projects, working internationally with important Canadian companies and the experience of working and studying with a talented group of classmates coming from different backgrounds and cultures was very enriching in my learning experience. The consulting trips to Vietnam and Silicon Valley were great experiences, helping me to achieve my personal goals.”
Following his graduation from the Executive MBA, Rodrigo and is family made the decision to continue building a life in Canada. With his wife already settled into a job and his children thriving in their schools, Rodrigo could focus on securing a position that would challenge him and make use of the skills he learned in the MBA. The search for his first Canadian position did not come easy. “It was hard to find a job at the level I was capable of working at. I had several years of management experience and an MBA, however I had neither the knowledge of the business community in Ottawa or the network. I began building connections through many meetings and coffees with EMBA alumni and business leaders of the Ottawa-Gatineau region.”
Rodrigo spent several months attending networking events and meeting as many people as he could until he began coaching and training entrepreneurs for the City of Gatineau. He concurrently accepted a part time position at the University of Ottawa to support international projects connected with Latin America and it was this experience that opened the door to CALDO Consortium www.caldo.ca.
Over the past six years, Rodrigo has worked his way from Senior Project Manager to Executive Director at the CALDO Consortium. He is now responsible for leading CALDO’s expansion in Latin America, allowing more Latin American students to study in Canadian universities in Master’s and PhD programs. Rodrigo works with in international team along with the Government of Canada (GAC) to establish agreements and partnerships with government institutions in the LATAM region. He is doing exactly what he set out to do - facilitate the partnerships and business opportunities between Latin American institutions and top Canadian universities.
Shaun Fawcett graduated from the Telfer Executive MBA program in 1996. Since graduating he has pursued work as a Webmaster and How-to-Author as well as owner of Final Draft Consulting and Communications, in Montreal, which focuses on business consulting and English editorial work.
After nineteen years in the consulting world, Shaun established yet another career by starting his company Griffinworks which he works at in parallel with his consulting business. Griffinworks is a custom furniture and fabrication business that Shaun started in 2017 as a semi-retirement project for himself. His furniture is made from recycled pallet wood and industrial steel and is a nod to the industrial history of Montreal’s historic Griffintown area. With no plans to grow or scale the business, Shaun simply enjoys designing and making furniture, posting photos of the completed pieces on local Facebook groups which in turn lead to additional commissions for him.
Until April of this year, in parallel with his consulting day job and furniture business, Shaun spent 18 months heavily involved in the creation of a new book in the international aviation field. As the Project Manager/Project Coordinator and Senior Editor for the book:, Shaun has been able to utilize his expertise in aviation research and operations, project management, strategic planning/management, business writing/editing, and publishing on this project.
He says that working on that book was a major undertaking that involved nine different co-authors situated in various parts of the world. Trying to pull together material from nine authors into a single coherent book was not easy, although Shaun says the Executive MBA group projects provided valuable experience to aid in that situation. The book is now the basis for an internationalof aviation leaders and thinkers that will be taking place in London, UK in November at the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Shaun’s expertise in aviation research and operations also led him to a contract with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as Senior Editor of their Environmental Report - 2019. Since 2007, that organization has issued this comprehensive report every three years. Shaun has been the Senior Editor for the report versions; 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and now he’s working on 2019. The report covers all aspects of the impact of aviation on the global climate and what the industry is doing to mitigate those impacts.
Aside from designing and making furniture out of recycled pallet wood and industrial steel, Shaun’s professional life continues to keep him engaged and busy with no signs of slowing down.
If you happen to be in the Montreal area, drop byto say hello to Shaun and check out his custom furniture.
Senior Client Relationship Manager, Scotiabank
Thanking this alumnae for her time and efforts in volunteering
Mirella Athanassiadis completed the Telfer Executive MBA program in 2012 and soon joined the Alumni Association Board to volunteer her time with event planning. In speaking with Mirella recently, she revealed her motivation for pursuing an MBA and why it was important for her to volunteer her time once she graduated.
Why did you want to complete an MBA degree?
I thought an MBA would invigorate me and give me professional choices in the banking world or elsewhere. I looked into an MBA that the bank supports which is a financial services MBA out of Dalhousie and upon a closer look at the criteria, I found my position at the bank wasn’t senior enough to apply. I decided I wanted a program that was more complete as opposed to a specialization so I started researching other MBA programs. I’ve always been a very hands on learner and when I visited the Telfer Executive MBA classroom, I knew it was the program for me – I knew I wanted an in-class experience. I felt confident that once I completed the program, I’d have choices in the bank whether I stayed in Ottawa, moved to Toronto or decided to take my career in a different direction.
How has your career progressed since graduating?
Plans always change. I thought I would go to Toronto – but personal life events kept me in Ottawa and after I finished the program, I took some time to figure out where I wanted to go and started to apply to jobs where I could elevate myself within my own institution. I transferred from retail banking to the private wealth management arm of the bank and the timing for this move was beneficial. Soon after I arrived, they re-organized all of wealth management and instituted a national team of credit writers that was completely new to private banking. This team had to form itself and determine what worked in terms of that particular arm of the bank. I was able to apply what I learned in the program by offering strategic thinking, problem solving and process changes – much of it was taken into account by this national team and that was very rewarding for me.
What is your current role at the bank?
I started thinking about how I could develop my next role in private banking and knew I wanted it to be client facing with more of an emphasis on financial planning. A colleague in commercial banking reached out regarding a position and I decided it would be a good change for me. The role was more senior; it allowed me to be client facing, and it was with a part of the bank that I hadn’t worked in before. I am currently a Senior Client Relationship Manager in commercial banking. I deal with businesses on a range of issues – some of which are lending to expand facilities, political parties looking to finance their elections and cash flow loans for operational purposes. In a sense I run my own business now. I decide which clients I want in my portfolio and how I manage their requests. It’s part of my job to develop more clients to work with as well so I spend time networking, finding opportunities to speak with people to discover their needs in terms of expanding their business.
When did you get involved with the Executive MBA alumni board?
I got involved right after graduation. I’ve always done volunteerism and the program inspired me to do more because of the first project I lead in the program which was part of the strategic marketing course – I was able to learn how not-for-profits work, and what they need to sustain themselves as organizations. It appealed to me; I could see myself down the road doing more volunteerism for another outward community organization. The other reason I joined the Executive MBA board was because I was asked to by a classmate and that in and of itself is a compliment. I had some bandwidth after finishing the program and I was happy to help.
What role did you hold on the board?
I was the Director, Events and held this position for four years officially and I’ve been volunteering outside the board for three years in the same capacity. The social butterfly in me likes to plan parties – I like the outcome of having several people come together for an event.
Why have you continued to be a volunteer with the board/program for as long as you have?
I’ve had the bandwidth; I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been doing and it allowed me to stay in touch with the program. I’ve been able to grow my network through the volunteering I’ve done. I attend alumni events and recognize familiar faces now. If I ever need information or a question answered, I now have more people that I can reach out to and I’m more comfortable doing so because I know these alumni and they know me.
Have you seen any changes in the seven years in terms of the alumni community?
When I first joined the board, there was a lot of strategic thinking done on how we wanted to grow the connections within the community – a lot of the strategies we discussed have been put in place. Going forward I think we can continue to grow the community by better utilizing social media platforms to help connect alumni as well as running more targeted small group events to bring together alumni with common interests.
Is there a highlight(s) from your time volunteering?
I’ve enjoyed participating with the dragon boat team - that is really fun – anything that gets people out, laughing, having a good time and helps you remember each other and the program is a great way to build community. I haven’t volunteered my time to necessarily get anything back from it, I’ve done it because I like seeing the results. It’s like anything else where you have a sense of community – it’s a pleasure, it gets you outside your own bubble – people need that.
Last event that you will help organize – what can we expect?
At the end of this year, I’ll be stepping down from my volunteer role – the last event I will help organize is the 2019 Holiday Party.
At the 2018 Holiday party, attendees from the Class of 1999 approached me saying they wanted to help with the 2019 holiday party which will feature their class’s 20th anniversary. Normally I plan the majority of the Holiday Party on my own however this year I have a committee made up of four individuals from the Class of 1999. They come together to help with the planning of the party – one lives in Toronto, another has basically retired to Nova Scotia and yet they all come together to brainstorm and work on the party and they’re having a good time because they’re together. It’s been great to see them working together - I’ve been able to get a small glimpse into their class.
Their plan for this year’s holiday party is to re-live their international class trip to Ireland. The committee hopes to have Irish food and beverages served at the party this year as well as decorate the party space with touches of Ireland.
In the seven years that Mirella has volunteered with the Executive MBA board and program, she has organized countless pub nights and Holiday Parties. Telfer Executive MBA wishes to thank Mirella for her time, support and dedication to the Executive MBA program and its alumni community.
Vice-President of Operations, Pallium Canada.
This Alumnus Left a Secure Government Job to Take on a High-Risk Role
After completing an acting assignment at the Director General level, Jonathan Faulkner, EMBA 2018 needed to decide on his next career move. He enjoyed the leadership challenge and strived to continue at that level but was unable to transition to a permanent role at a senior level due to his lack of credentials.
He had spent 12 years working for the federal government in a wide variety of managerial and leadership roles covering strategic planning, program design, project management, investment management, change management and recently with partnerships, however it wasn`t enough to move him to the next level in his career.
He realized there was a gap in his professional skills and in order to move forward in his career, he would have to address the shortfalls.
He decided to earn a graduate degree and was interested in gaining more than just the piece of paper. His research lead him to the Telfer Executive MBA program which offered a strong network of professionals and real-world learning opportunities through the integration of six business consulting projects within the curriculum.
It was through the Individual Business Consulting Project that Jonathan built a solid network in the social finance and social impact sector. He was able to leverage this platform heavily when he was head-hunted for a Vice President role seven months later.
“I wouldn’t have fit the profile they were looking for [in the role] without the MBA” says Jonathan, “More importantly, I now had the confidence in myself to leave a secure government job and take on a high-risk role in a smaller organization.”
As Vice-President of Operations for Pallium Canada, a non-profit social enterprise working to improve palliative care for all Canadians, Jonathan is accountable for all aspects of the business including product development, IT, support desk, data and performance management, marketing, finance, and strategic partnerships. “I love the diversity of what I get to do. In a small organization, one day I’m meeting with partner CEOs to pitch our value and products and the next I’m working with our IT consultants to design a new software platform to manage our course content. It’s exciting and I love the pace at which we can move things forward compared to my time in government”.
