2019 MBAs To Watch: Jesús Amundaraín, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Jesús Amundaraín

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

I am an introspective, intellectually curious person who is on a continuous path of self-improvement.”

Hometown: Cumaná, Venezuela.

Fun fact about yourself: I learned to stilt-walk for my first participation in a Pride parade float in 2014. I walked approximately 1 mile in a stormy, windy summer day and never fell down.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Universidad Simón Bolívar – B.Eng. Chemical Engineering
  • University of Alberta – M.Sc. Chemical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? FourQuest Energy, Project Engineer.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Scotiabank, Toronto.

Where will you be working after graduation? Scotiabank, Enterprise Productivity.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Student organizer of the ROMBA Conference 2018
  • Reaching Out MBA Fellowship 2017-2018
  • Mary Jane Felker Fellowship 2018
  • VP of Outreach, Diversity & Inclusion, Rotman Graduate Business Council 2018
  • Organizer of Rotman Orientation Week 2018
  • Coordinator/facilitator of a Sexual Violence Prevention training program, Rotman Orientation Week 2018

I came to Rotman to become the best version of myself. After experiencing self-suppression of my own identity due to fear for my safety while working in Siberia (Russia), I understood the true value of community. From day one, I looked for opportunities to improve our student experience and make everyone feel safe and comfortable while at Rotman. My determination to foster a more inclusive space for the LGBTQ+ people comes from a very personal place. I organized the first ever in-house drag performance at Rotman during the celebration of Day of Pink 2018. The surprise event was a great way to provide visibility and support to the anti-bullying of LGBTQ+ youth and collect funds for donation to a nonprofit, LGBTQ+ support center in Toronto. From sharing my experience with classmates who have never encountered an LGBTQ+ person in their path to leading the largest business conference targeted at promoting inclusion of the LGBTQ+ in business, I feel that I have contributed to change perspectives about diversity and inclusion.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leading the ROMBA Conference 2018 was not only the proudest moment of my MBA experience but also one of my most enjoyable times. The respect that I have for Reaching Out and its executive team is insurmountable. I have found in both the ROMBA Leadership Team and the ROMBA Fellows a great family of support and laughter. My determination to be a change agent towards the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ in the workplace has grown after witnessing the work that Reaching Out MBA does. I am extremely humbled and appreciative to have been part of ROMBA.

In addition, I took on the challenge of promoting a culture of sexual violence prevention at Rotman. I leveraged resources at the University of Toronto and its Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre. I organized and facilitated a training program for the classes of 2019 and 2020 as part of the Rotman Orientation Week. My main goal was to eliminate risks for sexual violence and promote a culture of consent. As a result of this program, Rotman has not received any reports of sexual violence this year and the training will continue being a consistent component of the orientation week for the full-time MBA program moving forward. It will also be implemented across all other graduate programs at Rotman.

An academic involvement that I am very proud and excited about is the Rotman OnBoard Fellowship Program. I have been helping a nonprofit organization for the arts with some challenges regarding board governance and board effectiveness. As someone who has never been part of a board of directors, the OnBoard program has facilitated an opportunity to understand, early in my career, how boards operate and how they influence the direction of the organization they embody. During this project, I have provided guidance about board structure and board processes in order to best align with the vision and mission of the arts organization. The changes proposed will start being implemented at the beginning of April 2019.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my last job, I was able to prove my drive and worth to the company fairly quickly. After a short six months, I found myself leading FourQuest’s second largest project that year, valued at $3.5 million, and managing an operations team of 35 people, the largest team I have ever managed. The project entailed the pre-commissioning of Suncor’s Fort Hills Refinery and it required my understanding of different cleaning technologies that had to be executed concurrently

