2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Caley Laxer, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Caley Laxer   

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“Curious, fun-loving person who cares about the world and the people in it.”

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario (Canada)

Fun fact about yourself: When I was in high school, I wanted to be either a pro snowboarder or a forensic scientist (maybe too much CSI?).

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Bachelor of Science (Biology/Genetics) from University of Western Ontario (Canada)

Master of Science (Genetics of Human Disease) from University College London (UK)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Manager, New Business Development at Innomar Strategies (subsidiary of AmerisourceBergen)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Bain & Company, Toronto, Canada

Where will you be working after graduation? Bain & Company, Toronto Canada – Management Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:


Kathy Duffy Memorial Scholarship Award for Female Leaders pursuing Consulting

University of Toronto Student Leadership Award

Dean’s List

Rotman Entrance Scholarship

Community Work:

President – Management Consulting Association

President – Rotman Wine Society

Graduate Business Council – Section Academic and Career Rep

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I think I am most proud of the balance I was able to achieve between building relationships, academics, career pivot, significant personal growth and development, and extracurricular involvement. I am especially proud that I was able to achieve this despite the pandemic. Rotman is like an all-you-can-eat buffet of experiences and it is easy to focus on one area at the expense of the other opportunities (e.g. care only about grades or only about networking). I am really proud that I managed to balance the opportunities to build a strong network of friends, achieve Dean’s list, land a job at Bain, put time and effort into personal growth through the Self Development Lab and Leadership Development Lab – while also ensuring to give back to the Rotman community by running associations and clubs. A part of me is sad at the opportunities we lost because of the pandemic, but I am grateful that I stayed engaged and put the time in to soak up as much as I could.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? So far, I am most proud of my first promotion. My first role after university was fairly low on the corporate totem pole and did not come with an abundance of responsibility. I was working on a program supporting patients with a few different chronic conditions. The company I was working at had been growing exponentially for years and with that came some growing pains. The program I was working on was one of the older programs at the company and was facing significant operational challenges. Despite my position within the organization, I advocated for the patients and program, worked with the client to make much-needed changes, streamlined processes, and ended up running the whole program which led to a successful turnaround for the client and patients. Shortly after that, the company picked me to pioneer a team designed to collaborate with other teams facing challenges in the organization to turnaround and support their unique situations. In this new role, I was able to collaborate with 30 different teams, supporting multiple programs and clients to help improve the challenges they faced, and this often came with the additional benefit of helping 100s of patients throughout their journey. Essentially, this sequence of events led to a cascade of others that resulted in me ending up where I am, and I am grateful for that.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Rotman for two reasons. The primary reason I chose Rotman is because it offers the Self Development Lab and the Leadership Development Lab. These are two incredible programs that complement an MBA by further developing multiple facets of yourself beyond just increasing business acumen. The programs are led by brilliant psychologists with expertise to build out the soft skills and behaviours necessary to excel as a business leader such as presence, stagecraft, accountability, emotional regulation, drivers behind your behaviour, and communication. I saw Maja Djikic give one talk and I was sold. The second reason I chose Rotman is that I did my first master’s degree abroad and although I loved the experience, I wanted to build a deeper network in this amazing city (Toronto).

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have had so many incredible professors at Rotman that stood out to me in different ways. I honestly cannot choose just one professor so I will choose one department. I have been most impressed by our incredible team of in-house economists. Rotman is one of the top ten business research universities in the world and our economists are la crème de la crème. As a result, I have taken almost every economics course offered at Rotman and each one of my professors (teaching their own research) has taught me so much. Not only are they brilliant but they also care a great deal about the greater good in the world. I have been fortunate enough to take economics courses with: Professors Dan Trefler, Walid Hejazi, Bernardo Blum, William Strange, and Peter Dungan. They really need to start a podcast because their insights are riveting.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I do have regrets about not pursuing the Creative Destruction Lab (Rotman’s incubator) because it would have been great to work with an early stage start up, especially one focused on genetics and healthcare.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: You have no social life in first year.

Reality: This was very different than what I experienced. Yes, the first few terms are demanding juggling course work, case competitions, networking, internship applications, and extracurriculars. However, we managed to cram a LOT of fun in as well including snowboarding trips, themed parties, city-wide scavenger hunts, boat parties, and meals and nights out.