Looking back at his Telfer Executive MBA experience, Jonathan can confidently say that he is leveraging his skills and his degree. “Honestly, from business strategy, to pitch development, pricing analysis, IT strategy and NPV [net present value] calculations and profit and loss statements, I am using all of my learnings from the program every day.”
His advice to the next generation of Telfer Executive MBA candidates – “leverage the projects to stretch yourself and build skills you wouldn’t be gaining in your regular job. Take these risks in the program when you have the support to help you be successful.”
Chief Information Officer, National Research Council Canada
Contributing to Canadian Society
“Through the Telfer Executive MBA program, I learned ‘balance’ - whether it’s day to day deadlines or my own behaviors and leadership styles. Organization skills top the list when I think of what it takes to be successful both in the program and in one’s career journey. The MBA is a human experience – it holds up a mirror in front of you! Your strengths and weaknesses are recognized as a result of this self-reflection and through feedback from your group members. Evolving how you ‘show up’, how others view your actions, was critical for me. Being a type-A personality, I quickly learned that sometimes quiet reflective leadership goes a long way in achieving success”
Paul Wagner came to the Telfer Executive MBA with ten years’ experience in the private sector and 6 years in the public sector. Wanting to spend less time on airplanes and more time focused on his family, Paul – originally from Montreal -attended a job fair in Ottawa in the late 90’s where he was offered a position in the Federal Government working for Public Works and Government Services Canada. As his career progressed, Paul applied for and won a competition to obtain funding for Master’s level education – this led to his enrolment in Telfer’s Executive MBA program in 2005.
In the middle of the program, a classmate, who also worked in the public service, nudged him to interview for a more senior role at Service Canada. Initially concerned with the level of effort and chaos in taking on a new job with increasing responsibilities while going to school, he accepted the challenge and became Director General, Business Planning and Management Services. Ironically, this new role actually helped by allowing him to apply his learnings from the MBA program almost immediately within the workplace.
Eleven years after graduating, Paul continues his successful career in the public service. After working at Service Canada, he was hired as the Chief Technology Officer for Justice Canada and eventually became CIO. Paul moved from Justice Canada to become one of the first employees of Shared Services Canada where he played a pivotal role in building the relationships between SSC and its partners. Following that he was recruited for the role of CIO with Library and Archives Canada. Presently the CIO of the National Research Council (NRC), Paul and his team have a long list of responsibilities including IT services (desk tops, mobile devices) for the department, supporting researchers with the technology and information resources they require to do their jobs, managing corporate data and data assets as well as managing/coordinating the research data and publications that come out of that. Finally, his team is responsible for the National Science Library – managing the physical and online resources that researchers can access.
“Every CIO carves out their niche on how to support their organization. Right now I’m focused on establishing the technology platforms for researchers at NRC so they can focus on their research. This is different from other departments I’ve worked in where delivering citizen-facing services are driving the agenda. Researchers at NRC are working on some challenging problems and they need leading edge technologies to support them.”
Telfer Executive MBA program encouraged Paul to network and engage with people and he found this helpful because his professional career relies on him being able to build relationships to deliver his vision. “As a CIO, there is a lot of interacting and building of relationships with internal and external clients. The concept of networking in the program is huge. I am confident that I could call any of my classmates or professors today and they would be willing to help me.”
Manager, Change Programs, NAV Canada
Navigating Change: This Alumnae Has Created a New Path for Herself
"I moved to Canada in 2005. I was a business graduate from Pakistan and worked in the restaurant business for several years in Ottawa” says Maryam Awan, EMBA 2012. “With my graduate degree from Pakistan, I found it quite challenging to find career opportunities in Ottawa. After spending five years in the restaurant industry, I decided to go back to school for my Masters and create a new career path for myself.”
Maryam was looking to pivot her career and felt that an MBA was a logical next step. She chose the Telfer Executive MBA program because it was local and it had a global orientation. The program allowed her the flexibility to work, raise her young family and study at the same time.
She found the Executive MBA program to be a challenging and exciting experience. The dialogue and discussions that occurred in class were thought provoking and interesting. Working with a team of professionals who came to the program with real world experience offered a broader learning base and created real value. Maryam says that through the group work, she learned how to lead a team of highly motivated professionals, set direction and execute on strategies. The group experience also taught her how to have difficult conversations. Over and above that, she enjoyed the opportunity to do business in Silicon Valley and Brazil although she admits her most impactful consulting project was creating a marketing strategy for the MS Society of Canada.
“The Telfer Executive MBA jumpstarted my professional career in Canada. I was offered my first role at Export Development Canada (EDC) during the third semester of the program and continued working there for about three years. My last role at EDC was in Change Management and that led to my move to NAV CANADA in 2015. I have recently become a Manager at NAV CANADA where I lead an incredible team of Change Management Specialists who are responsible for providing strategic advice and change management services to the organization. We call ourselves People Integrators. Our vision is that NAV CANADA fully realizes the benefits of change by demonstrating strong change leadership and considers the impacts of all decisions and initiatives to its stakeholders.”
Maryam says she expected to gain the technical skills of driving business from the MBA however she didn’t expect or appreciate how much self-reflection she would have to do during the program. It was the focus on self-awareness during the first semester that helped her better understand who she was as an individual and her personal style as a team member and leader. That mindfulness and self-reflection continues to be part of her daily practice.
“The Executive MBA is a challenging program and tests you at all levels. I know that I am resilient and able to persevere through life with grit because of my experience in the program. I have experienced some successes in my career so far including implementing Change Initiatives at EDC and currently at NAV CANADA however my biggest achievement has been the sense of accomplishment and pride my family has for me. If you are striving to do more and want to make a change in your career, you should consider the Telfer Executive MBA program.”
Maryam admits that the program isn’t easy and having the letters ‘MBA’ after your name does not automatically garner you the job you want. She has had to think hard about what she wants, take ownership of her career and create opportunities for herself. She is where she is today due to her hard work, her MBA and most importantly, the love and support of her family.
Going Back to School Terrified This Alumnus
Before taking Telfer’s Executive MBA program, Chris Perram, EMBA 2005 was a single father attending University for Computer Engineering and running a reasonably successful consulting company (Perram Consulting). Finding it difficult to juggle everything, Chris made the decision to give up his pursuit of a degree in order to raise his children. As his business continued to grow, Chris began contemplating an MBA. “There were two reasons I wanted to do my MBA. One - I had this nagging feeling inside that I wanted to complete my degree and two - I couldn’t answer some of the government consulting proposals without a degree. I was thirty-five at the time and the idea of going back to school terrified me. My partner, Valerie encouraged me to attend an information session where I was assured I could bring value to the class. I entered the program terrified and graduated with a level of self- assurance I didn’t even know I was missing.”
A few years after graduating from Telfer, Chris re-branded his company to Perram Corp. and started moving his business away from consulting to focus on services. Before leaving the consulting world, he consulted on a classification project where his company took a due diligence/indexing software they had built and implemented it into a shared drive. How they did this was unique and it was the seed for his current company FileFacets. In 2010 – Chris’ company only engaged in service projects that relied on using their classification software (Perralel). These projects continued to feed the company until 2014 when they decided to take their software product to market. In 2015 Perram Corp re-branded again to FileFacets and launched their software to a resounding failure. Reflecting back on why it failed Chris says, “we asked potential clients what they wanted the software to do and we built it accordingly but in the end what the clients really wanted was for someone to do the actual data migration piece for them.”
In late 2015, Perram Corp was accepted into L-spark, a local accelerator. Chris was able to use this opportunity to transition his company away from services. “This was a scary time. We knew that if this didn’t work, we were done. At that time we were still positioning ourselves as a migration company; we were having some more success - growing enough to get investment but not to a level where we could turn a large profit. In December 2016, I was in England visiting a client and he suggested our software would be useful for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). I didn’t even know what that was but googled it as soon as I left the meeting. After reading about GDPR, I decided right then - that was the business we were in - it was simple. Migrations of data are profitable but they’re difficult and it takes a lot of people to get the job done. Sorting and indexing data might normally take months or years to complete; our software could complete all of this in just days. It took us fourteen months to move from a SAAS company to a GDPR company and now the opportunities for us are coming fast and furious. It’s staggering.”
In 2015, FileFacets won the Information Governance Technology Solution of the year award from the Information Governance Initiative based out of New York. In 2017, the company won the “Next Best Thing” award at the Best Ottawa Business Awards (BOBS) as well as received $4M in funding from Celtic House and Wesley Clover in the first round.
“When I accepted the award at the BOBS last year I said in my acceptance speech that I wouldn’t be standing there without having completed the Telfer Executive MBA program. I wouldn’t have explored an MBA if it wasn’t for my partner Val; I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if I hadn’t learned and experienced what I did at Telfer and FileFacets would not exist today without David Adderley and Celtic House. That’s a fact.”
Chief of Staff, The Ottawa Hospital
Finding a Voice as a Leader
For This Alumna, it is All About the People
In January 2018, Virginia Roth, EMBA 2012, started her new role as Chief of Staff of The Ottawa Hospital (TOH). She says her focus will be on continuing to keep the physicians and the hospital in lock step – working together toward the same goals. “Neither the hospital nor the physicians can be successful if we’re moving in different directions. Every hospital needs a well-thought-out vision. A lot of the physicians who work at TOH say they like working here because of the hospital’s vision of providing the best patient care. If you start with a common vision, the decision-making process flows from that.” One of the challenges in her particular position is leading physicians who are not technically employees of the hospital. “Since there isn’t an employer-employee relationship between the hospital and the physicians, it’s important in my role to lead by influence and inspiration. Thankfully, this is a skill I honed while doing my Executive MBA."
Attaining an Executive MBA was not something Virginia planned to do. However, she was encouraged by the hospital’s senior management to look at the various programs and consider the opportunity. “In reviewing the different MBA programs, it was important for me that it was local and had an in-person experience. For these reasons I chose the Telfer Executive MBA. Through the program, I developed relationships with my classmates who have backgrounds in different industries. As a physician, I am so ingrained in my area of expertise that it was really beneficial to hear perspectives from people who work outside my sector. The concepts are the same but everyone comes at things differently based on their own backgrounds and this provides you with tremendous learning. Now I can pick up the phone and call a classmate and ask what they would do in a certain situation. They know nothing about my reality at the hospital but they understand leadership, so having those connections is invaluable.”