However, the most important challenge was the relationship management of our client representatives, our head office, and our personnel on the field. Each group had very different – at times even conflicting – interests. In order to align the needs of the different stakeholders, I exercised my flexibility in communication styles and fostered open, reciprocal communication channels among everyone. I ensured that all efforts were synergistic by assuming a mediating role. By intervening when a clear deviation from our plan was experienced, I created and implemented remediation measures, when necessary. In the end, everybody went above-and-beyond their own roles and responsibilities to ensure our milestones were met, if not exceeded. We finished the project with a very positive evaluation and our client representatives felt as contributing factors to our success, as well. The entire experience was very fulfilling both professionally and personally.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Bill McEvily. He has a teaching style that is extremely engaging. He knows how to disseminate academic content with current relevance, allowing students to establish direct links with their own experiences. I was lucky to take two courses with him and, in both instances, Professor McEvily was interested in hearing our perspectives about improving our school environment through the usage of strategy models. Activities like this immediately engaged the entire class and made us feel not only heard but also change drivers at Rotman.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Strategic Change and Implementation. I learned that strategic recommendations can only realize their full benefits when ample attention is paid to due diligence efforts. Implementation and adoption considerations should, therefore, be the cornerstone in aligning strategy, organizational structure, informal social networks, processes, and reward systems.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Rotman because it leads business education in Canada, particularly thanks to the numerous innovative resources offered to its students. Whether you want to explore your interests in design thinking, entrepreneurship, board governance, or even the leadership of one’s self or others, Rotman has a dedicated lab or experiential program designed to match those interests. In addition, the full-time MBA program at Rotman challenges you intellectually at the same time that it makes you more efficient with your time management. As a student, you have so many things on the go all the time that you feel that your work and efforts are constantly paired with a sense of urgency – I love that. Lastly, I always entertained the idea of relocating to Toronto; hence, Rotman was a natural way for me to match my professional goals with my personal aspirations to live in Canada’s largest city.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Spend the time to connect with current students, visit our building, and audit a few classes to gauge fit. Business school is an important personal investment; hence, you want to ensure that you pick the right school for you and, equally relevant, that you are ready to embark on the emotional rollercoaster that is an MBA.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Rotman is a Finance school. Although the school has a legacy of really strong ties with financial services firms, there is a great effort across the board to provide equal professional and educational support to students interested in less traditional fields, such as design thinking or sustainability.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I would have known to look at rejection from a different perspective. Most MBA students come from successful careers, so we are not good at dealing with rejection – most likely because we have never experienced it. Today, I have a different perspective. Rejection has reinforced very important values within me, such as perseverance, flexibility, and optimism.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school has made me more self-aware of my strengths and weaknesses. When I start a task now, I intuitively gauge how and when I can best utilize my abilities and, if the task challenges me on an area of development, I embrace it as a learning opportunity. In addition, I have learned to work well with ambiguity. I am more systematic about dissecting problems before jumping into solution mode, which has proved extremely effective when dealing with high complexity. Lastly, I feel more comfortable being vulnerable after my MBA. Business is all about people; hence, it is important to be genuine and establish professional relationships founded on honesty and respect.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sarah Badun. I was immediately impressed with how good organization and presentation skills Sarah has. She is extremely professional and would not settle for anything less than perfect. I quickly learned to trust Sarah’s work as it was always very introspective and meticulous in the details. My admiration for Sarah is not only due to her intellectual capabilities – many MBA students are bright, but also due to her interests in school initiatives such as outreach, gender equality, and coaching incoming students. She also knows where all the good restaurants in Toronto are!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My sister. She understood and empathized with my fear of becoming a technical specialist within the Oil and Gas industry. Although I was financially responsible for her well-being in Canada, she asked me to seek alternatives outside of our province (Alberta). She reinforced that both she and my late father would be in full support of my relocation for business school since it meant a well-deserved self-improvement opportunity.

What is your favorite movie about business? There Will Be Blood (2007) was a rude awakening to the fact that many of the moral and ethical practices that are the norm in business today were not always in place. This movie taught me that although maximization of stakeholder value can be the goal for most corporations, it does not liberate them from their ethical obligations to society.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? Naked options, an unhedged strategy that does not offset risk.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working my way into a strategic role within an Oil and Gas company, and heavily helping my sister plan her wedding.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? My Rotman MBA has opened many doors to professional opportunities that would have otherwise remained closed. The prestige of the program across Canada is a particularly important asset for students like me who want to leverage their MBA education to switch careers. Today, I am ready to return to the workplace and I truly feel as if I can achieve anything I set out myself to do. I am confident to say that the dollar value of my MBA far outweighs its tuition fees.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I would love to participate in a Burning Man festival and travel to Antarctica.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my classmates to remember me as someone who is always willing to listen and help them as much as I possibly can.

Hobbies? I love to attend performing arts productions, live jazz concerts, and art gallery exhibitions.

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

“It isn’t common to have an MBA orientation begin with workshops for the entire cohort on Sexual Violence and Harassment and it’s even less common to have that advocacy be led by an ally who identifies as a gay male. Nothing about Jesús though is conventional or fits into a box, he is someone who lives his values and challenges others to see the world differently and he does this with kindness, compassion and a great deal of empathy. Ever since arriving at Rotman, Jesús has taken action to create a better student experience for others. This year Jesús assumed the role of Vice President Diversity & Inclusion with the Graduate Business Council. Under his leadership, he pushed the school to move away from weekend-long conferences on diversity and shift towards a larger commitment to equity by ensuring there were opportunities for growth throughout the year. This included assembling a team of diversity champions and forming a community of practice that would meet regularly to exchange knowledge and provide learning opportunities for the Rotman Community.

One event in particular that stands out is our Day of Pink, an International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia, and Transmisogyny across the world. Jesús not only arranged for a drag performance in the middle of the school, he provided the space for other students to become more familiar with the plight of members of the trans community and he did this in an engaging and thoughtful way. Jesús mastered every detail from the outreach strategy to ensuring over 200 balloons were perfectly blown up and aligned in an orderly fashion to represent each colour of the pride flag. On top of his very demanding studies and role on the GBC, as a Reaching Out MBA Fellow who benefited from the community, Jesús put his hand up to help lead their annual conference. His contribution to ROMBA has not only benefited a few of his classmates, but he has also had a direct impact on hundreds of MBA students across the globe. Jesús is a remarkable leader who cares deeply about the people and causes he supports, it’s been a real honour to get to know him and our community will continue to benefit from his many contributions.”

Neel Joshi
Director of Student & International Experience

Are you a friend of Jesús Amundaraín? Leave a comment to congratulate him.