2018 MBAs To Watch: Beckie Thain-Blonk, University of West Ontario (Ivey)

Beckie Thain-Blonk

Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario

I am a driven, passionate and caring leader whose aim is to make people feel heard.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I was a dancer in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Closing Ceremony.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Commerce, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? KPMG LLP. Senior Consultant, Strategy & Operations Management Consulting Team

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Ivey is a 1-year MBA program that does not include an internship.

Where will you be working after graduation? Chief Customer Officer, Hello Prosper (LINK). I am part of the founding team for a tech start-up, Hello Prosper. Prosper is a mobile solution that helps users land their dream job. Backed by behavioral economic principles, the app leverages the cognitive benefits of “nudges”, breaking down a large goal like landing a dream job, and guides the user to better outcomes through consistent exercises and live coaching feedback.

The business has had positive traction from day one. After building the product for 10 months with 120 students from across Canada, our early release launched in January 2018, and we received over 120 signups in less than 48 hours. Since then our team won the 2018 IBK Business Plan Competition hosted by the Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship and has developed partnerships with 10+ educational organizations across the country. The full version of the app will release on the Apple App Store in early March 2018. Our goal is to raise $1M in early seed funding by summer 2018.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 1st Place Ivey MBA Case Competition
  • Co-Chair, Ivey MBA Leadership Conference
  • Ivey Brand Ambassador
  • Awarded the Ivey Business Leader Scholarship for demonstrated leadership, academic achievement and community service
  • Winner of the Ivey Ring it Forward Contest – recommendation from an Ivey Alumni
  • Mentor to the executive team at Faith in Business, University of British Columbia

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was the Co-Chair for the inaugural 2018 Ivey MBA Leadership Conference – a one-day conference hosting eight leaders from around the world speaking about their experience with personal integrity, ethics, leading in the midst of crisis, and leading in a new digital era and leadership with startups, corporations and executive boards. I am most proud of this achievement because my team and I developed and executed this conference with few resources at our disposal. Just like a start-up, we used our network to engage speakers, persuaded other Ivey organizations and alumni to sponsor the event, and built a day for our class that we were very proud of.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was the lead financial modeler for a client who was looking to attract investment in a specific region. My role focused on supporting the client to understand the major cost drivers and tax considerations for potential investors as well as building them a financial model that compared their region’s profitability profile to 8+ competing regions. Both the report and model were used by the client to support investment negotiations and provided them with an insider view to give them a well-informed negotiating stance.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Dr. Gerard Seijts. His area of expertise is in organizational behaviour and leadership. Dr. Seijts’ passion for understanding good leadership and pushing students to consider complex situations before determining action is both challenging and motivating. He is not afraid to challenge the status quo and encourages others to do the same for the sake of deeper learning.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Core Finance was my favorite course – but it only became my favorite course in the last third of the class. Despite having a commerce degree, finance was the area that I had explored the least. I was excited to grow my skillset in this area after starting the MBA program. My section’s professor, Wayne Adlum, was a retired investment banker. He cared less about academic financial theories and more about the practical application of finance in the real world. This was fantastic – except for the fact that he expected our level of understanding to be relatively sophisticated early on. I struggled through the course until the first mid-term, barely saying anything in class, which was uncharacteristic of me. After receiving a strong grade on the mid-term, I realized that I knew more than I was giving myself credit for. Overall, this class ended up being my highest grade and I was very proud of the work I put in to achieve it and expand my knowledge base.

Why did you choose this business school? When it came time for me to consider MBA schools, Ivey was always at the top of the list, primarily because of my experience with my prior colleagues. I had the opportunity to work with many Ivey alumni ranging from the Class of ’80 to ’15. When my husband, Tim Blonk, and I decided that we would attend an MBA program together, we thought long and hard about what we wanted to get out of the degree and what type of program was right for us. Given that we both had commerce undergraduate degrees, we wanted to be part of a program that was hands-on, pushed us outside of our comfort zones, and challenged us to think outside of the box. After attending a First Class on the Road event where we dissected a strategy case about Harlequin Romance novels, I was hooked. The class was fun, engaging, and I was given a platform to share my opinions, instead of just absorbing others.

Now, having experienced the program, I am thrilled with my personal and professional growth to date. The case method may not be for everyone, but I cannot think of going through an MBA program any other way.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be authentic. Admissions staff want to know the real you – so be professional, but don’t forget to be yourself.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Ivey is focused primarily on placing students in consulting careers and is less strong in investment banking and finance roles. TRUTH: The school is equally strong at placing students in both roles!

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had done more case competitions! Do as many as you can – they’re an incredible experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Jessica Tsuella – not only is she incredibly accomplished, but Jessica’s approach to teams, assignments and work is inspiring. She is laser focused on bringing out the best in others, she is humble and has some of the best in-class contribution to share! A dream teammate!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad was the biggest influence on my decision to pursue business in college. My father holds an MBA degree and manages his own consulting company. He never overtly pointed me in the direction of business, but he was quick to highlight and praise my aptitude for entrepreneurship. For example, from the age of 12, I started hosting craft classes for my youngest sister’s friends at our home. I persuaded the parents to pay me $5 a session and kept track of all my costs to ensure I made a profit. This wouldn’t have happened without the support of my parents. Further, when I started Inspired Dance Studio at age 16, my dad was quick to encourage me in this endeavor and provide me with advice as required. I owned and operated the business for six years and my dad was a dedicated supporter throughout the entire process. His quick encouragement and belief in my entrepreneurial ability planted the seeds for me to pursue business in college.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a medical professional (Family Doctor or Chiropractor).”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Lower tuition fees! I would build into the early programming of the MBA program a section to challenge the class to think about their purpose and priorities in life. My reasoning for doing this is to force people to think about why they want to hold X job. This will help ensure that they find a job that truly fits their passion and skills and not one that is the “in” job to have (e.g. consulting, investment banking, tech roles etc. can fall into this category).

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Write and publish a children’s novel (currently working on one!) and visit the Pyramids of Egypt.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want people to remember that I was an asset on their team, a strong communicator and presenter, and someone who went out of their way to make others feel special.

What is your favorite movie about business? 12 Angry Men. I learned that there are many ways to gain influence, persuade, and get to the bottom of an issue. Don’t be fooled by what you see in front of you, make sure you dig deeper and look at the facts before pronouncing judgement or execute a strategy.

What would your theme song be?Difference Maker” by Needtobreathe

Favorite vacation spot: Koh Yao Yai, Thailand

Hobbies? Sailing [recently completed first two levels of sailing certification], Writing [currently working on a children’s fiction book], Cooking [testing and developing savory recipes for others to enjoy! Latest and greatest is a butternut squash soup]

What made Beckie Thain-Blonk such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Beckie Thain-Blonk is a quiet leader who gets the job done. She is quietly capable and achieves great results. She leads by example and people are willing to follow her. She treats her colleagues with respect and engages them with a smile and a sparkle in her eye. She listens not always to respond but always to understand. She was an invaluable addition to the MBA class of 2018.”

W. Glenn Rowe
Associate Professor, General Management & Strategy

 

DON’T MISS THE FULL LIST:

100 MBAS TO WATCH IN THE CLASS OF 2018