As a leader, Virginia admits her preference was to sit back, listen and observe. But her Executive MBA teammates taught her that if she wanted to be an influential leader, she had to be visible; she had to be heard. “The highlight of the Telfer Executive MBA program is the people. They helped me learn that having great ideas and a vision is not enough – you have to be able to articulate it to others. The program and my classmates were integral in giving me confidence as a leader and helping me find my voice.”
Virginia is especially proud of an annual performance review process she helped put in place at the hospital after graduating from the program. “One of the top things we were told by our physicians was that they received feedback only when something went wrong. I feel strongly about our physicians being engaged and felt we needed to act on this feedback. I, along with a team, developed an annual performance review process that gives formative feedback for the physicians. Questions include: How has the last year gone for you? What are your goals? How can we support you? While it has taken some time, the process has been embraced and the physicians are appreciative that their work is being recognized. The process begins with self-reflection, followed by an in-person meeting, and includes anonymous feedback from patients and peers. This concept is relatively new in hospitals and I’m proud that it is now garnering attention from other hospitals.”
CEO, Choice Markets
Born to Lead in the Food Industry
The MBA Gives This Alumnus the Confidence to Become a CEO
Whether it’s because of his professional background or the fact that he was nearly born in a small grocery store, it would seem that Ishkandar Ahmed, EMBA 2009 has always had the food/grocery market in his blood. As a child, he used to crawl around his parents’ grocery store in Uganda – it was his “daycare” so to speak. Later on, after his family moved to Canada, he would take on the role of managing director within his father’s company which imported and distributed natural, organic, gourmet and specialty foods from all over the world. Building on that and other experiences he learned a great deal about the food industry which has served him well in his current role as CEO of Choices Markets in British Columbia.
While living in Ottawa, Ontario, Ishkandar took the opportunity to do an MBA. “Until then, I was an entrepreneur working in a small family business; I didn’t have a formal business background. I chose to do an MBA with Telfer because I wanted the live, daily interaction in the classroom. I wanted to develop a network with people in my class who lived in the same city as I did. I looked at other programs and felt Telfer had a good, strong program. I even spoke to some of the Professors before I applied and really liked their approach to the material they would be teaching me.”
The Telfer Executive MBA program lived up to Ishkandar’s expectations. He learned a great deal through the group work and found it not only challenging but also a skill that he continues to use on a regular basis. “Working in our EMBA teams taught me how to rely on other people. Some of the people I had the biggest battles with at the beginning of the program are the ones I ended up building the strongest bonds with by the end. I came to realize that others tackle issues differently than I do and had to learn to adjust my style depending on the individuals I was working with.”
Four years after graduating from the program, Choices Markets, a family owned grocery retail store chain in British Columbia, approached Ishkandar to be their new CEO. “Choices Markets was one of our first customers in B.C. when my father started our family company; we were one of their first distributers and supplied them with natural and gourmet foods. Eventually my father retired and I moved to Ottawa and started consulting in the food industry and Choices Markets remained one of my customers. So I had known the company for fifteen to twenty years and they knew me and my background in family business.”
Ishkandar and his family moved back to British Columbia in 2013 in order for him to take on the CEO role. At that time, Choices Markets had seven stores across the province but had not built a new one since 2007. Ishkandar knew the company needed new growth in order to remain relevant in the retail market. Four and a half years after becoming CEO, Choices Markets has built four new stores, an online store, created a Private Label program, and built a new production center housing a state of the art kitchen and bakery that supplies freshly prepared meals to all Choices stores on a daily basis. The company’s sales have increased dramatically and several growth opportunities have been created for employees. “We also have a very successful importing and distribution business that sells organic foods to retailers across Canada”
“I never, in my life, thought I’d be a CEO. Coming from a background in family business and consulting, I always thought I would just consult with small businesses. I am happy and amazed to see that I can lead a relatively large organization. I use the skills that I learned in the Executive MBA program all the time. I don’t even realize I’m using them; it has just become intuitive for me.”
Co-founder and Executive Vice President, My Broadcasting Corporation
Coming Full Circle
This Alumnus Turns a Part-Time Hobby into one of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies.
Growing up, Andrew Dickson, EMBA 2002, knew he wanted to be a radio announcer. Each night he would stay up recording radio shows and then play them back in order to practice his radio announcer skills. Straight out of high school, his ambition became a reality – ‘Andy Dickson’ was a voice on the radio and a known figure in his local community of Renfrew then at CKBY-FM in Ottawa and ultimately a TV host at CHRO-TV.
Five years into his radio announcing career, Andrew began to feel restless. He still loved radio announcing but wanted to work in a role which would provide him with change on a regular basis and as luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself to him. Andrew’s father owned a print shop and had purchased a second shop to add to his business. He required someone to run the second shop and Andrew felt this was just the kind of change he was looking for. He stabilized the shop, which was nearly bankrupt, and, over time, purchased a second print shop in Ottawa and then a third that tripled the size of the company. He admits he didn’t know how to run a business this big and was relying on accountants and lawyers up to that point to tell him what he should be doing. Andrew felt he was in over his head.
In 2000, he enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA program. He was extremely apprehensive – he had never been to University and wasn’t sure he measured up to his peers. “I had so much anxiety going into the program. Working on my first deliverable, I had no idea what the professor was looking for; however, I completed the paper and when it was returned to me, my mark was right up there with the rest of my peers. That was the moment that confirmed for me that I could pull this off. The models I was learning in class were helping me make business decisions with the printing company and, whenever possible, I would use my company for the project work. For example, I knew I wanted to sell my business at some point and this became the basis for my business consulting project in the program.”
Seven months after graduating from the program with new found skills and confidence, Andrew made a life changing decision. “In January 2003, a good friend came into my office for a chat. We had talked about the idea of starting a radio station for ten years but it was on this morning that we decided to turn the idea into a reality. Right there we devised our business model: 1. The station must be heavily involved in the community; 2. It has to be a fun place to work; and 3. The station has to be profitable.” They went through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission process and obtained a license. They bootstrapped what they needed to create their station in Renfrew - this was going to be a part time hobby for both of them since they were still working full time jobs. The first month the station was on the air, it was profitable and operated with six staff along with the part-time founders. The station worked out well so they started a second station in Pembroke. By 2012, Andrew and his partner owned 10 radio stations and recognized this was no longer a part time hobby. Andrew sold his printing company and dedicated all his time to the new company of radio stations.
Today, this Executive, who describes himself as ‘a naive businessman before my MBA,’ owns twenty-one radio stations and for the seventh year in a row, his company: My Broadcasting Corporation, has been named one of Canada’s Top 500 fastest growing companies by Canadian Business. “Two to three years on this list is normal but being on it for seven years is pretty incredible. It’s been quite a ride.”
Vice President & Chief Technologist of Software Defined Architecture and World Wide Sales, Avaya
Expanding Horizons Through a Global Career
The Letters Alone Will Not Take You Where You Want to Go
“Telfer Executive MBA provided me with an overall business education that taught me to look at professional situations from all aspects of business as opposed to just the area of my expertise,” says Jean Turgeon, EMBA 2005. “This has allowed me to think more strategically and make better business decisions. The global exposure I received in the program has been invaluable for my career. Having the opportunity to work on projects for markets in other countries showed me the importance of learning the culture and customs of each country in order to earn their trust and build relationships that could potentially lead to business with them.”
Jean’s experience had always been focused on global projects; however, it had not taken him outside of North America often. Wanting to move beyond the Director level and increase his engagement with countries throughout the world, Jean knew he had to go back to school to expand his skillset and create new opportunities for career growth. “I researched several Executive MBA programs and chose Telfer for two main reasons; the most important reason was the global aspect of the program and second, the classroom experience. I wanted to learn with and from others who had unique and diverse backgrounds.”
While in the program, Jean was working at Nortel Networks and had to balance the demands of both working and going to school. “The twenty-one months in the program is intense. You’re still working full time at your professional job and then have to find time for thirty to forty hours of school work each week. Most of us had families too - trying to find time for everything proved to be quite a challenge. Thankfully I have a very supportive family.”
Currently working at Avaya, which acquired Nortel, Jean’s career has progressed steadily since graduating. Now the Vice President & Chief Technologist of Software Defined Architecture and World Wide Sales, Jean uses his MBA skills every day, whether it’s accounting, finance or marketing. His role takes him all around the world, interacting with various countries, their culture and ideals, and he is thriving at building relationships in each one. “The international trips in the program were definitely the highlight of my MBA experience. Knowing I wanted to move my career in that direction, I was eager for the opportunity to learn about new global markets. It was an eye opener for me how critical and tricky working globally can be. Relationships are built on trust and the smallest thing amiss can easily give a negative impression of your understanding of their culture. In some countries, for example, exchanging business cards is done very casually, while in other countries there is pride in exchanging your identity and role they play within their organization. Dress code should also never be under-estimated. It might be very important that you always wear a full suit and tie when conducting business, as I say, you are never overdressed - if unsure, don’t take a chance and go with business formal. It’s so important to know the preferred and expected mannerisms of the countries you’re working in – if you don’t get this right, you’ll never establish the relationship you need to do business there.”
When asked if the program was a factor in where he is today in his career, Jean replies, “I credit the Telfer Executive MBA program with giving me the confidence to take on larger and more complex professional roles.
“I’m not afraid to take risks in my job – sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t but I’m continually learning. But if anyone thinks the letters ‘MBA’ behind your name is going to get you to the top; that is just not the case. You have to work hard, be innovative, bring value to your organization and prove that you can succeed at the top.”
Director of Medicine Services, Vancouver Coastal Health
Challenging Myself to Become a Better Leader
A Complete Internal Analysis Confirmed This Alumna’s Career Aspirations
Following her nineteen year career in healthcare, Nancy Desrosiers, EMBA 2015 felt her career had plateaued. As an OR nurse, she was introduced to health administration early in her career and had moved her way into a Director role at a hospital. Wanting to explore opportunities beyond the Director level, Nancy was fortunate to work for a progressive organization that permitted her time to dedicate to complete a Masters program. She knew she had a strong foundation clinically, but also knew to effectively lead at the next level, she needed to strengthen her business skills as a hospital administrator. Having been exposed to other leadership courses offered at Telfer, she felt the Telfer Executive MBA program would be a perfect fit to fulfill her academic needs and professional growth.
