The big day arrived for candidates of the Class of 2019. Their first day of official classes began on Friday August 18th with their two-day Orientation session.
Orientation was held off-site at the Brookstreet Hotel this year as the location of the Centre for Executive Leadership was in the stage of final touches before classes commence in September.
After a warm welcome from Executive Director, Sophia Leong, each candidate was provided with ‘two minutes in the spotlight’ to introduce themselves and tell a funny antidote about themselves. The only rule was it could not involve work – this was purely an exercise about themselves. The next hour was spent laughing with each other on personal experiences. These experiences ranged from skiing mishaps, passions for music and dance, thrill-seekers, sibling rivalries, and even an autobiography excerpt from a candidate that he had written in the sixth grade. Each story brought another bonding opportunity, moving the cohort from strangers to becoming peers.
The next step of meeting their new teams was an exciting yet anxious one for the group. The program's strong emphasis on teamwork and learning to work within a group environment meant that these peers would be their teammates for the next 21 months. Under the instruction of Professor Miles, the newly formed teams complete an exercise that was structured to familarize teams with the major milestones in each persons' lives.
Professor Lynn Davies had the cohort as well as their spouses out of their seats and learning about their preferences with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Session before sending the teams back to their breakout rooms to discuss how these preferences will influence their teams. Sophia and Lynn took this time to have a group session with the spouses on their important role in their partner's enrollment.
An official welcoming dinner was held Friday night and in true Telfer Executive MBA fashion the Class of 2019 and their spouses were greeted by the faculty, staff, candidates, and invited alumni with friendly faces and a great feast. They shared their meal while asking questions, passing on advice, and trading stories and information on classes.
Team formation exercises continued Saturday morning as candidates participating in numerous activities and learning how their individual styles would contribute to their teams' overall performance. This involved a learning exercise that put their teams in action – tower building! The competitive side of each member of the cohort could be seen in their eyes as Professor Miles completed the assessment process. There was crowding to see, nail-biting, negotiating, high fives and cheering as each tower was put to the test.
Former Class Presidents, Wendell Brown, EMBA 2016 and Mike Bell, EMBA 2017, joined the class for their lunch and passed on their advice to the incoming cohort as they had received from previous alumni, Danielle St-Aubin, EMBA 2014 and Dr. Viren Naik, EMBA 2015 at their own Orientation sessions.
The afternoon was spent learning about the case-study method. Case studies are used within many courses to provide the real-world dimension to a theory or discussion within the classroom. Candidates walked through the process of preparing for a case study individually, as a team and within class to learn how each level of preparation added to their learning and perspective of the case facts. It also drew out another benefit of diversified teams as individuals saw how their team members were able to provide a different perspective based on their own experiences and provided other solutions to the challenges.
The evening arrived and the day came to a close with a walk through of the first class day on September 8th and the semester ahead. It was time for the cohort to go home and reflect on the previous two days of intensive learning.
Special guests stopped by to meet the new cohort at the lunch breaks on both Friday and Saturday. Telfer Executive MBA alumni community members, Wendell Brown, Nyle Kelly and Julie Lupinacci from the Class of 2016 as well as Mike Bell from the Class of 2017 provided their new community members with words of wisdom and sound advice at each of the lunch breaks:
- Your choice to be here today is probably one of the best choices you’ve made in your life. "If you don’t see it now, you will certainly see it over the next two years," was the first piece of advice from Mike.
- "It's a tremendous opportunity." Wendell reassured them at the beginning of his talk, "Looking out at you now, if I knew what I know now when I was sitting where you are, it would all be excitement, there wouldn’t have been any anxiety."
- One of the biggest opportunities is the growth opportunity. "It’s like a puzzle." described Mike. Sometimes that you won’t see how it goes together at first but as the pieces begin to fit as you add to what you have learned, it will come together and you will see the whole picture. You will work with clients on fascinating projects and you will meet with people you never knew you could reach, and you will learn what you never thought you would learn.
- How you go into this program is not how you will come out of it. “Be open to the fact that you are going to change” noted Julie. The learning and relationships of this program will change you but you need to be willing and open to embrace the change.
- Learn to trust the process- even when you can’t see it. Julie came in thinking she already knew a lot. "I was pretty senior in my organization and I had a lot of experiences. I came in thinking ‘what am I actually going to get out of this program?” There will be times in first year where you will wonder why you need to learn this or why someone else is struggling when it looks easy to you. “Know that you will go through days where you ask these questions – some days will be exciting and some days will not- and trust the process.
