2019 MBAs To Watch: Adil Sethi, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Adil Sethi

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

A team player who is persistent, resilient, dedicated and doesn’t shy away from following his passion.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: I was a professional cricketer and a sports agent before coming to Business School.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Delhi, Bachelor of Arts (Honors) Business Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Manager – Talent and Operations, Anglian Medal Hunt Company (A boutique sports marketing firm focusing on talent management and the development of Olympic and Paralympic Sports in India)

In addition to this, I was heading the women empowerment through sports vertical for Kri Foundation, a non-profit that pioneers in the advancement of social issues such as the empowerment of women and disadvantaged groups in India

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Toronto

Where will you be working after graduation? The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation; Senior Manager – Enterprise Strategy and Analytics

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Community Work and Leadership Roles

President, Rotman Negotiation Club

Vice President – Industry Relations, Rotman Sports Business Association,

Vice President – Allies, Women in Management Association

Rotman Student and Career Ambassador

LINKS Mentor (LINKS is a mentorship program that partners female undergraduate students with MBA candidates of similar educational, cultural, or professional backgrounds)

Captain, Rotman Soccer Team

Awards and Honors

The Institute of Gender and the Economy MBA Fellowship (Valued at $10,000)

Rotman Entrance Scholarship (Valued at $30,000)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being awarded the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) Fellowship during my time at Rotman. The Fellowship provided me the perfect platform to build on my endeavors tackling gender equality in sports as it gave me the opportunity and resources to lead my own research project around gender equality.

However, what makes this even more special is that I am the only man to have received this honor. Because of this, I believe that I have a great responsibility to lead by example, advocate, and help change the conversation around gender equality.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement that I am most proud of in my professional career is leading the management team that ensured the qualification of Indian National Sprinter, Dutee Chand for the Rio Olympic Games. Other than having the tag of India’s fastest woman, Dutee is well known for her brave fight and landmark victory, at the Court of Arbitration for Sports, against the unfair suspension handed to her by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 2014, on the grounds of Hyperandrogenism. Despite overcoming the biggest challenge of her life, having not trained or competed since her suspension, she faced an impossible task of achieving the qualification standard to qualify for the Games in less than a year, a feat that no Indian woman sprinter had ever achieved in Olympic history. It took Dutee and the team over 300 days and 14 athletic meets before she met the qualification benchmark, 10 days before the deadline for the Games, making her the first Indian woman to qualify for a sprints event in the qualification standard era of the Olympic Games. To support Dutee in managing a feat considered globally to be a defining moment in the fight for gender equity in sports is my proudest achievement.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There is definitely very healthy competition for this one, but my favorite MBA Professor was Professor Walid Hejazi, who taught me the Economic Environment of Business in my 1st year. He not only made a very content heavy course a joy to attend with his unique perspective and witty jokes, but also helped me align the theoretical knowledge I had gained from my undergrad in Business Economics with current North American and global economic trends. This reignited my interest in Macroeconomics and made me see this area of study with a whole new lens.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I would bucket both my negotiations courses – Managerial Negotiations and Advanced Negotiations and Conflict Management – as my favorite. As a sports agent for over two years, I came to Rotman with the understanding of how valuable it was to be an effective negotiator in the business world. Having negotiated deals for my clients on a daily basis, I believed I was competent and had a definite edge when it came to negotiations. This belief was short-lived as I came to realize that the very core of the strategies I used to negotiate were short-sighted and counterproductive in business situations where there was potential for creating more value, integrative bargaining and developing long-term relationships. I have since then built on this foundation and honed my skills as a negotiator.

Why did you choose this business school? Getting the opportunity to work internationally and doing that in a multi-cultural, multi- sports city was of primary importance to me post my MBA. Toronto, where Rotman would have been my obvious choice, was one of my top three destinations. However, it was Rotman’s emphasis on self-development and integrative thinking and the prowess of its research-oriented faculty that ultimately helped me make my final decision.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Rotman prides itself on the diversity one can find within each cohort, and the diversity of experiences each individual brings to the table. I would urge prospective applicants to think beyond their academic and intellectual success and showcase those experiences and qualities, or what Rotman likes to call “Spike Factors”, that makes them well-rounded candidates and hard to forget.

