Meet The Toronto Rotman MBA Class of 2017

James Webster

James Webster

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Hometown: London, United Kingdom

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Oxford, United Kingdom, BA, Modern History

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Merrill Lynch: Global Markets Analyst / Associate, Japanese Equity & Equity derivative sales (London, UK)
Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Global Markets Vice President, Global Equity sales (New York City, USA)

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? Finding a reputable prep-course can certainly be helpful especially if you have been out of undergrad for a number of years. In addition, spend time early on looking for online resources, GMAT Club etc can be an invaluable community to help answer questions, share resources, and offer support.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? The first stage in drawing up a list of target schools is to ask the obvious questions. Give serious thought to what you want to get out of your MBA; how long you wish to study for; and what location you wish to be in (both for the program as well as in your post-MBA career). It’s a simple step, but one that is often overlooked. By answering some of these questions early on in the process, you will find you are naturally looking at a much more select group of schools that fit your key criteria (much more so than simply choosing a list of schools from a league table).

With so many excellent options out there, another imperative aspect is to spend time speaking to current students and admissions reps to get a true feel of what makes a particular school tick and what makes their program different from the pack (if indeed anything!). Rotman stood out for me by making a concerted effort to connect me not only with a dedicated admissions director, but also with current students and alumni (both in NYC where I was living when I applied, and in Toronto) who had similar backgrounds or career aspirations. Having honest discussions about the university, the faculty, structure of the MBA, and career support – amongst other factors – was invaluable.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? It all takes time – likely much more time that you would initially think. Being organized and attacking the process as early as possible while also staggering applications is the key to success. Each application is different and should be treated as such – as tempting as it might be to use an old essay for another application, you have to ensure you are answering the question being asked, not the question you want to answer.

Giving yourself enough time to re-read and re-edit essays is also important. While some people may be able to write a perfect essay in one sitting,  they are certainly in the minority.
Interviews can be daunting, but the most important piece of advice, however clichéd, is to relax and be yourself. To get to the interview stage, there is clearly something in your resume or essays that made you stand out and this is your opportunity to close the deal. It is also your time to find out more about the school, the MBA itself, and also to make sure it is the right fit for you. Don’t forget to come armed with key questions you want or need answered. Most school websites will also have resources for you indicating what they are looking for in candidates’ applications as well as during the interview process.  It is time well spent hunting online for these. It will make you better prepared and put your mind at ease. Rotman is one of the few schools to have a video interview component, which was far less terrifying once I found a 30 minute radio interview with the head of admissions, describing the process and what they expected!

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? While obvious accolades (Top-ranked Canadian business school, world class faculty & research) went into consideration when choosing Rotman for my full-time MBA, there were two standout factors in my final decision. Firstly, the strength of the career department and support given to students was distinctly appealing. With dedicated career consultants as well as their unique “self-development lab,” there is a heavy focus on creating well-rounded global leaders and thinkers that goes far beyond just the academic side. Secondly, when I spent time speaking with the admissions team, students and recent alumni, there was an infectious dynamism from all of them – Rotman has grown rapidly in the past decade and made strides in becoming a top Global MBA program and it has clear momentum behind it. I am excited to be a part of that.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? I am strangely excited about becoming an Excel whiz, a talent I (to a large degree) avoided in my finance career! On a more serious note, I am looking to study hard and broaden my business acumen, while learning a lot from a group of talented global partners. In the process, I look forward to creating lifetime friendships and learning more about myself as an individual, a business leader and innovator.