Reflecting on her experience in the program, Nancy comments, “Doing the Executive MBA program was the best decision I have ever made. I loved the professors’ teaching style, and having current subject matter experts teaching the courses was such an asset. The professors made the content interesting; adapted their teaching to support all learning styles, and provided tangible and concrete business life scenarios.”
Nancy states that working in a group setting throughout the program wasn’t always easy, but so beneficial. “You encounter different personality types, different management styles– everyone brings something very unique to the group. Each of the group members were at different stages of their professional careers as well as in their personal lives and this made things complicated to coordinate at times. However, as I reflect on the experience I believe that it too, has contributed to my learning. The experience taught me strategies to work in various environments with diverse personalities, conflicting agendas all the while working to meet aggressive timelines.”
For Nancy, the program did a lot of personal validation of her leadership skills; it validated things she was effectively doing well and highlighted areas where she needed to focus in order to move her career forward. She says “it’s a competitive market and being able to broaden your skills to other industries and expand your network opened so many more opportunities to be the effective leader I am today. The professors, classmates and the staff help build your self- confidence throughout the program in order to prepare you for your next big leap.”
Upon completing her MBA, Nancy accepted an Executive Director position in Vancouver. The hospital that was undergoing its very first hospital-wide accreditation – 13 hospitals; all of its 15 communities and remote sites were undergoing this accreditation at the same time. It was a complex project with a 7 month timeline. Nancy leveraged her new leadership qualities she had learned in the program to move it forward. The hospitals and its communities passed with overwhelming results of 94%. She achieved this success all the while learning a brand-new health system, a new province, a new organization and portfolio with one of the largest projects.
She has now accepted a new challenge at Vancouver General Hospital in operations, as the Directors for Medicine Services, Renal, Hospitalist, and Palliative Care Programs. The scope of this role will be even more challenging due to its size, complexity and diversity of care. She now leads a team with over 700 employees, 300 beds, with over 100 M budget. The Telfer Executive MBA program has propelled her career forward and Nancy has every intention on continuing to move toward her career goal of Vice-President level and eventually taking on a President’s role.
Vice President of Technology, Ideal Protein
Servant Leadership and Applying Academics to the Real World is Key for this Alumnus
One of the greatest takeaways of the Telfer Executive MBA for Bryan Belanger (EMBA 2007) is the confidence he has gained. Being able to try something different or take a new approach without fear of making mistakes has allowed him to achieve his goal of becoming a young executive and earning the respect of his peers as an exceptional leader and one who continually delivers on his commitments.
Bryan came to the Telfer Executive MBA program with a technology background. He strived to round out his business experience and chose the Telfer program for its location, reputation and the six signature consulting projects. It was important to Bryan to learn through actual real life experience. “I’m not big on academics for academics sake – I learn best when applying concepts to real world scenarios so the six projects in the program sold me right away.” The projects proved to be everything Bryan had hoped for and more. “I was able to work with the Ottawa Senators for my business consulting project and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation was the focus of my marketing project. The international trip experience was incredible; it took me outside of my comfort zone and I was able to apply everything I learned from the professors, my classmates and core group.”
Ten years after graduating from the program, Bryan has established himself as a global Technology leader. “I don’t consider myself a “manager”; I am a leader. I get that from my father, from the Telfer Executive MBA program and from my work experiences.” Bryan says he could have never imagined how helpful the international trip would be in his career. “I spent ten days in India with the class which was totally eye opening; a real culture shock. I had never been outside of North America from a business perspective.” Three years after graduating, Bryan was working at TechInsights when they merged with a Chinese and American company. Promoted to Vice President of IT, he was responsible in merging the technology of the three organizations and began traveling to China on a regular basis. “The experience in India helped me in China in terms of the culture shock. I wasn’t so terrified. I’ve now travelled all over the world for business – Japan, Australia, Poland, the US, and China. Now I embrace traveling and experiencing new cultures.”
The Telfer Executive MBA strengthened Bryan’s all around business learning and teamwork. “Working in a team of high achievers is a big challenge and learning how to navigate that was a huge takeaway for me. The projects allowed me to hone my knowledge in marketing, sales, and finance. This allows me to sit in executive meetings and speak intelligently about all aspects of the business. It’s one of the reasons I am where I am today.”
Recently brought onboard at Ideal Protein as Vice President of Technology, Bryan has been tasked with bringing the company’s technology strategy and executive leadership to the next level. At Ideal Protein, he is responsible for the global technology infrastructure, corporate applications, and the launch of the new IdealSmart web platform, mobile app and health tracking devices. “We have barely scratched the surface of what we’re going to be doing with technology and I’m very proud of how much my new team has accomplished in the short time that I’ve been here. The organization is eager for change and has put their trust in me to help lead them in becoming the leading weight management and lifestyle building organization in the world.”
Vice President Client Services, Brookfield Global Relocation Services
Utilizing the MBA to Solve Complex Business Problems
Before his MBA, Claude Morris, EMBA 2015, spent fifteen years in the high tech industry as a software implementation consultant. This was followed by a career in engineering management and enterprise software sales. Currently, Claude is Vice President of Client Services at BGRS and says the Telfer Executive MBA program equipped him with the skills and the network required to, not only land this role, but also to be successful at it.
Claude credits the international trips and projects of the Telfer Executive MBA program for challenging his skillset, his views on being a leader and for opening doors to him. “I had been to Silicon Valley many times before but I never had the opportunity to visit some of the big companies there such as Google, Apple, Cisco and IBM. These company visits were incredible – the way we were treated was top notch. The trip as a whole provided me with a perspective of the scale of what’s out there in the tech industry.”
Claude’s class traveled to Peru for their second international destination and he found the project work that accompanied this trip to be very challenging and satisfying. “The group that I was part of was working with a large defense company in Ottawa – trying to help them move into a new market. During the research stage of the project, as well as throughout the actual trip to Peru, our group was representing a company which opened some pretty interesting doors for us. We met with high level politicians in Peru as well as government agencies and prospective clients. Ordinarily, it would have been very difficult for us to meet with many of these people and organizations, so we accomplished a tremendous amount in one week.”
Throughout the program, Claude knew he wanted to take his career in a different direction although he couldn’t decide in which direction to go. “Every time I took a course, be it supply chain or analytics etc., I would think ‘I want to work in that area.’” Ultimately it was the alumni network that provided him with the opportunity. “Shortly before graduating, I saw a job at BGRS posted on the alumni LinkedIn group and I reached out to the individual who posted it. We had a great conversation not only about the position but also about our experience in the program and the rest is history. I was brought on board at BGRS to help bid on three significant contracts (all of which we won!) and eighteen months after being hired, I was promoted to Vice President of Client Services.”
Claude says the Telfer Executive MBA program turns a ‘rough piece of coal’ into a ‘polished diamond’. “It’s amazing to see the transformation in yourself and your classmates as you go through the program. I have seen peers who were extremely shy and nervous when speaking in class, become self-confident and great speakers.”
As for Claude, he says his mind opened and his perspectives widened during the program. “I’m an extrovert by nature. I like being with people and working in teams. I’ve always believed the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so I really enjoyed the teamwork component of the program. A side benefit that I didn’t anticipate was the network I gained. It starts in the classroom – the relationships strengthen as you struggle, learn and grow together. From there my peers, the alumni and even advisors introduced me to people they knew and my network grew again - but it all starts with the people in your class.”
“Through the work in the program, I have learned that being a good leader is much more complex than one might think. My perspective on business has changed. I am now always looking for new ways an organization can create value – for me solving business problems is about creating value. Creating value comes from listening carefully and I find I am a much better listener after the Program.”
Claude didn’t know how he was going to transition his career after the program; he simply knew it was his goal to do so. “I think it’s a good idea to have an end goal in mind when choosing to do an MBA even if it’s not your ultimate goal. Keep re-visiting this goal throughout the program; be flexible and agile. Be prepared and have an open mind and a career transition just might happen.”
President, SageTea Software
Applying his MBA to Grow a Start-Up
“I couldn’t do my current job without having done an MBA.” A previous government consultant for over eight years, Scott MacGregor (EMBA 2004) admits that the MBA accelerated his career both as a consultant and in his current role as President of an early stage software company. “Prior to doing my MBA, I was a communications consultant working primarily with the Government of Canada. The projects I was being asked to work on were transitioning to change management and organizational development – areas I didn’t know a great deal about.”
Knowing he needed more knowledge, he enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA program which allowed him to continue working and complete his degree at the same time. Even before graduating from the program, his career as a consultant started to advance. “Ottawa is a credential town. Having an MBA – even being in an MBA program – definitely makes a difference in how you are perceived. I was able to apply for more complex projects, learning and applying new skills as I went along. Suddenly I was able to talk knowledgably about a variety of things with clients, over and above the subject matter of the project. I had a great deal more confidence due to what I was learning in the program.”
Now the President of SageTea Software, Scott maintains he uses his MBA every day. “When my business partner and I started SageTea Software, it was like any other start-up company – very little funding and short on staff. We ended up doing many of the jobs ourselves: from marketing and business case development to negotiating leases and developing contracts. The MBA gave me knowledge in all the areas I needed to help grow SageTea into a viable company.
Not only did Scott leverage his education with the day to day business, he was also able to take advantage of the network he gained through the program to help him grow the company. “An alumnus of the Telfer Executive MBA program worked at Invest Ottawa and he helped us get accepted into their business accelerator. We gained considerable momentum in the year that we spent there.”
Once the company graduated from Invest Ottawa, they moved into a larger space at General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada and joined their business accelerator network. Again, it was a connection that Scott made in the program – one of the members of his group in fact – that helped him secure this opportunity. More recently, he filled a business development role in the company by reaching out to one of his classmates who works in the recruitment space.
