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Career Advancement for Women: Pursuing an Executive MBA

– Two women working and looking over business documents

In today’s competitive professional landscape, continuous learning and skill development are essential for career advancement. For women like Carole Breton and Danielle St-Aubin, enrolling in an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program has proven to be a transformative journey, opening doors to new opportunities, and enhancing both personal and professional growth.

With 30 years of experience in communications, Carole Breton, found herself at a crossroads in her career. Despite her impressive work experience, she felt that her lack of a university degree was limiting her career opportunities and advancement. Recognizing the need to enhance her qualifications without interrupting her career, she turned to the Telfer Executive MBA program. Similarly, Danielle St-Aubin, already a senior manager, identified gaps in her knowledge and knew that pursuing an EMBA was crucial for her career progression. While they could see the personal growth and opportunities that the program would provide, even before submitting their application, they knew that time management and the academic rigour of the program would be two significant challenges. 

Juggling full-time work, household responsibilities, and raising children presented significant time management challenges. As a single mother, Carole employed various strategies to balance home, work, and school. This approach allowed her to maximize the available hours in each day to spend some time with her children, while still being able to complete assignments and readings. Furthermore, she strategically managed her vacation days, opting to work four days a week, even during weeks when she didn't have classes. This arrangement provided her with a full day that she could dedicate to schoolwork and attending to household responsibilities. Reflecting on her experience, she admits that “my journey through the EMBA program was far from easy or glamorous, but I wouldn't change a thing, because it taught me that I can handle far more than I thought I could.”

Carole Breton, Telfer Executive MBA Graduate 2021 speaking confidently at workBoth women had concerns about the program's academic requirements. Carole, lacking a strong math background, anticipated challenges with statistics and accounting courses. Similarly, Danielle, not considering herself a 'math person,' shared the same concern. She wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to manage all the finance and accounting courses on top of all the other classes in the program. While succeeding in these courses still took a significant amount of personal effort, both women quickly realized that within this program, they had become part of a very supportive and tight-knit community. The professors, in addition to delivering classes also acted as mentors and were available to answer questions and provide assistance. Perhaps more importantly, within the cohort, there were candidates who had statistics and accounting backgrounds that both women were able to leverage for help and support. Conversely, Carole and Danielle, with their experience in communications and marketing were able to assist other candidates – in their respective cohorts –, many of whom did not have experience in those aspects of business. This close collaboration between candidates as well as professors not only helped them throughout the program but has also created an invaluable network of professional colleagues and friends who remain in touch to this day.

The Telfer Executive MBA experience not only addressed their academic aspirations but also provided a platform for practical application. Assignments and group work that required them to take on various roles, sometimes well outside their comfort zone, enabled them toDanielle St-Aubin, Telfer Executive MBA Graduate 2014 and Former CEO of Tree Canada standing by a tree develop leadership skills and teamwork in a supportive environment. In addition, real-world case studies that required them to engage with outside business and industries ensured that the program was not just an academic exercise but provided a wide foundation of experience and knowledge that they could apply in their full-time jobs. Danielle, as Vice President of Communications and Marketing for a non-profit organization, utilized her EMBA learnings to enhance an existing project at work, leading to unprecedented success. Carole found herself excelling in high-level discussions and decision-making processes at work, thanks to the newfound confidence and business acumen gained from the program. In the second year of the program, she took on a new role at the University of Ottawa as a Marketing and Communications Associate Director with the Vice Rectorate International and Francophonie. A year and nine months later, she interviewed and was hired as the Vice Rector of Governance and Secretary General at Saint Paul University, a C-Suite role in Academia.

Both women entered the EMBA program to enable career advancement opportunities for themselves. Danielle states, “To put it simply, the EMBA opened doors and allowed me to become the CEO of a national non-profit. I am convinced that this would not have happened without having gone through the program for two reasons: first an MBA is a recognized academic accomplishment and helps to develop you into a well-rounded leader. Secondly, the program gave me a level of confidence that allowed me to push past my boundaries. Honestly, once I had gotten through it, I knew I was capable of anything I wCarole Breton, Telfer Executive MBA Graduate 2021 at a Saint Paul University work event dressed in her Vice Rector robeanted to do.”

The impact of the EMBA extended beyond career advancement; it was a catalyst for profound personal transformations. Danielle highlighted the invaluable skill of performing under pressure, a competence honed during the rigorous demands of the EMBA, “I developed the skill of coping with difficult and challenging situations effectively. I cannot express how valuable that training was for me. I know it makes me a better leader.” Carole reflected on how the program instilled a sense of self-worth and confidence, allowing her to navigate both professional and personal interactions with poise and authenticity. She says, “When I started the EMBA program, I was concerned about all the things I was not. Through the program, I learned the many things that I am, the determination I have, and the value I bring in a leadership role.”

The Telfer Executive MBA journey empowered these women to redefine their capabilities, challenge their limitations, and embrace their identities as leaders. It provided them with the necessary tools to excel in dynamic environments, navigate complex challenges, and drive meaningful change within their organizations. Moreover, it reaffirmed their belief in their own potential, paving the way for continued growth and success in their careers.

As Carole Breton and Danielle St-Aubin exemplify, pursuing an Executive MBA offers women a pathway to professional fulfillment, personal empowerment, and leadership excellence. By investing in their education and skill development, women can unlock a world of career advancement opportunities, shatter glass ceilings, and shape the future of business and beyond.

*photos of Carole Breton, courtesy of Saint Paul University.

About the Author

Jennifer Hyland est chargée de promouvoir les relations du programme de MBA pour cadres avec le réseau de diplômés. Elle organise des activités de réseautage, aide à satisfaire les exigences liées aux anciens et assure la promotion de la participation des diplômés aux activités du MBA pour cadres. Parmi ses initiatives, notons le programme de recommandation du MBA pour cadres de l'École Telfer, qui vise à favoriser les discussions entre les anciens et les candidats éventuels sur l'expérience du programme. Mme Hyland agit en tant qu'agent de liaison avec l'Association des anciens du MBA pour cadres. Elle est également responsable du premier des deux voyages à l'étranger, soit à Silicon Valley, et de la préparation des activités de convocation et du forum sur le leadership. Diplômée de l'Université d'Ottawa, elle détient un baccalauréat ès arts avec spécialisation en anglais et mineure en arts de la scène, de même qu'un baccalauréat en éducation.<br/><br/>Jennifer’s role is to establish and to maintain the Executive MBA Program’s relationship with its alumni by way of building networking opportunities, supporting employment search, promoting participation of alumni, managing the alumni database, maintaining communications with alumni, assisting in planning and implementing alumni activities, as well as supporting the fundraising efforts for the Telfer Executive MBA Initiative Fund. Her other duties include supporting the Director on special projects, managing the convocation and overseeing the Telfer Executive MBA Referral Program. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in English and a minor in Theatre Arts as well as a Bachelor of Education.

Profile Photo of Jennifer Hyland