In addition to this, the Program amplifies the development of those actively seeking opportunities to learn from the experiences of their fellow peers. Therefore, being humble and open-minded are two qualities Rotman seeks in each applicant.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Rotman is that it is a consulting- and finance-focused business school. To a certain extent, I agree. Any business school worth its salt should be. However, in my experience, Rotman makes equally equipped those students, who are looking to explore careers in niche sectors such as sports, entertainment, business design and sustainability.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? It would be that the MBA Program is solely about my personal and professional development and not about competing with others in my cohort. The demanding nature of an MBA pushes you towards developing a competitive frame of mind, but the investment you made was to improve yourself. Worrying about what others are accomplishing takes away from that. I am glad that I wasn’t too late to realize this and could make the most out of this experience. However, it is my hope and constant advice for students thinking about, or beginning, their MBA journey to keep this in mind.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I came to Rotman with a very restricted mindset of only wanting to pursue a career in sports management. Over the past two years, the program pushed me to refine and develop my transferable skills and seek a variety of opportunities that were a good fit for me. My transition to the Gaming and Entertainment industry is testament to this transformation and I wouldn’t be surprised if I go on to explore opportunities in other industries in the future.

Furthermore, most of the decisions I made before coming to business school, both in my professional and personal life, were based on instinctive and emotionally-driven. Rather than eliminate this habit, my time at Rotman enhanced my problem-solving ability by adding a layer of deep and logical thinking that provides me a broader base to assess situations.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are many classmates of mine that I look up to and admire. However, I would be doing injustice to not mention my admiration for my classmates from the Morning and Evening MBA Programs, who are managing work, children and the MBA all at one go. One has to just shadow them to find inspiration and understand the true meaning of time management.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I would have to give this credit to both my mother and grandmother. Being children of a single parent from an early age, both my brother and I were encouraged by them to follow our passion and strive for excellence. Both of these women understood the importance that quality education had on a person’s career and wanted the best for us. They influenced my brother to go law school and ensured that I attended Business school due to our continued interest in these disciplines. Had it not been for their constant motivation, support and sacrifice, I may not have been in business school today.

What is your favorite movie about business? Moneyball – “If we try to play like the Yankees in here, we will lose to the Yankees out there.” Aping the competition because they seem have got things right is not always the ideal strategy. Leveraging your core competencies and thinking out of the box but within your constraints would give you the most optimal solution.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? It comes as no surprise to me that this one stems from Financial Accounting. The goofiest MBA acronym I encountered was ROFL (i.e. Return on Financial Leverage). It always reminds me of Rolling on the Floor Laughing and the Blizzard Entertainment inspired ‘Roflcopter.’ I remember using a Gif image of the copter in one of my presentations. Let me tell you, the professor was not amused!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…promoting and managing the interests of women athletes and working towards the development of Olympic, Paralympic and emerging sports in India.”

What dollar value would you placed on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Gaining only an “education” out of one’s MBA experience is bare minimum. For a candidate taking only the bare minimum that the program has to offer, the MBA is immensely overpriced.

The value for money of an MBA program comes from leveraging the incidental, but equally essential resources that the MBA provides you. Some of these include the self-development, communication, and leadership modules that the school has to offer. However, the value of having access to over 1,500 people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, yet sharing similar professional interests, to build your network is in itself worth the investment. It all depends on how well you utilize these resources.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Travel across the length of the South American continent
  2. Having just picked up the sport of skiing, attempting a black-diamond run

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who was always curious about what the world has to offer and strived to have a meaningful connection with, and a positive impact on, the people around him.


Latin and Ballroom Dancing

Building my knowledge bank in sports

What made Adil such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Sethi is a superstar. Not only is he a committed scholar, but he has also contributed mightily to improving the Rotman community and beyond.

First, Sethi was selected to be an MBA Fellow of the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) which I run. The competition for this fellowship is fierce and he was one of only eight students selected this year. As part of the fellowship, each student must design and complete a project related to the GATE mission. In his case, he is focused on the huge differences in sponsorship funds that go to men’s sports relative to women’s sports. This project builds on his work in India on this topic. For the project, he is working to identify new metrics and practices that might increase sponsorship funding for women’s sports through a thorough analysis of sports sponsorship data and numerous interviews with industry executives.

Second, in his capacity as the Co-Lead of WiMen (the men’s group affiliated with the WIMA Women in Management Association student club), he has organized a number of important opportunities for men at Rotman to speak together about achieving new models of masculinity and greater gender equality. He is now spearheading a Design Sprint (joint with GATE and Deloitte) focused on Designing the Everyday Man. In it, students of all genders will get the opportunity to come up with innovative new approaches for organizations to support new models of masculinity that can make things better for men, women, and people of diverse genders in the workplace and at home. This has been a true labor of love as he works with corporate partners to design the Design Sprint, attract coaches and judges, and come up with prizes for the competing teams. I know of no other business school where this kind of case competition is taking place and it was all Sethi’s brainchild.

Beyond these activities, Sethi is also President of the Rotman Negotiation Club and VP, Industry Relations, of the Rotman Sports Business Association. He is busy! And, he brings his commitment to gender equality to all of these activities.”

Sarah Kaplan

Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy

Professor of Strategic Management

Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy

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