Now five years into growing the company, Scott is optimistic of SageTea Software’s future. “We have a very innovative technology that can read text and automatically convert it to working software with little or no coding. People have been trying to do this for 50 years and we’ve figured out how to do it. The Government of Canada is recognizing the potential of our software and we are in the process of negotiating our third Build in Canada Innovation Program project. We are also starting to get a lot of interest from industry as well. We now have more than 20 employees and we expect to grow to over 35 in 2017.”
“It’s definitely been an interesting five years. The knowledge, networks and friends that I gained through the Telfer Executive MBA program have been a significant factor in our success.”
Founder and General Counsel, Edwards PC
One Telfer Executive MBA Alumnus is finding fulfillment at the intersection of Business, Law and the Creative Industries
Mark Edwards is the founder and General Counsel to Edwards PC, Creative Law, a three-member boutique, with offices in Toronto and Ottawa, practicing exclusively in the entertainment, new media and software industries. As a lawyer and a business executive, Mark is building and helping others to build IP-based, creative businesses in film, television, games, music, new media and software.
Before establishing Edwards PC, Mark spent many years working in television production, advergaming and branded entertainment. Mark joined the Telfer Executive MBA after transitioning from thirteen years of Commercial Litigation into a Business Affairs position with Amberwood Entertainment, a Canadian animation company that he helped found. While he had the drive and the interest to do well in this new position, he felt he was missing the skills, language and basic business frameworks to be successful. .
The most powerful element of the Telfer Executive MBA for Mark was the relevance of what he was learning to the issues he was confronting in the workplace. The immediacy of applying what he learned, coupled with the exposure to fellow business leaders in the community, remains important for Mark as he continues to meet new professional milestones. .
During the seven years that Mark was in an active role with Amberwood Entertainment, he financed and produced over $52 million of animated children’s television programming. Craving a new challenge, Mark worked first as an independent Executive Producer and later as Managing Director of Fuel Industries, a company that specializes in advergaming and branded entertainment, at that time with a staff of nearly 100. .
In 2007, Mark founded Vision Interactive Technologies Inc., creating and deploying the CrowdWave mass-interactive game platform for professional and collegiate sports, using Vision Interactive software to track the movements of sections of fans, monitoring and responding to the direction, speed and intensity of their movements, to control a sponsored game experience on the center-hung video screens. The system received a great response from professional sports teams and their sponsors with several teams from both the NHL and NBA – Rangers, Knicks, Capitals, Wizards, Cavaliers and many others - purchasing the CrowdWave system for their arenas. Reflecting on his 30 years of entrepreneurial work experience, Mark identified this central theme: “It's the combinations that interest me: business and law, education and experience, advice and action, theory and practice, independence and teamwork, technology and creative content.”
Vice President, International and Strategic Planning, Algonquin College
This Alumnus Re-energized his Love of Learning Through the Telfer Executive MBA
“I am a lifelong learner; an avid reader – doing my MBA allowed me to take my learning to the next level. I wanted an in-class experience that forced me to carve out time to do the school work – and classmates that held me accountable. The Telfer Executive MBA program was life changing. I wanted some of the skills that I thought were missing from my tool kit around finance, statistics, accounting in general and I got that. I didn’t anticipate the content on organizational behaviour – the human side of business, working with teams, diverse opinions, group think. This knowledge has had a huge impact on the kind of leader I am today. I also believe I am a better husband, father and friend because of the time I spent in the program.”
For as long as he can remember, Doug Wotherspoon, EMBA 2013 has always been an entrepreneur. At the age of seven, he had a paper route and took advantage of his father’s investment wisdom to grow his savings account which paid for university, his wife’s engagement ring, and his first company. While at Carleton University, Doug started a publishing company and shortly after finishing, created Capital Trolley Tours which became Capital Double Decker and Trolley Tours – an Ottawa-based sightseeing company. Later in his career, he co-founded a sustainability consulting firm which led to his current employment with Algonquin College.
Now Vice President, International and Strategic Planning at Algonquin College, Doug still thinks of himself as an entrepreneur. “I’ve switched from being a for-profit entrepreneur to a for-cause entrepreneur. I believe passionately that every organization needs to live an entrepreneurial spirit; an entrepreneurial mindset of risk tolerance, recognizing that you learn as much from your mistakes as you do your successes and keep moving forward. Algonquin has an entrepreneurial mindset – that’s why I love working here.” Doug sees this mindset rooted in the Executive MBA and especially in the international trip components and says this is what attracted him to the program in the first place.
“The Silicon Valley trip is great – it is eye opening and a nice safe first trip where the class can see entrepreneurship first-hand and the international trip – well I don’t think I’d be in the job that I’m in today without having had that experience push me and open me up to traveling and doing business internationally. There is a lot of self-analysis in the MBA. It’s a pruning ground for techniques that you might not have appreciated as much before. The program is centered on teamwork – the concept of synergy – put a group of people in a room and tell them to come up with a solution to a problem and the solution they come up with as a group will be better than that of any one individual.”
Doug was especially fond of his teammates in the program – people whom he says were not just colleagues but who came to be very good friends that remain in touch today. “The network you gain from the program is extensive - your teammates, classmates, faculty members, administrative staff, guest speakers and people you connect with for your projects - they all become connections. The program is a great opportunity to speak with people whom you might not normally speak with.”
The biggest take away from the program for Doug: confidence. “The content you learn provides you with the confidence you need to say I am a master in a particular field. The credentials are one thing but the inner confidence that you’ve seen all sides of running an organization and had a taste of it gives you the confidence to say I’ve been there; I’ve seen and done that.” For anyone considering their MBA, Doug gives this advice: “invest in yourself and you will recoup the cost. It’s not just a business decision; it’s a personal decision – talk with your significant other. Don’t think too much, just jump in. You have to do the work and be present but don’t sweat doing all the work – just sweat doing most of the work and cut yourself some slack.” take away from the program for Doug: confidence. “The content you learn provides you with the confidence you need to say I am a master in a particular field. The credentials are one thing but the inner confidence that you’ve seen all sides of running an organization and had a taste of it gives you the confidence to say I’ve been there; I’ve seen and done that.” For anyone considering their MBA, Doug gives this advice: “invest in yourself and you will recoup the cost. It’s not just a business decision; it’s a personal decision – talk with your significant other. Don’t think too much, just jump in. You have to do the work and be present but don’t sweat doing all the work – just sweat doing most of the work and cut yourself some slack.”
Marketing, Communications and Public Relations, Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC)
For This Alumna, the Executive MBA Never Fades
“The Executive MBA gave me inspiration and confidence to explore ideas, take chances and dream big in my career. The impact of the program opened me up to so many opportunities and choices. Seventeen years since graduating, its influence over my career and my life has never faded.”
For much of her 25-year career, Heidi Vincent, EMBA 1999, has managed and directed corporate communications, marketing communications, investor and public relations, for some of Ottawa’s high tech success stories such as MOSAID Technologies and JetForm Corporation. She got her start at Newbridge Networks, and went on to excel as a savvy business communications professional, raising exposure and managing corporate reputations in public markets.
Heidi was employed with JetForm Corporation while working toward her Executive MBA. As the company’s Director of Investor Relations, the EMBA enabled her to significantly advance how she served JetForm. “I will always be grateful for the encouragement and support of my CEO, John Kelly. Investor Relations was a demanding, yet exciting role. Adding the Executive MBA program to my life really tested my stamina but the challenge was exhilarating. I learned to be more efficient and effective with my time. Due to the amount of group work I couldn’t let anything slide because I wanted to give my best to the team; we counted on each other.”
Seeking a change and opportunities to make a difference, following graduation, Heidi was keen to apply her skills within not-for-profit organizations. Moving on to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Heidi was led to West Africa, Egypt and India. In this role, she focused on public-private partnerships that funded ICTs research initiatives for poverty alleviation in developing countries. She also lent her talents to Scouts Canada for a year term as their Director of Communications, to promote the 100th anniversary of Scouting for youth.
The venture most dear to Heidi’s heart, was collaborating with her mother, Sylvia, on a children’s book publishing company. This mother-daughter team was named among the Top 50 People in the Nation’s Capital by Ottawa Life Magazine and as “The Little Publisher That Could” by Montreal Gazette. In the prime of their venture, they achieved national sales with award-winning motivational children’s books and several titles were licensed for animation.
Reminiscing, Heidi speaks fondly of her Executive MBA teammates. “The highlight for me was definitely our group, B1. Working together for two intensive years, we were collaborative and supportive of one another, emulating the ideal team in the workplace.” Seventeen years after graduating from the Telfer Executive MBA program, Heidi says the tools she gained continue to be fundamental in her career. “I use what I learned in the program every single day. An MBA really is an investment in oneself. It changes you as a person; it liberates you. After graduating, I felt no limitation as to where I could go in life and that has stayed with me even now.”
The Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC) is Heidi’s not-for-profit healthcare focus these days. As the first of its kind in eastern Canada, OICC has been awarded the two largest-ever integrative cancer care research grants in North America. It is a game changer for cancer. Leading marketing communications and PR for OICC since it opened five years ago, she is passionate about contributing to its growth so that more people can access its care. Most recently Heidi spearheaded the PR launch of OICC’s first major fundraising campaign Changing How We Live With Cancer, with Honorary Chair Bryan Murray and in partnership with the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
When Heidi says the Executive MBA never fades… she really means it. “I am very content with what I’ve achieved in my career so far, and know there is so much more yet to come. I continue to be open to new challenges and untapped possibilities. Having the courage, and the drive to take chances, is the greatest gift the program gave me.”
Founder and CEO, Rebel Technologies Inc.
Forty under 40 Recipient, 2016Read More
Vice-President, Education, The Ottawa Hospital
Striving to Make The Ottawa Hospital the Learning Hospital of Choice in Canada
The year 2014 was a memorable one for Dr. Viren Naik. In the midst of finishing his Telfer Executive MBA program, he was promoted to full professor at the University of Ottawa, and was appointed the Vice-President, Education at The Ottawa Hospital.
Viren realized he wanted to further his training in leadership development however he thought it would happen further into the future. “The Senior Management Team at The Ottawa Hospital encouraged me to do an MBA to broaden my skillset. I knew if I wanted to be in a leadership position in healthcare, I was going to need some business competencies. When you work in the healthcare system, you tend to view healthcare as being very different from business, but in the 21st century with the reality of public sector funding challenges – healthcare needs to start adopting some best business practices.”
