Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Michaela Eckel, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Michaela Eckel

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“I am strong, ambitious, resourceful, adaptable, fun-loving, adventurous, compassionate – and unapologetically me.”

Hometown: Sudbury, Massachusetts

Fun Fact About Yourself: In my free time I love to go to the gym and weightlift. Besides the physical benefits, it builds my confidence and makes me feel empowered.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Industrial and Management Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Johnson & Johnson – Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Business Technology Leader, IT Analyst

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? There are many things that drew me to Rotman – from the diverse and welcoming city of Toronto to the variety of MBA specializations offered – but what sold me was the Self-Development Lab (SDL). The SDL offers a unique opportunity for students to receive constructive feedback about how to present themselves professionally and deepen their understanding about their personal motivations. This program is unique to Rotman, which emphasizes the school’s desire to holistically, not just academically, prepare their students for leadership roles. Most MBA programs offer strong academic courses with amazing professors, but the focus on these “soft” skills is especially appealing to me, as I believe they will help me build a solid foundation for professional and personal success.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am excited to join Rotman’s club WIMA, Women in Management Association. The club’s mission is “to champion women and gender equality in the Rotman community and in the workplace.” This mission aligns with my personal values as I have been an active member of Johnson & Johnson’s WiSTEM2D (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Management, Manufacturing, and Design) initiative and WLI (Women’s Leadership & Inclusion) employee resource group. I am excited about the opportunity to continue working toward equality during my MBA experience.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment comes from a “stretch assignment” I volunteered for as part of the Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing and Design) initiative. I worked alongside a handful of other volunteers to design, develop, launch, and promote a tool that allows employees to map out their career and personal goals, supporting success in many aspects of their lives. I developed requirements and wrote user stories for the site and led User Acceptance Testing before launch. Post-launch, I helped gather feedback from end-users – through surveys and one-on-one discussions – to create a backlog of enhancements for improving the user experience. I also presented at various events within the company to promote the tool. Overall, the launch has been a success, having close to 3,000 visitors to the site from more than 50 countries around the world!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I am choosing to pursue my MBA now to explore different business areas and find my true passion. I spent the past three years in IT and loved learning new technologies. However, I found myself becoming more interested in the business challenges than the technology tools designed to address them. I am looking to balance my technical background with a strong business acumen so I can start a career path that combines my interests.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I researched schools online and visited campuses to come up with the list of MBA programs I wanted to pursue. Since Rotman was my top choice, I got my application in by the first deadline, so I could hear back from the school as soon as possible. Once I found out I got accepted to Rotman, I decided not to move forward with other applications, which included Northeastern, Boston University and MIT. I realize this may be an unorthodox approach, but I knew I would choose Rotman, even if I had been accepted to the other schools.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most difficult question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I know this is a basic question for interviews, but it has always been a struggle for me. Many students going into an MBA program know exactly what they want to do when they graduate, like consulting or finance. For me, however, this is not the case. My MBA journey is about exploring new areas to learn more about myself and my passions. While I do not know exactly what I want to be doing in 5 years, I do know that I want to be making a difference – and I am excited to see where my Rotman MBA takes me.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? There were multiple factors. The key criterion: courses offered, location for career growth, and school values. I wanted a school that offered a wide variety of courses, supporting both personal and professional learning, so that I could explore many areas of business, and discover my passions. Additionally, I was interested in Toronto, since it is expanding quickly and drawing large companies, providing opportunities across many industries. I also considered the international experience – moving to Canada and being a part of a class with students from around the world. Lastly, finding a school that aligned with my values was incredibly important to me, as a school’s values shape the leaders going through its program. Rotman’s values of Diversity, Excellence, Integrity, and Respect resonate with me personally, and I hope to bring them with me in my future pursuits.

I attended events and visited university campuses to better understand the culture to see if I could picture myself attending. I did not use a specific tool to make my choice, it was more about creating my own priorities and ranking against those.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Instead of a defining moment, I have had a defining few years that launched my career. After graduating, I joined Johnson & Johnson’s Technology Leadership Development Program, which consists of two, year-long technology rotations and then a final placement. In my first role, I supported DePuy Synthes Supply Chain, and in my second I worked in Consumer Data & Analytics. I took final placement within Janssen Pharmaceuticals as a Business Technology Leader supporting the Patient Access Services team. Successfully taking on three vastly different jobs across three different sectors came with steep learning curves and challenges. I learned the importance of continual self-learning, adaptation, and embracing the discomfort that can accompany change. Each of these lessons is vital for success in business school and beyond, especially in these uncertain times.

What is the most important attribute that you are seeking in an MBA employer and why is that so important? If you asked me this question last year my answer would have been vastly different. Now, more than ever, I am looking for an employer who actively supports their employees’ well-being and the communities around them. 2020 has taught me how connected the world is, and that we will either thrive together or fail together. I want to work for a company that is not focused solely on the bottom line but also actively working to improve the holistic health of their employees, communities, and even the world.



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