- Collaboration is key. If you think that there is an award for the top mark, set that idea aside now. You will all get the same piece of paper in the end. You’ll be different people than you are now but it’s the same degree. The program is not structured to provide individual awards because they want you to collaborate. "Our class was collaborate right out of orientation, our groups started collaborating on day one... it was led by certain individuals as they shared information openly and the cohort carried with that momentum." recalled Wendell. "If one of the teams did something really well, it wasn’t felt that they beat us, it was the idea of 'that was cool' and you talked at the break with them to understand how they did that and learn. The question is, how are you going to collaborate?"
- Your new extended family. "You will never come across another program where the staff and faculty care so much about your success", described Mike. "It truly operates like a family. You will hear Sophia talk about family a lot and the Telfer Executive MBA family or community - it truly is." Its important right from the beginning to start looking at this program as if you are becoming a member of this bigger family; it will make for a really good experience.
- Importance of relationships. If you coming into the program just for the letters after your name, you are not doing yourself a service. Your success in this program is dependent on other people’s success. This is not just about being a good leader but also being a good follower and being a team player. This isn’t just about you, you truly have to be a team player and truly realize you that for you to succeed the people in your team need to succeed as well.
- Pace yourself! The Program is a lot of work and you have several competing commitments. You will have your academic commitments to yourself, your team and to the program. You will have commitments to your family. You will have commitments to your work. You will have commitment to yourself. When all these pressures come together, most of the time you will end up putting yourself last. This will wear on you. It is important to be healthy when in the program so take time for you. Figure out what is important to you and find a way to maintain that it whether it is physical, mental or spiritual.
- It is about you [too]. "You each have weaknesses, so focus on them. The program is set up as a sandbox for you." advised Wendell. "You are all in this to learn. Don’t take assignments where you are an [industry expert].
It is easier said than done. There are going to be situations where you are tired and you just want to get it done but have the strength to say to the team 'I need to strengthen this skill and I would like to be lead on this project' Try and fail, learn and move on.
- Enhance the experience of everyone. Make it as a personal goal to do things that are going to make the experience the better for each person, care for those in your class, pick them up when they need a lift, and help to get someone pass the roadblock. The team structure is put in place not just to manage workload but also it is about learning team dynamics. It’s a wonderful thing to learn, you’re in this structure to learn how teams work not to compete with each other.
- Teams. “Know that at one point in the program you are not going to like your team in the program,” says Julie. “There may be some negative feelings at some points, especially leading up to your first presentation, but that’s ok. There may be residual feelings after the deliverable and that’s ok as well, as long as you work through it, it can become productive if you work through it. The process is meant to go through it.” Be respectful of each person while having your eye always on a way to move forward. There is not 'voting' team members 'off the island' so find a way to help move it forward.
- This is a huge networking opportunity and it’s a huge job interview. When you look at your cohort there are many organizations represented and often a few cities - the world is a small place. Julie used this to help with her own career, “You will get to know these people very well, how they work, how they react, and manage situations and stress. I’ve turned to my cohort to work through my own work challenges so use this network.” Said Julie. “It is also a job interview. I had an opportunity to interview with [my current organization] and they wanted a 360 degree interview where they can talk to someone whom I’ve worked with and who I worked for but I didn’t want to let my own organization know that I was considering another job. You may not think that the back office are watching but they get to know you pretty intimately through the 21 months, so I called Sophia and asked if she be my reference for me. She said 'yes'. That good reference and having a Telfer Executive MBA alumni on the executive team at my new organization helped me to get this job.” The reputation of the program helps. “They know that it is a demanding requiring real consulting work and execution. They know that if you can go through this program and are being vouched for by one of the staff then they have a good potential employee on their hands.”
- You are going to get out of this program what you put into it. The program is designed that way. Wendell provided the Class of 2019 with an analogy:
"You have all bought a ticket on a flight for 21 months. Consider this analogy, You are about to fly for 14 hours from Toronto to Shanghai; 1. you can sit in the economy/coach section where the seats are cramped, the food is lousy and the person beside you doesn’t believe in personal hygiene or 2. you’re in business class, the food is better, you have room to stretch and you have your personal space, but there’s a delay in take off, oh well I’m comfy and can easily manage a delay/set-back 3. and then there’s first class where you don’t care if you ever get off that plane- it’s a special experience, it’s just incredible- you have everything you could ever need.
Remember that this program is not about the destination but it is about the journey. Each of you are in the departure lounge right now, ready to get on a 21 month flight. Where will you sit on this flight? You can sit in coach, you can push and have the business class experience, or you can have the incredible experience of first class.
I was sad that the plane was flying to land back in Canada after our International Business Consulting Trip to Shanghai, because the journey was going to end, so when you start classes do not ride this through, get out of this what you put into it - there is a direct correlation."