Alumni in Focus
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
Taking Technology to the Next Level
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
What You Put in is What You Get Out
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
Creative Law, Creative Clients
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
Love the Problem, not the Solution
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)
Transferring Business Communications Skills to Healthcare
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
Executive Director, Canadian Common CV at Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Raising the Bar
This Alumnus has Benefit from the Organic Growth of his Career
The independent consulting world was becoming more competitive and Kirill Popov knew he had to sharpen his skills in order to provide value to his clients. At the time he was a young professional with no children and felt it was the right time to pursue his MBA. Kirill applied to the Telfer Executive MBA; it was a local program, the curriculum was compelling, it had a good reputation and he felt he would come away with a stronger local network.
Kirill knew the time commitment of doing his MBA would be intense and the caliber of the education would be rigorous. He expected the curriculum and the professors of the program to be top notch and says he was not disappointed. “All of the components of the program that I expected were present. What I did not expect was how much I would learn through the group work. It is a bit tough in the beginning; it takes time for each group to settle. Working in a team throughout the program allowed me to experience different personalities, different backgrounds. My soft skills were honed as I learned to read people better, interact with them and to make compromises.”
The highlight of the program for Kirill was the final project and international trip. His class voted to travel to Barcelona, Spain. He also appreciates the network he gained through his connections with classmates and professors. “Over the years I have built a selective network of people I have come to trust. I go to this network for advice and support when necessary.”
Kirill reflects on his career as being one of organic growth. He moved from independent consulting to the not-for-profit sector where he worked as the Strategic Director of Technology and Electronic Communications for the Canadian Wood Council. Next he shifted to the public sector as Team Leader IM/IT Projects at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), then a Senior Project Manager for Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and finally worked in the Transformation Program Office (Integration and Coordination Dependency) at Shared Services Canada (SSC). Currently the Executive Director, Canadian Common CV at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Kirill says he has learned a lot through his experience working in different sectors.
For the past fifteen years, Kirill has taken up painting art outside of his professional career. I enjoy visual arts; it is an outlet for me; painting has no limits. Kirill paints and sells to international collectors mostly abstract and mixed media pieces and has his own online gallery which you can view here: http://www.kirillpopov.com/
Fifteen years after graduating from the Telfer Executive MBA Program, Kirill admits the program has been instrumental in his career. “I paid for the MBA myself and saw a return on my investment a year after graduating. It provided me with the necessary skills I needed in business; it provided me with a good local network and I learned a lot about how to work effectively in a team setting.” Kirill encourages anyone who is considering their MBA to take the time to understand the true sense of why you want to do it. “It needs to be about more than just the letters after your name.” Today, Kirill says he is focusing less on personal growth and more on giving back to others through coaching and mentoring. “Sharing what I’ve learned in my career with others is very gratifying for me.”
Vice-President, Education, The Ottawa Hospital
Blending Healthcare and Business
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
Realizing the Potential
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
Do it For the Right Reasons
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
Transformed Beyond Words
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
How can you Perform in a High-Paced,
Changing Business Environment without it?
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
There are No Limits
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
A Safe Place to Validate
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
When you Hit a Crisis Point in Life - Stick With It and Don't Let Go
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.
Chief Financial Officer, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Taking the Degree to a Higher Level
How the Telfer Executive MBA Program Continues to Prepare This Alumnus for the Rest of His Career
Before entering the Telfer Executive MBA Program, Doug Lloyd worked in the private sector as the President and CEO of Cambrian Consulting. His short-term objective was to further his education for business purposes but his ultimate goal was to obtain his PhD. After much research he felt the Telfer Executive MBA Program would allow him to do this. “I investigated several programs and in the end chose the Telfer Executive MBA because it had the key things I really wanted from a Program – practical, local to Ottawa, elements of academic/research in the program delivery and it had the capacity to take the degree to a higher level.”
Doug has fond memories of the time he spent in the Executive MBA Program. The highlight of the Program for him was interacting with the Professors and his classmates during classes. “What’s great about the Telfer Executive MBA Program is that it actively encourages candidates to share their experiences to heighten the learning experience for everyone else in the classroom – that’s not always the case in other Programs where the candidates are expected to listen and learn from the Professors only.” Doug credits his classmates with just as much of his learning as he does the Professors. “We had some incredibly smart people in our class; just incredibly smart.” Doug feels he came out of the Program with new tools that he could apply in his professional life; he gained a different perspective when looking at business challenges, different strategies, and learned how to sharpen his communication focus.
