Meet The Rotman MBA Class Of 2018

Tess Cecil-Cockwell          

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I’m a geologist and engineer with passions for vocabulary development, cold places, and landscape interpretation.

Hometown: I’m originally from Toronto, Ontario, but I have lived in Anchorage, Alaska for the last eight years.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I did a fifty-day canoe trip North of Lake Superior with a small group of young women when I was in high school. That adventure was the inspiration for so many other adventures I have undertaken since. I credit the experience for giving me the confidence to embrace challenges of every variety. There’s nothing like portaging a canoe through swarms of mosquitoes in the middle of the Canadian Shield during a rain storm in the cold to make you learn that you can accomplish just about anything!

Undergraduate School and Major: Princeton University, BSciEng, Geological Engineering

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  • Petroleum Engineer, ConocoPhillips Alaska (Anchorage, Alaska)
  • Drilling Engineer, Schlumberger Drilling and Measurements (Anchorage, Alaska)
  • Directional Driller, Schlumberger Drilling and Measurements (Cook Inlet and Umiat, Alaska)
  • On-rig Logging Engineer, Schlumberger Drilling and Measurements (Deadhorse, Alaska)
  • Canoe Tripping Guide, Keewaydin Temagami (Devil’s Lake, Temagami, Ontario)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of the biggest accomplishments in my career thus far was the success of a new oil well drilled in a developed field in Alaska. I managed the $18M project and its team from conception to execution to follow-up, and saw it through scope changes, funding challenges, and disagreements with partners, all during the recent downturn in oil prices. The project’s success was a true highlight in a tough year in the industry, and I was thrilled to have been right at the head of it.

I am also proud that I was the first female directional driller for Schlumberger in Alaska. It’s always important to acknowledge barriers that have been broken and to support other women in male-dominated industries by talking about different opportunities that they may not have considered for lack of a female role model.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? What’s your story? What makes you stand out? What do you have to contribute to your target program? For a successful application, you must be able to answer these questions. I knew when I applied to Rotman that I would be an unusual applicant; I worked on oil rigs in Alaska for three-an- a-half years wearing a hardhat and greasy coveralls before transitioning into an office role, and I was more than eight months pregnant at the time of my application. (This last fact was important to share when my interview coincided with my due date.) Being able to craft my story through my resume, essays, and interviews were crucial to showing what kind of candidate I could be, and how Rotman might benefit from admitting me to the program.

It’s imperative to enjoy the process of applying to business school. The GMAT may be a sterile and stressful experience, but it’s also a chance to exercise your mental muscle. Your essay might be difficult to write, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on why you really want to go to business school. The Skype interview situation is a little odd, but your conversation with the admissions team can be fun and stimulating. If you enjoy the process, you may also be more relaxed about it and your application package will benefit as a result.

Finally, it’s also important for the sake of sanity to focus your energy. I applied only to Rotman because Rotman was the only program that fulfilled all of the qualities I was looking for in an MBA program. I could have applied to other top-tier schools, but my heart would not have been in it and that would have come through in the application. Don’t waste your time, nor the time of other business schools, when you can put all your efforts towards the application that matters the most to you.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Location is one of the primary reasons why I chose Rotman for my MBA. After almost twelve years of living in the States, I felt strongly that it was time to return to my home country of Canada. Rotman, as the best program in Canada, was the obvious choice. I felt Rotman would help me establish a broad and deep professional network thanks to its location in the business centre of the country, and the fact that it attracts students, faculty, and guests of the highest calibre. Toronto is also my hometown, so my family lives in the area. That was another very important point to consider: as my husband and I are both returning to school with a baby to care for, we needed all of the local support we could get.

Regarding the program itself, I was really attracted to Rotman’s “integrative thinking” approach to the case-study method. Case studies are a valuable tool for teaching business methods, but they run the risk of having pre-determined results that may not apply to a problem that you encounter outside of your MBA. Rotman avoids this by teaching its students how to form business models that may be adapted to various problems, and then having the students actually apply what they learn to real business problems. It is an innovative and exciting approach that I look forward to pursuing!

And lastly, although it may not be a big component of the program at Rotman, and it may not attract the attention of every applicant, I was really impressed by Rotman’s Onboard Fellowship, in which some second year students have the opportunity to serve on a nonprofit board working on projects that benefit a particular organisation. Having a specific focus on giving back to the community is unusual in a business program; I really appreciate this consideration, and I will be proud to be a part of a program that considers what good it can do in the community.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? Extractive industries are fundamental to the development of Canada. While they may not always be pretty, they are paramount to our success as a nation! I have really enjoyed working in the oil and gas industry, but with my MBA in hand, I would love to branch out into other areas, such as mining, hydro, and forestry. My dream job would involve leading projects in Canada’s North, developing extractive industries with an eye to benefitting investors, the nation, and local communities. Since I have a love for problems – identifying, analyzing, and solving – a position with a management consulting firm that would allow me to focus on a variety of extractive industries would be the perfect fit for me.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program?  A successful MBA program is one that attracts top talent eager to share experiences for collective advancement and development. As such, I hope my peers will say that they got a lot out of me! I want my peers to feel that they learned from my experiences in Alaska, in the oil and gas industry, and balancing family objectives with professional ones. On the personal side, I hope my peers feel that I was a supportive friend during the intense adventure of pursuing our MBAs at Rotman. You can’t get an MBA without help from those around you; we’ll need to rally together!