The Ottawa Hospital has a strong relationship with the Telfer School of Management and Viren took a critical look at its Executive MBA program. “I looked around at other programs and found the Telfer Executive MBA to be one of the stronger programs. Where the program really excels is in its team-based learning curriculum that allows for more active learning. There is real value in collaboration and networking between classmates. The series of the six signature projects is an incredibly valuable part of the program that requires the learner to fully engage in the projects and with the clients.”
Having completed the program, Viren says he has zero regrets having taken the program. “When you’re in the program; it’s hard to recognize how much you’re learning. Only after you’ve graduated can you appreciate all the learning that has occurred. I walked away from the program feeling more comfortable sitting in a corporate boardroom with people who have more experience. Contributing to executive decisions is easier because I know I have all the necessary competencies, and the only thing I’m missing now is experience.” Viren adds, “the other major benefit of the program is a vast network of Telfer alumni who all have a lot of time for each other. When I meet other Telfer alumni, we have an instant bond – I’m not sure you feel that kind of connection at some of the larger schools.”
Viren says that while he has always worked in a team environment, the team experience he faced in the program was a new challenge. “The Executive MBA puts you in a team where the hierarchy is completely flat. Everybody needs to be able to play every role – sometimes leader, sometimes follower, sometimes support. After twenty-one months together, the members of my team realized that we all had different bandwidths, and we learned to focus on our personal strengths and leverage those strengths in our projects throughout the program. For a great team experience, it’s most important that the members share the same values. You can get through all the ‘storming and norming’ and succeed if everything you do is anchored in common values.”
Viren’s greatest achievements since graduating from the program are both professional and personal. “For my business consulting project in the program, I deconstructed and then reconstructed the way we train anesthesiologists in Ontario - moving it from a time-based model to a competency-based model.” In doing so, the training process can become more efficient. Throughout the rest of Canada, anesthesiologists are trained over five years; however in Ottawa, due to Viren’s business consulting project, anesthesiologists will be trained in just four years. His suggested training model has been approved by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada as well as the Ministry of Health, and this year the first cohort started the new four year training process.
On a personal level, Viren has been trying to focus more on his family and ensure he’s being the best Dad he can be. “After being a bit absent for the 2 year MBA program, it gives me immense satisfaction to serve as a hockey coach for my son’s team. If I can show up for my son’s hockey twice a week, go skating with my daughter and play ball hockey on the driveway with them both, then I think it’s an objective measure that I must be achieving more balance in my life.”
Deputy Chief Information Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada
Trudeau Medalist Recipient, 2016Read More
Going Back to School Propelled this Alumnus’ Career Forward
By 2005 Dave Adamson had served in several Director General roles in the public service. He was eager to continue advancing his career when the Public Service Commission passed a policy stating all EX level employees of the federal government required a degree. Dave had never been a fan of school however it was clear to him that in order to progress his career he would need to return to the classroom.
Dave enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA Program having the support of his family and his CIO at that time. The decision to apply to the Telfer Executive MBA Program was easy for him as he wanted a local experience and one that would provide him with face-to-face exchanges with professors and peers. Dave’s experience in the classroom was a positive one. He immediately found value in the skills he learned while in the program implemented them in real-time into his workplace.
The team environment was also an asset. Dave was assigned to work with a team for the twenty-one months of the program that was diverse and they functioned well together. “The team I was in had similar expectations around grades and what we wanted from the program which allowed all of us to form good relationships and communicate openly with one another” says Dave.
The practical component allowed Dave to become more efficient and leverage frameworks and models to better prepare for new roles. “Upon entering the Telfer Executive MBA Program, I considered myself a good practioner. I could learn how to do everything a job required eventually. Academic learning is like a short-cut – you learn how to do everything a job requires except much more quickly. Then you have to marry the two – take the theories and concepts you learn at school and apply them to the work you are doing in you’re career.” One example of how Dave strived to do this was by tackling one of the six business consulting projects (BCP) in the Program that he hoped would benefit not only himself but others in the public service. “For my Individual BCP, I focused my research on creating a model for decision making in the government. I still use my research today.” Another example was and continues to be Dave’s involvement in the Program’s Innovation and Entreprenurship trip to Silicon Valley. “I love the Silicon Valley trip; I enjoy being a part of the entrepreneurship environment that exists there. I have traveled on this trip four times and I continue gaining ideas from this environment and bringing them back to Ottawa.”
Presently the Deputy CIO for Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Dave positively remembers his Telfer Executive MBA experience. “I took away great friendships and skills from the Program; the Executive MBA transformed my career, not just by helping me advance my career but by giving me the skills and tools to do my day-to-day work more efficiently. I’m very proud of the career trajectory I’ve had since completing the MBA; CIO of Justice Canada, then of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and now Deputy CIO for Treasury Board. I am a part of the leaders in government which contribute to ideas and projects that make a difference in peoples’ lives. Beyond the skills that you learn in the Program, there’s the adaptability component – taking the skills and theories you learn in class, adapting and implementing them in your work place – this is what truly makes someone successful in their career.”
“Absolutely, I would” says Dave without hesitation when asked if he would take the Executive Program again if he could do things over. “You have to be realistic around the demands of the Program. You have to find the time to do the work that is involved. For me, my job was very demanding while I was studying in the Program so I got up at 3:00 a.m. most days in order to complete the assignments and work that was due for the Program. They were long days but that schedule worked for me. The Telfer Executive MBA Program pushes you; it makes you realize what you are truly capable of achieving.”
Chief Quality Officer, Alcatel-Lucent
This Alumnus Took his Technical Skills to the Frontline in Business
Upon entering the Telfer Executive MBA in 1999, Ravi Parmasad had a solid background in math and computer science as well as a career in database administration for Newbridge. A year into the program, Newbridge was bought by Alcatel and Ravi was promoted to Leader of eBusiness Architecture. While in this position, Ravi became very curious about how the business was run; how did it all work? He could spend 20 years with the company and learn the mechanics of it or he could go back to school and gain a theoretical understanding of how a business should be run. A general baseline of business knowledge was what Ravi wanted and so his journey with the Telfer Executive MBA began.
The first noticeable thing about the Program for Ravi was the environment and how conducive it was to learning. “The Program made it easy to come to class and learn; easy for everything to co-exist.” He found the quality of the Professors to be exceptional and due to Ravi’s background, he connected immediately with many of the quantitative Professors in the Program. “Financial Accounting, International Finance, Strategy and Statistics were high points for me. I was so curious about these subject areas”.
Ravi completed the Program with the skills he was hoping to gain: strategic thinking, leadership, analytics and knowledge of various management styles. “From the Program, I learned that there is no one right answer in business; there are a lot of judgement calls that are made based on research and input from qualified individuals. I learned that it’s ok to question yourself – do I have all the data to make a good decision? Throughout the Program, I also received a good framework to analyze my personal leadership style. I felt the Program provided me with the tools to do whatever kind of analysis I needed to do. Another big take away for me was self awareness. I learned to think about the grand scheme of things.”
Shortly after graduating from the Program, Ravi was made the Director, Business Operations at Alcatel. “This was the tipping point for me. Why would an organization hire a technical guy in a frontline business role? I wouldn’t have made the short list for this position without having completed the Executive MBA.” While in the Program, Ravi didn’t realize the significance of this critical decision he made by enrolling in the MBA Program. Presently, Chief Quality and Environment Health and Safety (EHS) Officer for Alcatel Lucent, Ravi says it was the decision to enroll and complete the Program that has had the largest impact on his career.
For individuals considering an MBA, Ravi gives this piece of advice: “Do it for the right reasons. What do you want from the Program? If you can’t answer that question then it’s not for you.” To begin thinking about the answer to what you want from the Program, Ravi suggests considering the gaps you’re trying to fill in your career. “I wanted to learn how businesses function – that was my gap and the MBA could fill that gap for me.”
On why Ravi chose the Telfer Executive MBA Program over other Programs; Ravi’s says with a laugh – “Is there another one?” On why Ravi chose the Telfer Executive MBA Program over other Programs; Ravi’s says with a laugh – “Is there another one?”
Co-Founder, Rubear Insurance
Forty under 40 Recipient, 2005Read More
From a Consumer of Technology to an Innovator: This Alumnus is Pursuing his Dream
As a Financial Advisor and former Director of Business Development at Desjardins Financial Security, Rudi Asseer was contemplating a different prospective; a challenge; specific skills to use in his career. He decided an MBA would provide him with all of these things. He enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA Program in the fall of 2012; he already felt at home in the Telfer environment having participated in The Leadership Forum in 2010.
“One of the things that captured my interest about the Telfer Executive MBA curriculum was the six consulting projects. I like that the Program connects itself organically back to the community through its projects” says Rudi. The project that resonated most with Rudi was the Innovation and Entrepreneurship project where he and his teammates engaged in a consulting project for a company based in Silicon Valley. This project and trip provided Rudi with the opportunity to dive into technology and gain hands-on experience working with a start-up company.
Now having completed the Program, Rudi is humbled by the experience. “I am still discovering what the MBA journey has been for me. “I am amazed at how transformed I feel. I have more energy; I feel an immense sense of personal growth; I feel enhanced. I definitely have a more in-depth knowledge in many subject areas such as Finance, Change Management, Strategy etc. but I learned a lot about myself through the Program. I learned to become a better communicator; I write and speak more effectively; I manage relationships more carefully. Lastly, the complexity of problems that I can now tackle are far greater and rewarding than before I entered the Program” admits Rudi. “I feel a greater level of comfort in problem solving and making decisions for complex scenarios.”
Feeling confident in making decisions proved to be a skill that Rudi would have to exercise immediately after graduating. Rudi was contemplating the start of his own company when 2 job offers landed in his lap. One offer was from the company he and his group consulted for on the Innovation and Entrepreneurship project in NYC and the other offer came from a Fortune 100 technology firm in the US. Rudi was torn between all the doors that were open for him and spent a good deal of time reflecting on what door he should walk through for the next phase of his career. In the end, he chose to chase his own dream. “The Telfer Executive MBA Program enhanced my career path and what I learned about myself through the Program provided me with clarity on what I really wanted to do. I had experienced large corporate cultures prior to the MBA and lived in the shoes of a start-up company while in the Program and finally decided I wanted to carve my own path and start a local company.”
