2018 MBAs To Watch: Phoebe Luk, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Phoebe Luk

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

“I’m a driven and creative storyteller that loves meeting people and developing relationships.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Markham, ON

Fun fact about yourself: I once drove a car at 220 km/h – legally!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Honorary Bachelor of Arts in Media, Information, and Technoculture from the University of Western Ontario (now called Western University).

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? For four years, I had the opportunity to work at a professional services company called Cornerstone (now a Deloitte company) in their Publishing Services and Marketing and Data Insights teams. Afterward, I joined a small Toronto start-up called KCK Global as a day-one employee and spent three years there before joining Rotman.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? During the summer of 2017, I interned as an Associate at Rotman DesignWorks, a design studio and consultancy providing user-centered corporate innovation solutions.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be joining a boutique firm called Myplanet as a Product Strategist. I will be working with clients and the team at Myplanet to build solutions at the intersection of strategy, technology, and design.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Business Design Club
  • Joe Weider Leadership Development Lab
  • Creator and facilitator of an experimental improv-based leadership program
  • Member of the Creative Destruction Lab
  • Rotman Ambassador
  • 2016 Entrance Award
  • Teaching Assistant, Business Design course, Rotman Commerce program

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the experimental improv-based program I created and facilitated. In my conversations with my classmates and with the Career Centre, I identified that there was demand from students to improve their leadership skills in an approachable way. Enter improv comedy. I had seen personally how transformational improv training is in changing attitudes and approaches to communication, teamwork, and collaboration. However, much of improv comedy training is centered around stage performance readiness. By combining my background in improv comedy, design thinking, and leadership, I created a 4-week program to empower students with the skills and mindsets necessary for effective leadership using improv exercises as a basis for development.

The program was my first time developing and facilitating anything like it, hence the experimental nature of the program. With the support of the Career Centre at Rotman, I was able to successfully deliver the program to two cohorts of students in their first and second year of the full time MBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Joining KCK Global was a great achievement for me. A former VP that I had worked for had decided to start his own company. He approached me to join his company from the very first day. I was honored that he trusted me enough to help him operate and grow the company. Thanks to the autonomy I had in the company, I was able to contribute immediately. The company was profitable within the first five months and continued to grow during my tenure.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The faculty at Rotman is truly exceptional and I have had the pleasure of learning from many amazing professors. If I had to choose, I would say that Alex Manu is my favorite MBA professor. He is the embodiment of thinking differently and being unafraid to express those thoughts. Prof. Manu taught me a lot about the practice of strategic foresight but he also empowered me to see myself as a catalyst for change.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite MBA course was Innovation, Foresight, and Business Design. From this course, I learned that businesses need to constantly be on the lookout for subtle signals of disruption. These signals can take many forms and often come from less than obvious sources.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Rotman for two main reasons.

  1. I wanted a two-year program where I’d build a strong foundational understanding of core business concepts in the first year and then have the freedom and space to explore how to apply those core concepts in the second year. The freedom and time to grow into a vision for my future self has been very important in my development as a person and leader as I didn’t feel any pressure to have it all “figured out” in the first eight months.
  2. I also wanted to be in a city where exciting things happened every day! Toronto offers the best of so many industries and attracts some of the most fascinating people in the world. Being at Rotman exposed me to the best that Toronto (and the world) has to offer. It has been really invigorating to be sitting next to future leaders across many industries, from finance to consulting to design, and have all of those perspectives mesh together to deliver a holistic learning experience.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice to an applicant looking to get into Rotman is to think about how you would like to make a positive impact on the school during your tenure. There are so many resources available thanks to students that volunteer their time and expertise. Thinking about how you can also provide value to the Rotman community during your time here will show an understanding of the school’s ecosystem as well as your ambition to lead.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before arriving at Rotman, I was worried that the program would be very competitive to the point of being cutthroat. This is absolutely the biggest myth! While the program is competitive, the people in my class have been extremely supportive. My classmates have become some of my biggest cheerleaders and I attribute much of my success to the amazing support I have been so generously given in this program.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school was not taking more time to “smell the roses”. The program can get intense and there were often many things that demanded my time and attention, but I wish I had taken more time to just soak in the freedom and savor the opportunities rather than just going from one thing to the next. The time has flown by!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of the many great things about Rotman is that you are constantly surrounded by great people, all of whom are admirable in their own way. However, the classmates I admire the most are those with young children. Despite the rigors of the program, these classmates have managed to produce amazing work, give back to the community through their volunteer and student club activities, and be amazing parents! I personally cannot comprehend the pressure and demands these classmates face so I really admire their ability to do so much.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents most influenced my decision to pursue a business education. Growing up, they always stressed the importance of education and self-improvement. Whenever I doubted my decision to pursue an MBA, my parents reinforced that I was investing in myself and my future. My parents have worked tirelessly in their own business goals – my father as an entrepreneur and my mother as a financial planner – and they are a huge source of inspiration for me. Their never-ceasing motivation to work hard has been the single greatest influence for me in both my professional and personal life.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying to write the next great Canadian novel!”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were dean for a day, I would weave different ways to be creative in to the core curriculum. It can be easy to get caught up in the quantitative work, especially during the first year, so I would find ways to help students express all of their talents by incorporating opportunities to think creatively. The value of thinking both analytically and creatively cannot be understated so I think MBA programs can really prepare students for the future by helping them hone both sets of capabilities.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Visit all 7 continents.
  2. Learn to sail.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as somebody who showed up authentically every day and worked hard to make the school and the lives of my classmates better.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie about business is Blade Runner. Though not often considered a movie about business, the Tyrell Corporation is a key “character” in the movie. Blade Runner is my favourite movie about business because it forces the audience to consider the responsibility businesses have when they develop conscious technologies. Blade Runner was asking these questions in 1982 when the movie was released and the topic is more relevant now than ever before as AI becomes increasingly pervasive.

What would your theme song be? “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. This song always energizes me!

Favorite vacation spot: Madrid, Spain – for the amazing architecture, nightlife, food, and museums!

Hobbies? In no particular order, my hobbies include comedy, fitness, and travel.

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

“As the Director of DesignWorks, the Business Design studio at the Rotman School of Management, I have been highly impressed with Phoebe’s level of engagement in the field of design thinking and with the Rotman community. My first interaction with her was during a three month design project where she was one of my interns. Phoebe demonstrated exemplary thoughtfulness and eagerness to apply the learning – leading to a successful project outcome. Her internship experience carried over into other industry facing projects where her abilities and responsibilities increased successively. Whether it be coaching others on ethnographic research methods or stepping up to facilitate user co-creation sessions, Phoebe would always be up to the task. As the President of the Business Design Club, she demonstrated her leadership and duty to community. Phoebe, along with her executive team have been frequently cited by our 1st year MBAs as one of the reasons for their continued interest in design. Phoebe has also taken the initiative to contribute to our students’ learning – she developed an improv workshop to strengthen students’ facilitation skills and comfort with ambiguity; helped newly minted MBAs navigate their journey as a Rotman ambassador; and provided coaching to help fortify MBA portfolios and project work. With her confidence and sense of agency, I look forward hearing of her future successes.”

Mark Leung, Director

Rotman DesignWorks





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