As a challenging and rewarding week draws to a close here in the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, the Class of 2018 finally has the time to reflect on what an incredible journey these past 21 months has been. The first session of the Business Mathematics Preparation Workshop in the summer of 2016 literally feels like it was yesterday and yet so much has transpired for us, both personally and professionally, since that first indoctrination to the program.
It is fascinating to reflect on our initial goals for program and the strategic career pivots that some of us have experienced in the last two years. While some were certain of their eventual return to either the public or private sector – nearly half of the program has made a complete transformation in their career path. For example, a lifelong public servant is now in the C-suite of a private company, a once devout IBMer is now with Amazon and a lifelong soldier is transitioning to the private sector. Beyond professional development and growth, this has been a complete transformation for the entire cohort and once we heeded the advice of our professors to “trust the process”, the program did indeed deliver a refined group of strategic business leaders. Over the past 21 months we worked through demanding academic assignments, challenging team dynamics and real-world business projects as part of Telfer Executive MBA’s Signature Series of Six Business Consulting Projects.
In fact, what made this program unique was the hands-on learning experience of these business consulting projects which truly sets the Telfer Executive MBA apart from any other MBA program. From a global focus specifically of Ottawa to Silicon Valley to Ho Chi Minh for our cohort, the collective business acumen of the Class of 2018 has delivered tangible value to each of our clients. As we complete the program, each Executive MBA candidate will harness the experience of consulting for real clients – from the non-profit sector, to start-ups in Silicon Valley, and now to international companies embarking on exciting new business ventures, partnerships and market expansion opportunities in South East Asia. This opportunity for professional development is unparalleled in any other executive program, a key component of the Telfer brand.
Of course, the academic core of the program is the foundation of our learning platform, but when this is this combined with the qualitative and hands-on aspect offered by the program, the result is an intense and deep learning experience. This includes ‘live learning’ of client engagement, project management, small team dynamics and leadership and financial acumen. What the Telfer Executive MBA also teaches you is how to become a master of time management. Everyone in the Executive MBA program comes from a unique professional background and while the program is built to work around a busy schedule, the reality is that there is a significant amount of work, from team projects, individual assignments, team meetings, client meetings and mid-term and final exams. For most, taking on the challenge of this Executive MBA program meant making personal and professional sacrifices and compromises. Looking back, it is amazing to see the sheer complexity and quantity of the workload each of us had to manage in to meet the requirements of the program. But, at the same time, as we prepared for our journey Ho Chi Minh City, we felt that our potential was limitless.
The program encapsulated many ‘firsts’ into a brief 21 months and for many of us, this was our first foray into quantitative data and analytics. For others, this was their first opportunity to write extensively and to reflect on their personal and professional growth. At one point, we all commented that this program (or more aptly this process) was “an inch wide and a mile deep”. That is to say that while we were all experts in our respective fields, we had not been exposed to the world beyond our areas of expertise. Now that the process is nearly complete, we emerge “a mile wide and an inch deep” and we have been exposed to the strategic business landscape.
As we watch the sunset over the bustling Ho Chi Minh City landscape, each of us will continue to reflect on how much we have collectively achieved in the course of these last 21 months. But while this program comes to an end for us, at the same time our journey has only just begun; the last 21 months were fast and furious where life-long friendships have been forged and a new cohort of business consultants hit the busy streets of this global market.
A Nod to Professors
These past 21 months have seen a number of professors stand with us and feed our learning, but we would certainly be remiss if we did not mention some of the most memorable professors who helped shape our learning experience. Jamal Hejazi was our first contact with the program during the summer Business Mathematics Preparation Workshop. Jamal helped us navigate through a math refresher of our four years of high school math in four short weeks! For many of us who have relied on our “qualitative skills” over “quantitative skills” during our careers, a rapid re-introduction to calculus was a daunting challenge, but Jamal guided us with a steady hand, comical anecdotes and a serious understanding of the subject matter.
Some professors have the innate ability to challenge you to perform beyond your own perceived capabilities and Justin Ferrabee was one such professor. Each class was guided by relevant readings, but Justin always managed to push our mental boundaries to truly think strategically and introspectively. We effectively used the course content more as a tool to leverage our capability to think beyond his class and into the real world of a skilled strategic manager.
Data Analysis (4th year Statistics) was unquestionably the most terrifying endeavor of any non-engineer in the class. Pavel Andreev not only guided the non-quants seamlessly through the material – he also made a subject as innocuous as “data”, absolutely fascinating. Pavel was able to translate complex material in an engaging and dynamic manner that actually made seminars about p-hats captivating and interesting!
We recall the arrival of the Corporate Finance textbook immediately initiated concern amongst the cohort. Weighing in at an impressive 5.2lbs (just kidding), it was the largest textbook of the entire program. Fortunately, the program was blessed to have Derek Howe teaching the course. Derek combined his deep experience with an engaging, patient teaching style to effectively deliver the course content.
The modern business landscape is strategically guided by ethical decisions. Some schools of thought postulate that ethics cannot be taught – it is either innate or must be learned through experience in the field. Professor Daina Mazutis guided the cohort beyond textbooks and cases – and challenged us to consider ethics in every facet of business relationships, within the construct of corporate governance.
And the program wouldn’t have been complete without the insightful wisdom, deep experience and resilience of Sophia Leong, Jonathan Calof and Dana Hyde. All of which were beacons of hope as we navigated the very rough waters of business consulting. Grateful for their support and appreciative of their advice – all three are cornerstones to the program and their symbiotic relationship makes for the perfect pairing of business and academics.