In August 2014, Rudi Co-Founded his company: Rubear Insurance. The company aims to provide Canadians with a safe and professional environment to get the life and health insurance coverage they need through friendly engagement technology. “Before taking the Program, I was a consumer of technology; now I am an innovator of technology. If anyone told me I would be creating and developing technology as a career…I just never would have believed them” says Rudi. “The personal and professional transformation I have gone through in the Telfer Executive MBA Program is huge. It’s an intangible asset of the Program that you cannot put into a brochure because there are no words to describe it.”
Assistant Deputy Minister & Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Management and Services Sector, Natural Resources Canada
This alumna committed to enjoy the ride
Having worked in the Public Service for 31 years, Kami Ramcharan had a good set of skills that she could draw on in her career however she realized that an MBA would provide her with additional qualifications which could give her credibility across the organization. The MBA was also a great opportunity to broaden her network. Kami was looking for a Program that would provide a good balance between course work, real world experience and team work and found it in the Telfer Executive MBA Program. “I researched a few different schools and determined that the Telfer Executive MBA provided the best flexibility for my schedule allowing me to continue working full time as well as go back to school. I liked the design of the curriculum and the real world experience offered through the International Trip".
Kami particularly enjoyed the team work in the Program. She felt that working in a small group through the intensive 21 month program helped her develop a thicker skin and that of her teammates. At the end of the Program, she was proud to see how she and her teammates had grown as individuals because of the experience. The highlight of the Program for Kami was the class’s International trip to South Korea - “The exposure to doing business internationally was outstanding; I never would have had this experience otherwise.”
Kami credits the Telfer Executive MBA program with giving her a new-found confidence in everything she does, along with expanding her network, developing new and lasting friendships, providing her with additional qualifications relevant for any professional whether they work in the private, not-for-profit or public sectors. “The Telfer Program taught me a lot about successful leadership. Many of us in the Program were Type A personalities and Type A’s do very well on their own. Through the Program, I learned how to get a team to do well by living through all the group work” says Kami.
Currently the Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Management and Services Sector for Natural Resources Canada, Kami says she wouldn't have been considered for the role had she not completed her MBA. Having the degree has served her well by rounding out her accounting designation, business skills, understanding of business terminology and teaching her to reflect on the intellectual side of decision making. Kami comments: “I definitely have a more critical eye specifically in dealing with issues on strategy, managing people and seeking out efficiencies. These are all skills I learned about in the Program.”
While Kami expected many things from the Program, she points out one she did not expect: “What was really an unexpected benefit of the Program is how much I learned from my classmates. Their professional experiences were a fundamental part of my learning in the Program. The discussions in class and our work in small teams enabled us to leverage each other’s expertise and different perspectives.”
For anyone considering the Telfer Executive MBA Program, Kami’s advice is: “to be prepared for a fundamental, life changing experience. If you think you know what it’s all about, it’s actually going to be more; intellectually more, socially more, emotionally more. Don’t get too caught up in the day to day; commit to enjoying the ride and keep your mind wide open so you can learn from everything – it’s a process, a journey.”
Vice President, Canada Border Services Agency
In His Journey to Acquire a C-Level Position, This Alumnus Says the Telfer Executive MBA Program Equipped Him for the Challenges
Before the Telfer Executive MBA, Maurice Chénier worked in the technology field with responsibilities in the areas of portfolio management, large-scale project management and sourcing strategies. His long-term professional goal was to achieve a C-level role and he felt that pursuing an MBA would help him get there. Within a year of completing his MBA at Telfer, Maurice attained his goal and then some when he became CIO of Public Works and Government Services Canada. Since then he has transitioned to CEO at Public Works and Government Services Canada, to Senior Assistant Deputy Minister at Shared Services Canada and presently Vice-President, Information, Science and Technology Branch at Canada Border Services Agency. In his current role, Maurice is responsible for all transformation IT- enabled projects and technology innovation and deployment that is required at our Canadian borders, including science and engineering behind the required detection and forensics analysis and research technologies. His team consists of more than 1400 employees and supports key industry consultants in various professional domain fields.
Fourteen years after graduating from the Executive MBA Program, Maurice says he uses the toolkit he gained from the Program on a regular basis: “There are many skills I learned in the Program from strategy to problem solving, the human dimension of change to risk management and many more. All of these skills created a new toolkit for me and I continue to use it in my job every day. I am able to bridge business opportunities with business solutions and it is the body of knowledge that I learned in the Program that enables me to do this by being able to look at issues from many different angles.” Over and above the toolkit he received, Maurice also credits the Executive MBA Program with the development of his network. “The diversity of the people in my class provided more learning opportunities for me and my classmates became new contacts for my professional network. My group alone consisted of myself (background in technology), a CFO, a senior consultant, an ex-military executive, a pharmacist and other great business leaders. The caliber of the people is amazing and the camaraderie of the class is beyond any other traditional academic experience. The benefits of these relationships continue long after the Program ends.” Maurice says he still stays in close touch with several of his classmates as well as a few of his Professors and these connections have become his long-term network of knowledge. Since many of these contacts work outside of his industry, they help provide different perspectives or expert advice when he requires it.
Some of the best experiences in the Program for Maurice include the professors and how current their knowledge is in their particular domain; the quality of the program logistics; the staff’s client focus; and finally the international trip. “The trip comes at the end of the Program and it is the culminating aggregation of all the knowledge and practical experiences you have learned in the Program,” says Maurice.
Now leading a highly visible program that has major national security and economic impacts as Vice-President, Information, Science and Technology, Maurice credits the Executive MBA Program for giving him the tools to excel in a high-paced, changing environment. Maurice reflects on his experience and concludes: “The Telfer Executive MBA Program is a performance imperative”.
National Director, Community Affairs, TELUS
Working Hard Pays off For This Alumna Earning Great Results
When Shannon Gorman, Class of 2007, entered the Telfer Executive MBA Program, she had a great deal of experience in fundraising, in particular for the not-for-profit sector. She would have never guessed that after graduating from the Program 21 months later, she would land a position at TELUS heading up their community investment activities in Ottawa, and then progressed onto becoming their Director of the Eastern Canada Community Affairs and now the National Director of Community Affairs.
Shannon credits alumni Jim Orban, Jack Kitts and Linda Eagen for encouraging her to consider her MBA with the Telfer School. While she admits that the first semester of the Program was a difficult adjustment for her, soon after, Shannon credits alumni Jim Orban, Jack Kitts and Linda Eagen for encouraging her to consider her MBA with the Telfer School. While she admits that the first semester of the Program was a difficult adjustment for her, soon after, she quickly settled into the routine of classes, homework and group meetings. Now reflecting on her experience in the Program, Shannon comments on how her MBA journey prepared her for her current role at TELUS. “The Executive MBA helped me understand hard skills such as finance, accounting and strategic communications. The latter was especially helpful because it taught me how to communicate with different people in different ways. I used this skill right away in our team meetings recognizing that we could have spirited conversations and still find a way to get things done. It’s a great consensus building exercise that lasts the entire 21 months of the program.”
Hard skills are only part of what is learned in the Program; candidates are presented with many challenges that call on them to make use of their soft skills as well. “The soft skills were unexpected,” says Shannon. Learning to deal with difficult people as well as becoming more comfortable with having difficult conversations have been very helpful.” Much of what is taught in the Program in the area of soft skills not only provides insight on how to deal with others, it demands the candidates learn more about themselves. “While taking the Program, I was confronted with my strengths and weaknesses as an individual and learned how to be ok with them. I immediately took this skill back to my job – asking for help in areas that I found challenging and offering help in areas where I excelled” says Gorman.
The Program helped Shannon transition from the not-for-profit sector to the corporate world. Skills such as financial and strategic communication directly impact her current role at TELUS where she manages an annual budget of roughly $31 million dollars; leads a team of 14 personnel and is responsible for 11 Community Boards in Canada as well as 3 abroad. “The greatest achievement I’ve made since graduating from the Program is my job at TELUS. I feel blessed to have a position in a company that places so much emphasis on corporate philanthropy and I would not have been considered for this role without an MBA,” says Shannon. Her greatest take away from her MBA experience: “confidence,” says Gorman. “I learned there are no limits. If you’re passionate, committed, dedicated and you work really hard, you will get results.”
On taking her MBA at the Telfer School, Shannon says she really feels it is the best program because it’s well rounded - exposing candidates to both soft and hard skills and giving them an opportunity to use both in the classroom, in team meetings and in projects with real clients. “The business projects in both India and Silicon Valley gave us real global experience. They were phenomenal opportunities to learn how to do business internationally and overcome cultural barriers. The conversations in class were always stimulating. I learned almost as much from my classmates as I did from the textbooks and lectures. Our class connected really well – we became like a family. The support and encouragement you get throughout the Program is amazing – from your classmates, the Professors, the support staff – it’s all there.”
Associate Director, Strategic Planning, Bell Canada
This alum has learned to define her personal and professional priorities
Caterina Barraco has spent the past 17 years of her career with Bell Canada. Presently, as Associate Director of Strategic Planning, defining the strategy and plans for the architecture and operations of Bell Business Markets is her primary focus.
After being with the company for several years, Caterina wanted to move her career forward and began entertaining the idea of going back to school. Having a background in science, she felt she needed to improve her business lexicon. Knowing that she wanted to stay local, she enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA Program.
Caterina admits that the workload of the program could be challenging however she was part of a team that had a great dynamic. “Our team decided from the beginning that we were taking the Executive MBA program to learn as much as we could. We didn’t focus on the specific marks we received, or personal egos and needs, but rather maximizing our learning experience.”
While working with her Executive MBA team was a definite highlight for Caterina, she also remembers the tremendous sense of accomplishment she felt throughout the program. Various courses in the program are a short duration – “...we would begin a course and 6 weeks later it would be finished including all of the readings, assignments and often a presentation/exam. I was amazed at the productivity that occurred in only 6 weeks’ time – it’s impressive what you can achieve.”
Caterina believes that a real benefit of the Telfer Executive MBA Program is that it not only touches on all aspects of business but it provides you with the chance to step back and really think about your career interests. “The program gives you the chance to confirm your likes and dislikes in the various areas of business. If you are able to keep an open mind when taking the courses, it really allows you a safe place to validate your interests without having to do a big career move.”
