2017 Best MBAs: Alex Walker Turner, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Alex Walker Turner

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Age: 26

Hometown: Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I play classical and jazz trumpet; I was a World’s Level Cheerleader

Undergraduate School and Degree: BAH, Political Science, Queen’s University; MA International Relations, McMaster University

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked as a Director at WTG Events, which was a Corporate Media and Events business based in London, UK. There, I led the Business Performance Portfolio of Events which consisted of a number of professional development events, webinars, and other resources for Human Resource Executives.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? During the 2016 summer, I interned as a Principal at Impact Consulting Group, which is an External Consulting Firm operated within the Rotman School of Management.

Where will you be working after graduation? Associate, McKinsey & Company (Digital Practice)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

  • Co-Founder, LINKS Mentorship Program, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
  • Founder, Canadian Graduate Women in Management Conference, Rotman Women in Management Association
  • Entrance Scholarship, 2015
  • Forte Fellowship and Scholarship, 2015, 2016
  • Rotman Representative, Catalyst/Bank of Montreal ‘Emerging Leaders’ Millennial Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion (2015 – 2016)
  • General Manager, Orientation Camp, Rotman Graduate Business Council
  • Vice President, Communications, Rotman Women in Management Association
  • Director, Case Preparation, Rotman Management Consulting Association
  • Workshop Instructor, Case Preparation, Master of Public Policy Program, University of Toronto
  • Research Associate, Masters of Management and Professional Accounting, University of Toronto

And, last but not least, this very cool and humbling nomination.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of the work I’ve done establishing both the LINKS mentorship program and the Canadian Graduate Women in Management Conference. LINKS is a mentorship program which provides female undergraduate students at the University of Toronto with mentors from the Rotman MBA program.

I’m most proud of these initiatives for a number of reasons:

  1. They meet real under-served needs in the MBA, and the broader University of Toronto and Toronto business environments. They both provide access for women to resources they can leverage to propel them in their career, and they both serve as platforms for engaging male peers and colleagues in the conversation on parity.
  2. They gave me the opportunity to work with some extremely talented and committed colleagues, and exposed me to different working styles among my peers, which provided useful lessons for me in terms of how I can improve as a leader
  3. They will continue to drive change and exist as important parts of the Rotman School’s commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion, both within its four walls from the admissions and recruitment, faculty, and staff perspectives, and more broadly with the School’s employers, partners, and within the business community.

These projects provided a chance for me to give back and add value to the institution which has provided me with such amazing opportunities and support. And much more than anything, these initiatives make me proud because they are both visible expressions of what an exceptional school Rotman is.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? There are three key achievements in my professional career which make me the proudest:

  1. In 2014, the company I was working for underwent a senior management change and restructuring, which resulted in the closure of our Toronto office. I was the only person in the Toronto office who was asked to stay with the firm and accept a transfer to the London, UK office. My hard work and achievements within the firm were recognized and paid off with this incredible opportunity to advance my career and gain valuable international experience. I seized the opportunity and moved my life to the UK, which looked like a daunting task at the time not knowing when I would be back to Canada. But looking back I am very proud of the work which led to the opportunity in the UK as well as the experience working abroad.
  2. I’m extremely pleased with the decision to come back to school and complete my MBA. At the time, I occupied a very senior position in our business and could have been very comfortable staying in London for a while longer. However, I knew that doing what I was doing didn’t make me happy and I chose to not to continue in a job that didn’t make me feel satisfied. I wanted to pursue new career goals with the decision to go back to school.
  3. I could not be more excited to be joining McKinsey & Company in August. Obtaining a position with the firm represents the realization of so many professional aspirations – and it makes me excited to go back to work after the MBA!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have so many favourite professors, it’s hard to choose. I’ll list three, but safe to say (for any of my professors out there reading this) if you’ve taught me, you’re also a favourite!

