Meet the MBA Class of 2021: Alanna La Rose, Ivey Business School

Alanna La Rose

Ivey Business School at Western University

“Architecture and design enthusiast, motorized daredevil, and compassionate community leader who is driven by curiosity and people.”

Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta

Fun Fact About Yourself: My dad, my brother and I used to spend every winter weekend at the track racing and tuning snowmobiles. I got to travel all over Canada and the US with him on different circuits and even won a few championships.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Calgary – Master of Architecture (MArch), and University of Alberta – BSc. Earth and Atmospheric Science,  Art and Design (minor)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: BTO Contracting Ltd., Project Manager

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? The MBA Class of 2021 is resilient and resourceful. With such limited physical time together before the unprecedented effects of COVID, it could have been easy to let the digital environment restrict our connections or weaken our collective experience. Without exception, I have never met more selfless, helpful, and kind people in donating their time, help, or expertise. My classmates go beyond the idea of collaboration; they are the backbone of a vibrant and driven community that celebrates each other’s wins and supports each other when we stumble. There is a true sense that you are in this journey together.

How has the case method enriched your learning? One of the key components of the case method is you’re not learning in a bubble. In a classroom, multiple parallel information streams (text, peer experiences, different perspectives) come at you fast and furious, forcing you to adapt in real-time and pivot between case scenarios. It is an exercise in endurance and adaptation, where you feel like you are constantly behind until one day it all somehow clicks. You are thinking laterally between analytical methods (finance, marketing, data analytics), and previous case tools and lessons. I have become comfortable with ambiguity; that there is no ‘correct’ answer but there are a lot of right questions and methodological approaches.

Aside from classmates and cases, what part of the school’s MBA programming led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was drawn to Ivey for the community. Outside the classroom setting, Ivey builds more than just ideas and classmates. They build a community that crosses generations and geographies. This community is what allows for the transformative MBA experience at Ivey, knowing that you can reach out to any person who has ever walked the halls and know that they are there to support you.

During the recent economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 and the lockdowns, Ivey alumni have been generous with their time and support. From phone calls to “Teachable Moment” series panels, alumni have reached out to welcome us into the community.  Whether it is the faculty, the staff, or the alumni, Ivey understands the power of home. A place where students can feel safe enough to take risks but also challenged enough to grow, both as leaders and as people.

You moved online quickly after arriving on campus due to COVID-19. What has the transition been? How has an online platform impacted your relationships with your peers? Four days after the official start of classes, COVID-19 pushed our programming from a known physical environment to an untested digital arena. Many of us were at a club gathering when phones started to vibrate with the incoming news. The program and our cohort were forced to pivot quickly, with little leeway for lost class time and with great urgency for the seriousness implicit in this global pandemic.  The transition was swift, and is an ongoing exercise in adaptation, agility, and communication between the Ivey faculty, our cohort, and the tireless skill and support of the Ivey IT network (our personal superheroes).

The experience we expected is not the situation my peers and I have found ourselves in. However, there is only ever two choices when facing something unexpected: either collaborate forward and find another path, or get lost in the weeds of ‘what-ifs’. We have chosen the first. Friendships and connections have become more purposeful and directed. Instead of relying on spontaneous chats at the campus Starbucks, we have deliberately sought out classmates for zoom coffees before class. We have also had to develop a fearlessness when reaching out to peers we did not get the chance to connect with organically. There has been a generosity established in our cohort of simply reaching out over messages to say, ‘I know we did not get the chance to hang out prior to lockdown but I have heard that you are one of the funniest people, or have the best recipe for strawberry shortcake cookies.’

We have created Zoom Yoga sessions in the morning for wellness, a Slack dog chat to inspire levity, Cohort Connections, socially distanced hikes and scavenger hunts, and intimate digital panels with experts and professionals to share their responses and experiences. We also focused on innovating our student clubs to adapt and thrive in this new environment. We have volunteered our time and experience and reached out to and received assurance from the selfless alumni network. It would be simplistic to say the online experience hasn’t made the MBA program more challenging. However, it has also allowed us to develop resilience and think differently about what it means to be genuinely connected in the digital space. We do miss our in-person bonding time, and remembering exactly how tall everyone really is – but we also know that our position is privileged and this experience will only prepare us for the adversity and ambiguity that leaders at all levels are facing and will continue to face at a hectic speed.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My first managerial position was for a lead civil earthworks subcontractor on the Anthony Henday Drive and Stony Plain Road Interchange, a $168 million three-year joint venture that was the largest infrastructure and first design-build project of its kind in Edmonton. It was a true trial by fire in an industry where women in management are rare.

At the time our company had never had to integrate so many complex operations, and on such a large scale with multiple other concurrent vendors and subcontractors within the same site and timeline. With little prior resources but tremendous support, I was given the autonomy and backing to develop our utilities scheduling, health and safety, and environmental site programming and processes from the ground up. Simultaneously, I developed partnerships with the prime contractors and other subcontractors that facilitated rapid communication and maximized our workflow efficiencies over five simultaneous sites, a 250-person team, and an aggressive timeline. It was challenging, but our team adapted quickly and pulled together.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After spending five years working on challenging infrastructure construction and environmental remediation projects, I felt that I had reached the limits of where I could go with my skills and training. During an overhaul of our modified work program, I realized the positive impact proper change could drive throughout the company but also within the lives of each employee.

In order to explore this passion for innovation people and strategy, I knew I wanted to marry my experiences working in rural Canada with the design-thinking ethos developed from my MArch, and that it would require me to do an MBA. I had a great experience leading people and projects, and operations were like a second language to me. However, it was gaining skills in finance and data analytics that would allow me to seize these opportunities.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? While initially, I researched other schools, I only applied to Ivey. It’s one year program, active alumni network, and collaborative culture I knew was the right fit.

What did you do during the application process that enabled you to get accepted into Ivey? The recruitment team at Ivey is a resource and support system that would be rare to find anywhere else. They truly take the time to get to know you and understand what drives your passions and goals. I focused on honesty both in terms of my hesitations and passions. Self-awareness is key, as Ivey is a fast-paced and challenging MBA. At Ivey, you start off running, make sure you know what you want and why you want to get there.

What is the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started at Ivey? The traditional view of business can often concentrate on competition over cooperation, in a quest to become the ideal candidate. However, there is no perfect candidate. Success is not a singular noun, but a verb that grows stronger when multiplied across diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. The MBA, to use a common Ivey phrase, can be like ‘drinking out of a fire hose’. When I entered the program, I had little experience in accounting or finance. I worried that if I fell behind, I would have little hope to catch up in a process I feared would be survival of the fittest. But it never happened. It didn’t happen because I didn’t falter, but because I had my learning team and my friends within my cohort that would take time to steady me. Dialogue and discussion are how I digest information best, and classmates volunteered their time and energy into teaching and talking me through what are now some of my favorite subjects. The reward came when I was able to pay that forward, to reach out a hand to someone else. As the Beatles once said, “I get by with a little help from my friends”.



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