Moving her career forward was the main reason she enrolled in the Executive MBA program and while she admits that since graduating in 2008, the degree has opened doors for her at work, the program also helped her define her personal priorities. “It’s really important that you ask yourself why you’re investing the effort. I have a better understanding of what I will and will not sacrifice in order to achieve a professional goal.”
As her career continues to unfold at Bell Canada, Caterina is undertaking another project with her sister. “We’re starting a business together; we’re currently in the business planning stage but it’s been fun. She’s an engineer, and focused on the tools and architecture, while I provide the business sense as an MBA graduate.”
President and CEO, MaxSys Staffing and Consulting
How Losing a Job for this Alumnus Paved the Way to the Start of his Own Company
Bryan Brulotte, Executive MBA Class of 1995 is currently the President and CEO of MaxSys Staffing and Consulting and the story of how this came to be is not what one might expect. After graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada, Bryan spent eleven years with the Armed Forces. At the age of 28, he became the Deputy Chief to the Federal Minister for the Conservative Party. Six months into this position, the party lost and Bryan found himself out of a job. After three months of soul searching, Brulotte came to a conclusion: “No one would hire me in government because I had been a Deputy Chief for the losing Conservative party and no one would hire me in the corporate world because I’d been a Deputy Chief for the losing Conservative party so I decided to turn my attention to small business.”
At the time, Bryan was enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA Program and the idea of starting his own business interested him. He began having discussions with a high-end staffing company who were looking to hire an individual to run a ‘side arm’ to their business. “In the beginning, building the company meant 18 hour days which consisted of me making phone call after phone call and banging on people’s doors” says Brulotte. “But after the first full year the business was in operation, it had 2 million in revenue.”
Previously, while working within the government, Bryan was interested in doing his MBA to gain business operation tools and to build his credentials while he continued to work. “I’m an Ottawa boy. I wanted to put roots down here so the location of the Executive MBA Program at the University of Ottawa worked well for me.” In the year 2000, with his MBA under his belt Bryan decided he would take another crack at a role in government. He sold his shares in the staffing company so he could run for public office for a Federal MP position. Unfortunately he lost in 2001. His decision was to go back to the staffing agency and start again. Using all his previous experience to draw on, he created what MaxSys is today; a business generating 80 million dollars of revenue a year.
While doing the Executive MBA, Bryan developed an initial business plan for a national staffing company for his summer Individual Business Consulting Project. Currently Brulotte’s company is on track to be one of the top three staffing companies in Canada within the two years and if all goes according to his plan his company will be on top in five years’ time. “Whenever you reach a crisis point in life or at work and you have to make the decision to stick with it or move on; I say stick with it. Don’t let go” says Brulotte.
Caroline Ishii is a brilliant example of how passion, determination, and talent can combine with the business skills taught in the Telfer Executive MBA program to result in a wildly successful business venture. After working for over 20 years in senior marketing and communication roles, Caroline took a substantial risk to follow her lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. Caroline ran her own consulting business for a few years, following her graduation from the Telfer Executive MBA program in 2001, before deciding to enroll in a professional chef program in New York City. She went on to study in the United States and Japan after the program, and returned to take on the role of Owner and Executive Chef of ZenKitchen.
Caroline’s vision for ZenKitchen was to create “a company that would offer delicious and beautiful food that was healthy and sustainable, both in its food and its business practices”. She is realizing her vision for creating a successful restaurant given that ZenKitchen had received numerous awards such as “Best New Restaurant of the Year” awarded by the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association and “Top Restaurant Choices in Ottawa” mentioned by the Lonely Planet Guide.
Her primary objective for pursuing the Telfer Executive MBA program was to contribute to her career in marketing and communications. Instead, Caroline used the skills she learned to enter the culinary world. “The education I received from the Telfer Executive MBA enabled me to create the business plan and financial documents I needed to speak to bankers, investors and the community about my vision and needs”, says Caroline. “I believe the Executive MBA provided a good platform for my career change and for fulfilling my vision of owning a successful restaurant.”
As a chef, Caroline was the first female chef asked to compete in the prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition in support of Canada’s Olympic athletes. She competed in 2010 and 2011 where she won silver for both years. Caroline and her partner/co-owner Dave Loan have also been featured on a 13-part documentary-reality series called “The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave”, which has aired on the W network, the Asian Food Channel, and most recently on the OWN Network.
“My life has completely changed from what it was before I joined the Telfer Executive MBA program, I have a completely new direction and career”, says Caroline.
Founder, Marlene-Ink Inc.
On November 18th of 2009, Marlene Thicke launched her new business, Marlene-Ink Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in graphic facilitation and recording. She works with public, private and not-for-profit sectors during conferences, workshops and meetings to capture “a moment-by-moment blend of inspiring imagery and visual metaphors in real-time.” Her motto, “Help people see what they say,” represents the full sensory experience that she provides through her work.
Marlene credits the Telfer Executive MBA as the springboard for her career. Throughout the program, Marlene was able to round out her strategic thinking, learn various business tools that could be applied to critical assessment in the workplace, and gain access to leaders that she would have otherwise never met. During the program her interests in human dynamics and emotional intelligence led her to become a certified practitioner of Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator and Neurolinguistic Programming. Most importantly, the Telfer EMBA provided her with the framework and tools that are the basis for her new consulting business.
Prior to undertaking her Executive MBA, Marlene worked for Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) where she focused primarily on performance measurement, strategic planning, and IT systems development. Nowadays, when she isn’t the Chief Doodler at Marlene-Ink, she is a Strategic Advisor with the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) where she continues to utilize the skills she gained through the Telfer Executive MBA.
As Marlene moves forward to an exciting new phase of her life, she is equally excited about the opportunity to give back to the Telfer Executive MBA. She looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead and the chance to graphically record dialogue in order to convene people around a common story, leading to group growth and a shared understanding of the way forward.
Former CEO, Valydate Inc.
Forty under 40 Recipient, 2009Read More
The Telfer Executive MBA opens doors, but it’s the maturity and growth from it that lets you walk through that door
National Business Manager, HEAD Canada Inc.
The Telfer Executive MBA pushes you to new limits in a protected team environment. The result is a newly found greater sense of confidence both personally and professionally.
Founder and Board Member at iSisters
Trudeau Medalist Recipient, 2012; Forty under 40 Recipient, 2010Read More
Cathy Lewis believes that education is the most important investment we can make, whether at the personal, professional, or community level. She firmly believes education has the power to make the world a better place.
With undergraduate degrees in Literature and Psychology, a Bachelor of Education, and an MBA, Cathy is the epitome of education.
In 2001, Cathy became the founder of iSisters Technology Mentoring Inc., a charitable organization that provides underprivileged women with the opportunity to receive training in technology, opening the door to job opportunities and financial independence. The organization has had phenomenal success, receiving national awards and recognitions from the community. In 2019, 3000 women will have graduated through their 14 technology learning programs in Ottawa.
From 1998 to 2007, Cathy was a groundbreaking education technology consultant working with organizations like Microsoft, Public Works GSC and NASA. Finding herself in male-dominated meetings and dealing with increasingly technical projects, Cathy felt a growing need to better understand more aspects of business and further establishing her credentials. In addition, Cathy felt she deserved an investment in herself and her future. In 2005, she enrolled in the Telfer Executive MBA.
The academic challenge was unparalleled. An avid learner, Cathy loved knowing nothing about a subject – such as Supply Chain Management – and then having a thorough understanding of it only a couple of months later. Much of what she experienced in the program was brand new and the knowledge left her with feelings of confidence and invincibility as well as new life-ling best friends. Cathy has been a proud and active alumni representation for her class since graduation.
After graduation, Cathy worked as the Business Excellence lead with Abbott (health care and manufacturing). In this role, Cathy led Lean Six Sigma, Shingo, Global Environmental, Health and Safety as well as ambitious apprenticeship programs which resulted in 382 graduates. She also created customized learning plans with 28 colleagues where they earned their high school diploma. After that, Cathy was the Director, Program Management Office (PMO) and Employee Communications with the Royal Canadian Mint. Cathy’s academic and professional experiences have culminated to consulting where she specializes in education and strategy as well as active volunteering with organizations such as iSisters and Habitat for Humanity.
Her greatest achievement? Hiring a graduate of the iSisters program to become a Program Manager, working onsite in the community, teaching new Canadian women about the power of technology and education.
President & CEO, The Ottawa Hospital
Trudeau Medalist Recipient, 2016Read More
“Telfer’s Executive MBA Program not only provided me with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in today’s competitive business environment, it gave me confidence to apply them to “real-life” management issues in my own organization – literally the next business day. Although this “theory-to-practice” approach is pervasive throughout the course, the benefits to both candidate and employer are most evident in the summer project where I had the opportunity to build on my new business skills and knowledge, by completing an important management project in my own organization”
VP Human Resources, General Dynamics Canada
Jane McVeigh was a 2008 recipient of the Ottawa Business Woman of the Year award due to her work as Vice-President of Human Resources for General Dynamics Canada Ltd., a company specializing in defense technology. In April 2009, Jane joined past recipients at the awards gala to celebrate the accomplishments of herself and other strong business women in the community. Jane described the event as a humbling experience as she joined a group of “acclaimed, successful, and socially responsible women”.
Jane has spent her entire career in Human Resources (HR) and has been in her current role at General Dynamics since 1999. Throughout her career, she has been a strong advocate of learning and, when she began to discover limits in her understanding of business, Jane sought out an opportunity to expand her business acumen. At the recommendation of her colleague, David Ibbetson of the Class of 2002, Jane decided to enroll in the Telfer Executive MBA. Her goal in the Program was to become a better executive and increase her value to her company, to become more effective at what she did – and loved to do.
Her goal was achieved as her relatively myopic view of business was stretched, allowing the development of richer strategies for General Dynamics and a whole new personal appreciation for business issues. “The general business learning you get [in the Telfer EMBA] makes you even more valuable within your specialty,” said Jane. Now, in every decision, Jane has increased the factors she takes into account and her knowledge has made her a valued and relied upon person for issues within and outside of HR.
As Jane continues to promote growth at General Dynamics, she looks back fondly on her time in the EMBA. Since her graduation in 2004, she relishes the relationships she has established with fellow alumni. She is continuously benefitting from both the academic and personal growth that was accomplished during her studies with Telfer.