  1. Mara Lederman, Associate Professor of Strategic Management – Mara, for most students, is our first encounter with a female faculty member. In our year, Mara taught one of the ‘core’ courses, Integrating Models with Data. Mara is a no-nonsense professor who is at once an exceptionally brilliant woman, excelling in a male-dominated field, and one of the most down-to-earth, funny, and relatable professors I’ve had. I think I speak for many of my colleagues when I say we aspire to be like Mara one day!
  2. Philipp Afeche, Associate Professor of Operations Management- Philipp Afeche is a professor with a particular kind of quirky and low-key humour that left me in stitches most classes. He is also exceptionally patient. He taught us two of the most challenging courses in the first year, Statistics, and Operations Management. I honestly believe that if not for Philipp and his expert instruction I would still have no idea how to calculate Economic Order Quantity. From zooming in on a map of Basel on Google Earth to show us how close his family home was to Bernoulli’s family home, to playing the entire music video to ‘Quit Playing Games with My Heart’ to express his feeling when he realized most of the class hadn’t done the readings (due to an accounting midterm earlier that morning), Philipp’s lighthearted nature sets him apart as truly one of the best professors we have!

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? At Rotman I’ve really enjoyed being challenged to think in about business challenges in a way which is at once both quantitative and qualitative. I think the most transformative part of the curriculum for me, across the vast majority of classes, was the pervasive use of models for analysis and decision making. Applying models to business problems has completely changed the way I think, not only about academic or management problems, but also about challenges in everyday life. That said, the class that first introduced me to that kind of thinking was called Integrating Models with Data, with professor Mara Lederman (an awesome class with a fantastic professor), and the same can be said for most classes at Rotman.

Why did you choose this business school? There are many factors that informed my decision to join the Rotman School. I was particularly interested in a two-year program, which Rotman offered, because I wanted to gain foundational business acumen and skills and still have the opportunity to specialize, without compromising on quality or depth of study. I also wanted to come back to Canada after living abroad. I also knew that the MBA would be a gruelling experience so I wanted to be close to friends and family who could support me along the way. Moreover, Rotman has an exceptional reputation in the Canadian environment — it’s considered to be Canada’s leading MBA. It’s known not only for its quantitative disciplines, like finance, but also for its unique brand of design thinking and integrated problem solving, which strengthen its consulting, business design, brand management disciplines, too. Finally, Rotman Recruiting and Admissions had reached out to me long before I began my application (a year-and-a-half, to be exact). When it came time to choose a school, I already felt very much a part of the Rotman community. The decision really was a no-brainer.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? There are three things that I really enjoyed about business school:

  1. The chance to meet a large cohort of people, who have all made huge financial commitments, time commitments, and sacrifices, to pursuing dreams just like mine. It was amazing to meet a group of ‘my people,’ so-to-speak, which isn’t something I’ve ever experienced on this scale before. I found it motivating and aspirational to be surrounded by (and to learn from) such intelligent people.
  2. The MBA woke up the quantitative part of my brain — a part which had largely been on hiatus since high school. Pursuing the MBA allowed me to practice, up-skill, and integrate my quantitative capabilities, which has been challenging and enjoyable.
  3. Rotman provides so many incredible opportunities to apply the learnings from the MBA program. For me, working at Impact Consulting Group (Rotman’s student-run firm, operational since 1976) was one of the defining features of my MBA experience. My experience at Impact allowed me to apply new skills, models, and methods to real-life problems, to manage my own business from end to end, to cut my teeth in a consulting environment, and to gain some high-level client relationship management and negotiation experience.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? There is no silver bullet in terms of gaining admission to Rotman. My advice to applicants would be to think honestly and earnestly about what makes them different from their peers; what experiences and skills have you had, and what value would you bring to the school that is different from the applicants before and after you in the stack? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and to really stand-out from the crowd. Roman embraces diversity of all kinds; your difference is your strength!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I couldn’t just name one classmate. I admire most – but there are certainly a group of classmates whom I admire deeply. Namely, all of my classmates (and any MBA students, really) who have added responsibilities, like marriages and mortgages, on top of school and extracurricular activities. There are number of men and women in our class who have children, or who are about to have children. I have no idea how anyone manages to find balance between a demanding home life and a demanding school life and career. Time management and discipline are skills I’m always trying improve and I aspire to their level of mastery.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized, after my Master’s, that to work in the private sector on the kinds of tough challenges I envisioned I would require skills and tools I didn’t yet have.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an interior designer, or a lawyer.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would work to expand the Rotman’s international presence, by working with the career centre to create relationships with international employers to generate more employment opportunities for Rotman students outside North America. I would work in tandem with recruiting and admissions to expand the percentage of the Rotman cohort that intends to work internationally after graduation (something I’m sure they’re already thinking about). Rotman really is Canada’s best kept secret: an exceptional school of international calibre and rigour. As dean, I would continue working to share Rotman with the World (although that might be a tall order if I were only Dean for one day!)

