2018 MBAs To Watch: Daphne Hemily, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Daphne Hemily

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Dynamic global citizen, ever-curious, relentlessly empathetic, and driven for human impact.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Fun fact about yourself: It took me a while to learn to snorkel. Each time I saw a school of fish, I smiled so much that my mask would flood! Now, I try to stay zen and contain my grin, which works most of the time.

Undergraduate School and Degree: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec

Bachelor of Arts and Science (BA.Sc.), Honours in International Development and Major in Biomedical Sciences

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from 2010 to 2016

– Field positions in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti as Project Coordinator and Logistics Manager

– Canadian office doing operational support as Program Unit Coordinator and Medical Research Officer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? McKinsey & Company (Toronto office)

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company (Toronto office)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: After careful consideration, I decided not to take on many formal student leadership roles, instead applying the skills that I was learning to NGOs. Within Rotman, I focused on individual interactions, supporting some of my impressive colleagues in their many ambitious initiatives.

  • Forte Fellow
  • Rotman Problem Solving Challenge’s 2016 winner
  • Deloitte Distinction Program (class of 2017)
  • Club Executive, Links (interdisciplinary undergraduate mentorship program)
  • Section representative, Management Consulting Association
  • Global Consulting Project Fellow for SickKids International & the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital
  • Social innovation design thinking project with the United Way Toronto & York Region’s Youth Success Strategy
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Candidate managing a process improvement project for an international NGO’s Human Resource Department
  • Recipients of University of Toronto’s Global Health Education Initiative’s 2016 and 2017 Award of Excellence for teaching Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my selection and work on Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Canada’s Board of Directors. I decided to pursue an MBA with the goal of applying the knowledge I gain from business school and the private sector to high-impact not-for-profit organizations. I am excited to already be contributing the lessons and skills I am learning directly towards the governance and strategic decisions of the organization that I am most passionate about. So far, the academic subjects that have been most useful for my board appointment are strategy, corporate governance, and change management. I looking forward to continuing to provide value to address the social issues I care deeply about.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Managing the handover of a hospital project in South Sudan on time and within the budget. The process included negotiations with 4 United Nations Organizations, 9 NGOs, national, state and municipal government officials, community leaders and militia. Understandably, many thought that a successful transition was impossible and so I am proud of this accomplishment. I had an extremely committed team, whose hard work allowed the 49,000+ annual patients to receive quality care throughout the handover.

Beyond the numbers and volatile context, what I’m most proud of is ensuring that all 264 local and international staff had professional and career training to support their desired next steps; 70% of staff had secured a job before the end of their contract. Additionally, I supported the Ministry of Health’s hospital management team design and run a week-long training for all supervisors to ensure the quality of management and care was sustained after the hand-over was complete.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Sarah Kaplan- Professor of Strategic Management and Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy. Sarah taught two of my favourite courses (Strategic Change and Implementation, and Corporation 360º), and often managed to foster debate between students with differing views on current complex business questions leaving the class with a more nuanced understanding of both private and public value creation. Beyond the classroom, Sarah is prolific in her effort to transform our understanding of the impact of gender inequalities. Her work goes far beyond research, turning complex concepts into actionable ideas, and inspiring many people to mobilize along the way.

What was your favorite MBA Course Leadership Development Lab was the most transformative MBA course for me and many of my peers. This class both challenged us to be better leaders, and taught us how. For example, your best insights or strategy won’t achieve their potential if others don’t believe in your leadership. This class has given me the opportunity to reflect on my behaviours and assumptions. It then explores self-determination and other core leadership qualities, increasing my capacity to navigate the challenges that I will face going forwards.

Why did you choose this business school? Rotman’s MBA offers a holistic approach to business and management that I believe is necessary for today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. I chose Rotman because I wanted the following:

  • Develop my ability to manage the human side of business through the Self and Leadership Development Lab.
  • Complete rigorous academic training that comes from dedicated and knowledgeable professors.
  • Complete work with and learn from such an internationally diverse and impressive cohort.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Before diving into the application process, take a moment to zoom out and understand the specific ways that you stand out. We all have unique answers and it is important that they are clear throughout your application. If you get stuck in the process or start feeling stressed, take time to completely disconnect from all MBA stuff and do something you love. Before returning to your laptop, revisit what makes you tick, and only then re-open your application from that authentic and positive place!