What surprised you the most about business school? How much I enjoyed courses that I never thought I would find interesting including accounting, finance, and economics. My background is in the physical sciences, so I was naïve to how fascinating and analytical those disciplines are!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think it is important to be yourself in applications because then you know you are going somewhere that values what you bring to the table. That being said, I think that playing to your strengths is always a good option. I am a people person, so I think letting my personality come through in my pre-application, application, and interview probably gave me an edge. I approached my interviews at Bain with the same mentality – be myself but let my strengths come through in the process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Kevin Yoon because he is the calm in the storm and went above and beyond to help everyone accomplish their goals no matter what was happening in his own world. He is so genuine, kind, and supportive of everyone he encounters. He was in the year above me and created such an incredible community by throwing events, being inclusive, taking the time to get to know everyone, and helping us make connections as we navigated the early days of our MBA.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? No sugar coating – it was highly disruptive. I am energized by people and the classroom so transitioning to 100% living room learning was not ideal for me. I think one aspect we forget to consider is that it was not just shifting from in-person to virtual but rather dealing with the stress and uncertainty of living during a global pandemic, being isolated from friends and family, and having everything familiar change overnight. However, humans are highly adaptable, and everyone (de)mobilized and we tried to make the best of it. Despite the unfortunate state of the world, I have learned a tremendous amount, was able to focus on personal growth, and was able to wear slippers and snuggle my dog in the process. I am thankful that I ran our consulting association and wine society with two fantastic groups of people because it gave us purpose and kept us tethered and connected throughout this crazy year.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? In my last role before pursuing my MBA, I was managing business development at a large organization. I was surrounded by three incredible women: my closest colleague, Roberta, my boss and director (now VP), Jessica, and her boss, Sandra (now senior VP). All three of these women were amazing to watch at work; they were brilliant, confident, and managed a tremendous number of successful initiatives. Additionally, they were all so supportive, especially of other women. I realized I had a knowledge gap and if I wanted to be anything like these women that I had to go back for my MBA so I started the journey.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I know this sounds cheesy, but I really do care about the world and the people in it. I want to be on the right side of much needed changes whether that be social inequality and injustices, climate change, or something else. I was very fortunate to work on social inequality projects during my summer at Bain and I am hoping I can take on more of these when I return full time. The second item on my professional bucket list is to work at a startup at least once, preferably one solving real-world issues.

What made Caley such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“{A natural leader, Caley Laxer brings an emotional intelligence and dedication to detail to everything she does. Caley’s advocacy to senior school leaders on behalf of her classmates has been unparalleled, bringing to the table her ability to be present, open and willing to work through the many challenges we faced this year, with kindness and generosity. There is no better example of her dedication and advocacy than her engagement with our first year students in their job search.

In a year like no other, Caley stepped up and her efforts helped contribute to an incredibly successful year for our students seeking jobs in consulting. Having secured a full-time job before the summer began, Caley could have focused on classes in the second year while riding out the pandemic. Instead, she took the reins as President of Rotman’s Management Consulting Association.

Starting last summer and continuing throughout the year, Caley and her team produced more than 20 virtual events including multiple case prep boot camps, seminars on the basics of consulting, and lunch and learns on topics such as how to approach case and behavioural interviews. Events were also created specifically for women including non-binary and transgender students, and our part-time students. Many of the events were planned to be held in-person but with pandemic restrictions persisting throughout the year, Caley and her team pivoted, moving all of their plans online.

The outcome has been an even greater connection between students and potential employers. Rotman students (spread over 17 time zones) engaged in literally thousands of online coffee chats with working management consultants. Hundreds of our students took part in two industry nights (one for internal corporate consulting, and one for management consulting firms) that Caley and team ran. In fact, industry reps commented that the Zoom setup they deployed, with over fifty breakout rooms, worked better than the in-person format of previous years, allowing them to identify even more Rotman students as possible candidates for their organizations.

Now while all this was going on, Caley found time to work for Bain in the summer supporting their efforts at the World Economic Forum on building a more sustainable and resilient world with an action plan for the insurance and asset management industry. As part of this work, she advocated for long-term environmental, social and governance efforts as being part and parcel of a strategy for a truly resilient economy.

Her impact has been recognized, not only by staff and senior leaders, but by her classmates who name her has as an important partner in their MBA success.”

Joe Milner
Vice-Dean, MBA Programs
Professor of Operations Management



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