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goals are three-fold:

  1. To do something that is fulfilling, challenging, and which leaves me with an inherent sense of satisfaction and happiness.
  2. To do something which allows me to add maximum value and to make a unique contribution to an organization.
  3. To do something which will allow me to generate/preserve the resources necessary, in terms of finances, energy, and time, to provide for the people I care about.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would most want to thank my family, and predominantly my Dad who has always been my number one supporter, and who taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing 100%. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. There is also a huge support network of friends, colleagues, and professors who have supported me in my academic and career endeavours, who have written references, edited applications and resumes, and have taken chances on me which allowed me to achieve professional and personal growth, and to accumulate experiences which have shaped me into the person I am now.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Haha…I’ll just be happy for my peers to remember me – with a class of 350 people, that’s a lot of people for anyone to remember! Ultimately, I’d like to be remembered as someone who was helpful, thoughtful, and who contributed to the Rotman experience.

Favorite book: Either Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankyl or A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

Favorite movie or television show: House of Cards, and I love interior design shows like Fixer Upper and anything with Sarah Richardson

Favorite musical performer: I have lots (big music lover…) Frank Sinatra is an all-time favourite, also love Adele, and Drake. Led Zeppelin and Creedence Clearwater Revival, and I wouldn’t be a good Canadian if I didn’t say The Tragically Hip!

Favorite vacation spot: Croatia, French Riviera, or Barcelona

Hobbies? Eating! That’s not a hobby… I really love skiing. I have a love hate relationship with working-out, I go through phases where I’ll lift weights every day for 3 months, and then I fall off the wagon. Rearranging my house. I also love to watch movies, when I get the time.

What made Alex such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“One of the best rewards of working in graduate management education is our opportunity to watch the transformation of our incredibly talent admitted students into accomplished graduates. Spending the last two years with Alex Walker Turner at Rotman has been truly inspiring. ‎Alex is someone who sees opportunity when others see challenge and her contributions have made the Rotman School a better place for all students.  I have had the pleasure of witnessing the magic of Alex’s leadership and am honoured to endorse her nomination to the Poets and Quants Top 100 list.

Alex has been the driving force in creating two new initiatives at Rotman that will continue long after she graduates: Rotman Links – a mentorship initiative partnering MBAs with undergraduate women to promote the idea of graduate school and career development and launching Canada’s first annual graduate women in management conference intended to kickstart a dialogue about women and the workplace for graduate schools students and corporate partners.  Both initiatives started by Alex identifying opportunities for Rotman to embrace diversity and inclusion, and Alex partnered with so many others in the School to launch these two significant programs that strengthen our pipeline and improve the experience of our female MBA students.  Ideas like this have been talked about in the past by others, but she stepped up and made more happen in her two years at Rotman than most students ever do.

In addition to the tremendous programming she has lead, I believe the mark of a great leader is to lend their talents and energy to build up others, and Alex has demonstrated exactly that on a number of occasions. As part of a team constituting our WIMA (Women in Management Association) Exec –the team launched our WiMen ally group this year. She also represented Rotman as part of the BMO Millennial Emerging Leaders Advisory Council on Inclusion which convened to discuss issues related to advancing women, growing Canada’s talent advantage and building inclusive workplaces for the future.

Alex’s final contribution to our School is best summed up as the ultimate ambassador for Rotman, and for Women in Business more broadly. She is highly engaged in all aspects of the Rotman community and holds a number of leadership roles beyond WIMA representing her follow students on the Graduate Business Council, as Camp Director and on the Management Consulting Association. As a result of all of these experiences Alex often partners with Media Relations to promote Rotman’s initiative and she is always happy to support the efforts of our Recruiting and Admissions team. ‎Her intellect, maturity, creativity and poise are instantly conveyed and she represents all that is Rotman so eloquently.

On a personal note, as Managing Director I have had the pleasure of working with Alex in her capacity as a partner at Impact Consulting on a number of projects all with the overarching theme of innovating to maintain a best in class student experience at Rotman. I feel lucky to call her a thought partner in helping developing new curricular and feedback initiatives and know that our collaboration on future opportunities will be an ongoing one.”

Niki da Silva
Managing Director, Full Time MBA
Rotman School of Management

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