 What is the biggest myth about your school? Rotman is primarily focused on consulting and finance. Although the school is strong at supporting students who want to go into those industries, Rotman also offers the same rigorous supports for students going into careers in healthcare, sports management, analytics, real estate, entrepreneurship, sustainability, or social sector.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not getting my dog sooner. I had been considering it since moving to Toronto, but didn’t think I had time. Last semester, a visiting CEO reminded us to “do the things that keep you grounded and happy – if you want a dog or cat, stop putting it off and go get one.” And so I did. Despite stretching my days, I am happier and more effective when I work.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is a hard question as there are so many classmates whom I admire! If I had to narrow it down, I have most appreciated connecting with the inspiring and powerful women in the program, especially those involved with Rotman’s Women In Management Association (WIMA), Forte, JM, or LINKS mentorship program.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? As I looked into returning to school, a masters of public health or public policy was perhaps a more intuitive choice given my interests and experience. I was interested but intimidated to pursue an MBA as I had no previous business experience. In discussing my options with Fabien Schneider, my former manager, he supported my hypothesis that there is much for not-for-profits to learn from the private sector and gave me the nudge I needed to apply. I am so grateful that I did! Merci beaucoup Fabien.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in humanitarian emergencies (conflicts, outbreaks, and natural disasters).”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?

I would set up a scholarship to support social and public sector leaders to pursue their MBA. Many people in these types of positions earn salaries that are typically lower and can be prohibitive to considering an MBA. The recipients would receive a scholarship conditional on their return to the social or public sector to continue their meaningful impact for a number of years (the comparable time that higher earning graduates are able to pay back student loans). If they decided to pivot and take a corporate position, say in finance or consulting, they would need to repay the scholarship.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. A canoe trip across northern Canada, paddling either the Nahanni or Mackenzie rivers.
  2. A personal goal is to visit as many different countries as my age in years. So far, I’m on track.Some countries that I look forward to visiting include Cambodia, Philippines, Turkey, New Zealand, Cape Verde, and Argentina.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as someone who asked good questions, supported others, got things done, and was often laughing & having fun even through stressful moments.

What is your favorite movie about business? Equity, Directed by Meera Menon

What would your theme song be? “Doncha Know (Sky is Blue)” by Alicia Keys

Favorite vacation spot:

– International: Zanzibar

– Domestic: Benson Lake. An off-the-grid log cabin that my family gradually built over the last 40 years. It overlooks a field, is surrounded by woods, and has a lake nearby.

Hobbies?I am an avid adventurer and love many different types of outdoor activities, from backcountry winter camping to summer canoe trips on lakes or rivers.

What made Daphne such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“I had the privilege of teaching Daphne both in the Self-Development Lab (SDL), during the 1st year of her MBA, and during the more concentrated and intensive experience in the Leadership Development Lab (LDL) the following year. The first thing that struck me about Daphne was how remarkably broad, challenging, and unorthodox her previous work experience was. She came to the MBA already aware of and grappling with challenges of broad social import, of great economic and political complexity, and was able to bring those insights to her colleagues in the MBA. Despite of her already remarkable self-awareness and sophisticated inter-personal skills, she was actively discovering better ways of interacting with others throughout her MBA and continually furthering her self-improvement objectives, while simultaneously encouraging others and being a role-model. In the Leadership Development Lab, Daphne was able to enrich the conversations with her LDL cohort and move the interactions forward through the power of her vision and empathy, exhibiting leadership qualities with humility and perspective. I believe Daphne is to become what we sorely need – a leader with a vision broad enough to include everyone, and skills to solve even the most difficult challenges that face us as a society.”

Maja Djikic

Associate Professor and the Executive Director of Self-Development Laboratory





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