Since graduating from the Telfer Executive MBA Program, Doug moved on to graduate school in economics for his PhD, which was his ultimate goal. He has also transitioned to the public sector and is now the Chief Financial System Authority at the Treasury Board Secretariat. He is also Chair of the National Institute on Biomass, Renewable and Clean Technologies. While he is happy with the work he does in the government, he is most proud of the volunteer work he has done which includes being a Chair of the Board at the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority as well as a Trustee for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. “I’m proud of the work I did with the School Board – it’s making choices on providing children with a good education and on making sure they get to and from school safely – these are important decisions to make.” Doug received a Diamond Jubilee Medal for his volunteerism last year, presented to him by the President of the Treasury Board.
While the Telfer Executive MBA wasn’t the reason for his switch from private to public sector, he admits it certainly does facilitate mobility in one’s career. “No matter what sector you’re in, if someone has an MBA, you can speak a common language with them – you have a common frame of reference.” Doug feels the Telfer Executive MBA Program is good preparation for the rest of your career no matter what sector you are in. “An Executive MBA widens your career options – you have more tools which allows you to move in more directions in your career.”
Director IT, General Dynamics Canada
Migrating from Technical to Business
Collaborating Skill Sets Allows this Telfer Executive MBA Alumnus to Lead an IT Team
Some might think that an Engineer leading an IT Team may not necessarily be a good fit but Alkarim Amlani would argue that his role as Director IT at General Dynamics C4 Systems International is less about IT and more about general management.
With the responsibility of leading IT teams in Canada and the United Kingdom as well as being a member of the leadership team with their US parent company, Alkarim has his work cut out for him. But how does an individual with an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering and a career in software development come to lead an IT organization? “While I was working as a Software Development Manager at Nortel, I started thinking about supplementing my 10 years of experience in the Engineering stream with some business skills in the hope that this mix would take me in the direction of more general management roles within a technical domain.”
After receiving positive reviews from his Aunt who was a graduate of the Telfer Executive MBA Program, Alkarim decided to follow in her footsteps and obtain his MBA from the same institution. Throughout the Program he gained the ability to think strategically and holistically; he acquired improved soft skills which allowed him to build and collaborate with leaders from various backgrounds in order to work toward a common goal, and he became more self-confident about tackling complex organizational problems thru perseverance and patience.
“Prior to taking the Executive MBA, my career path was primarily in the technical stream. After graduation, I was fortunate to have a supportive employer that allowed me to apply my skills and to gradually migrate into a general management/leadership type role which I currently have today.” While his official title might be Director IT, Alkarim asserts that his current role is not about IT but rather a general management role where IT is a channel to apply the skills he learned through the Executive MBA Program.
As for summing up his experience in the Program, Alkarim says it was 3 things for him: Foundation, Friendships and Family. “The foundation I took away from the Program was the ability to integrate the various dimensions of the business environment into a holistic landscape and then to use this dataset to chart a course forward.” He also places a lot of emphasis on the friendships he acquired through the Program. “Ten years after graduation, most of my immediate team still connects regularly and our families and children remain good friends.” And lastly, he admits that family plays a huge part in the success he had in the Program. “Support from family is critical. My kids were 7 and 5 when I started the Program. I was extremely fortunate to have a supportive wife – without this support, taking part in the Executive MBA Program would have been a non-starter for me.”
Country Manager, Group NBT GmbH
President, Chamberlain Consulting
Vice President, Asia Pacific Sales, Level 3 Communications
CEO, QMR Consulting & Professional Staffing
Group HR Director, Royal Mail
Commercial Technology Banker, RBC Royal Bank
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.
Director, Program Management Office, Royal Canada
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 and CEO 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. By 2010, 1000 women will have graduated through their six technology learning centres in Ottawa.
From 1998 to 2007, Cathy was immersed in the private sector as an education technology consultant. Finding herself in male-dominated meetings and dealing with highly technical projects, Cathy felt a growing importance towards understanding new aspects of business and 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.
Following graduation, Cathy worked as Manager of Apprenticeship Programming at Abbott Point of Care (APOC). In partnership with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, APOC has developed a program to build organizational capacity by investing in their people and providing relevant on-site training to build a workforce that can adapt to changes in industry. The result is a unique 3-year Microelectronics certificate program and an in-house school for 480 employees. Cathy designed, implemented and runs the program – through laying the groundwork, scheduling, writing the curriculum, hiring and managing teachers, student performance evaluation, supporting student needs as well as negotiating agreements with external partners. In this role, Cathy has also assisted 28 APOC employees in earning their high school diploma as part of the strategy to establish a baseline education level for all employees and foster a vibrant corporate learning culture.
While Cathy is still responsible for the Apprenticeship program, she is now the lead for the Business Excellence division on the Lean Six Sigma Continuous Improvement and Cost Saving programs as well as Environment, Health and Safety.
Her greatest achievement? Cathy has recently hired 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. An accomplishment two years in the making, the iSisters alum began working for Cathy in October 2009.
Dr. Jack Kitts
President & CEO, The Ottawa Hospital
Trudeau Medalist Recipient, 2016Read More
Dr. Jack Kitts
“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.