2016 MBAs To Watch: Rafael Andrés Colón Silva, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Rafael Andrés Colón Silva-Toronto-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Rafael Andrés Colón Silva


University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Age: 28

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana – B.Sc., Electronics Engineering

Universidad de la Sabana – Specialization, Commercial Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Key Account Manager, Millicom International Cellular; Inside Sales Executive, SAP; Sales Representative, Oracle

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Deloitte, Toronto

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte – Senior Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I had various leadership roles at Rotman, including President and Founder of the Rotman Music Club and Vice President of the Business Technology Club. In addition, I was a Rotman Student Ambassador and had the honour of helping prospective students from all over the world with questions about their application to Rotman. During my time at Rotman, I was selected as recipient of the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award and the Rotman Entrance Award.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Pioneering the Rotman Music Club was one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my MBA. As club president and founder, I was able to bring together a diverse community of more than 80 MBA musicians and enthusiasts from all over the world. Together, we performed multiple concerts, organized music-related activities, and showcased the amazing talent that we have at Rotman (which helped improve the student experience and sense of community). We also partnered with other student clubs and raised funds for charity together through fun music activities. It was without a doubt a highlight of my MBA!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Transitioning from sales to consulting is definitely a major milestone in my professional career. While I had a thriving sales career in my native Colombia, holding multiple positions across technology companies, I always dreamed of working in a global setting and doing impactful work to further develop my leadership, analytical, and client skills. My internship at Deloitte Consulting last summer proved to be the turning point. Privileged to go back full-time as a senior consultant, I am realizing my dream to leap forward my career in a leading global organization and opening myself to a whole new world of opportunities for my personal and professional growth within the firm.

Who is your favorite professor? I am a big fan of Professor Brian Silverman’s style of teaching and fine sense of humor. I had the opportunity to attend his Corporate Strategy course last year and was pleased to learn key strategy concepts and at the same time have a lot of fun. He never missed a chance to throw a quick joke while keeping students engaged in active discussions. The mix of serious work with smart humor made me enjoy every single class.

Favorite MBA Courses? I loved my Corporate Strategy, Economic Environment of Business, and Canadian Business History courses.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Rotman for its prestige, location, and resources. Rotman has not only a great reputation as Canada’s leading MBA program, but also one of the best B-school faculties in the world. Its location is unmatched, being just five minutes away from downtown Toronto, providing a huge advantage for networking and experiencing the city. Furthermore, Rotman provides students with a wealth of resources ranging from career counseling to international study tours. In fact, I have to admit that my study tour to China has been another key highlight of my MBA!

What did you enjoy most about business school? The opportunity of having a life-changing challenge, pushing myself beyond my limits, allowed me to grow as a person in ways I had never before experienced. B-school helped me realize many skills and talents I had but didn’t know about, and unlock leadership potential which I expect to nurture in the years to come. These two years have been the best of my life so far and I’ve loved every single moment of my MBA.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? MBA helped me understand and treasure the concept of investing, from a broad perspective. We’re given limited resources in life — time, knowledge, and money, for example — and it is paramount to invest those resources in the smartest way possible to get the best return, which is, living a meaningful, successful, and happy life.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was particularly surprised by how similar people from different cultures and backgrounds can be! I had a fantastic international experience at Rotman and was very fortunate to find an amazing group of friends from all around the globe. We all had completely different backgrounds, stories, and customs. To my surprise, we shared so many essential things in common. While it is not a rule of thumb, I’d say that one of the most fascinating things about joining a top MBA program is opening yourself to other cultures and making global friends.

What was the hardest part of business school? The first year of MBA hits really hard, but serves so well! Meeting so many incredibly talented people often creates a huge pressure on you to raise the game and survive in such a smart community. Highly accomplished students with outstanding career backgrounds and world-renowned professors with top-notch credentials make classroom debates seem a bit daunting at the beginning. On top of that, you add a jam-packed schedule, all-included, all-year-round: tough academics, intense networking, and a nonstop social life. The first year of MBA is the hardest part, hands down.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Know your game. Rotman is a highly competitive school and receives top talent from all over the world. With that in mind, it is very important to understand what makes you unique and, more importantly, how the Rotman MBA will help you achieve your future career. If you’re able to convey these points in a compelling message, you will have a strong case to share with the Admissions Team.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… my mom repeatedly told me I had been fascinated by skyscrapers, big companies, and international cities, since I was a kid.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… an economist, but still a passionate guitar player!”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I truly admire Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP. Bill’s leadership and management philosophy of optimism, hard work, and execution encompasses the values I seek in my everyday work. He has been very successful in advancing his career from being a disciplined salesperson in his early college days to leading one of the world’s most important software companies. His career from sales to leadership is a model I admire and embrace. Back in my days at SAP, I had the pleasure to meet Bill McDermott in Hawaii, when he hosted the Winner’s Circle, an incentive trip that rewarded the company’s top-performing sales executives.

What are your long-term professional goals? I aspire to become an influential leader who positively contributes to business and society. I envision myself as an admired and approachable adviser with the ability to drive high-impact initiatives and coach talented teams and individuals. After having a successful business career in an international setting, I would love to give back to my native Colombia and seek the pinnacle of my career there.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? It’s really hard not to think of so many that have been key to my success. I’d thank God for being my strength, my beloved family (Madre, Padre and Yiya) for the unconditional love and support throughout the years, my dearest MBA friends for being my family in Canada, the Rotman School for helping me grow so much, my ex-bosses (Samir and Margarita) for writing my MBA reference letters and believing in me, and everyone who’s helped me build this great life project.

Fun fact about yourself: I have perfect pitch, which means I can recognize any musical note without a visual reference. Research shows that about 1 in 10,000 people have perfect pitch.

Favorite book: Interior Freedom by Jacques Phillipe

Favorite movie: I am definitely not a movie person, but I loved the Back to the Future trilogy and Interstellar.

Favorite musical performer: Joe Satriani is my favorite guitarist of all time. Fun fact: He signed my electric guitar during his concert in Bogotá, Colombia in 2008.

Favorite television show: Unfortunately, none. I don’t watch TV.

Favorite vacation spot: Boyacá, Colombia. Frutillar, Chile. Suzhou, China.

Hobbies? Music is my main hobby. I am an avid guitar player since I was in high school and I often sing while I play guitar. I have plans to quickly ramp up with piano post-MBA and make it my official second musical instrument.

What made Rafael such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Rafael’s smile and positive spirit is infectious. From the moment he arrived at Rotman from Colombia, he has been committed to serving others. He was recently awarded one of the University of Toronto’s most prestigious awards (The Gordon Cressy Award), which is an honour given to a very select few students who have improved the campus by supporting fellow students. This past year, Rafael founded a new club at Rotman (The Rotman Music Club), which showcases the incredible talent of musicians we have at Rotman (which span, vocalists, opera singers, guitarists, and even freestyle battle rappers). Rafael built this club in less than 30 days, which is quite remarkable given that he had to negotiate with multiple stakeholders, develop an executive, and come up with a strategy and budget. Not only did he accomplish this, but he created a revenue stream for student musicians by having them play at events run by various administrative departments across the building — he leveraged the club’s skill set to produce income for fellow students and helped improve other student clubs and administrative events in the process.

“In addition to this, he has always been willing to mentor and coach students looking to enter consulting and he very recently offered to assist the school in helping further its relations in Colombia by trying to source live client projects for fellow classmates. Rafael has made significant contributions to Rotman, U of T and the wider community. He will be missed by all of us at Rotman.”

Neel Joshi

Director, Student Life & International Experience

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto



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