2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Phill Jong, Ivey Business School

Phill Jong  

Ivey Business School at Western University

“An energetic leader, optimist, and problem solver who is relentlessly dissatisfied with the status quo.”

Hometown: Beaumont, Alberta, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I worked out 3x per day for 365 days straight in a quest to improve my resilience.

Undergraduate School and Degree: MacEwan University; Double major in Finance and Accounting; minors in Psychology and Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? JLL Capital Markets

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? N/A — Ivey is an accelerated and intense 13-month program

Where will you be working after graduation? Private Equity

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Richard Ivey Excellence Award
  • Stacey Muirhead Capital Management Ltd. Prize
  • Founder of undergrad Consulting Club; member of the advisory board
  • Senator of MBA Case Competitions
  • Tutor Finance, Calculus, Statistics, Physics, Economics, and case analysis to undergraduates
  • Mentor a permanently-disabled undergraduate student to achieve her academic and career aspirations
  • Founded and lead a non-profit consulting practice that helps economically- and socially- disadvantaged entrepreneurs

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I focused my extracurricular time on improving the Real Estate industry’s desire for MBA students. Once I arrived, I realized that the industry traditionally desires such profiles as seasoned investment bankers or private equity individuals. I set out to change this, as there is value in the industry that MBAs have the training to unlock.

I was fortunate to bring Ivey a host of connections from across the country and a diverse set of industry-related experiences. So, I set about improving the industry’s desire from both ends of the spectrum. This included a bottom-up approach by writing real estate analytics cases, introducing dozes of classmates to real estate leaders, and involving others at Ivey in real estate-related showcase projects. From a top-down perspective, I executed upon meeting with one influential real estate leader per week to introduce them to what Ivey, and to a greater extent MBAs, has to offer.

My goal is to create the most influential network of future leaders in Canada’s real estate industry. I am sure that MBAs before, during, and after our cohort will benefit from the community we have already begun to create.

I am proud of this as real estate isn’t the flashy industry that it used to be. It is the medium by which we work and enjoy our lives. It is also a construct that influences how we feel about ourselves (tired of WFH yet?) and greatly influences our environmental impact. As one can surmise, real estate has ridiculous potential to provide a platform for a better life and comes with ecological puzzles that need to be solved along the way.

This level of complexity takes more than traditional financial thinking. So, I’m proud that I have commenced what could be the next great wave of multidisciplinary thinkers in the real estate space who will come together—from both ends of the spectrum—to solve these puzzles.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My most outstanding achievements—from saving millions of corporate dollars to restructuring an entire department – either couldn’t have been achieved without an incredible team surrounding me or couldn’t have been learned without significant failure. I am especially proud, however, of my first mentee. He was a recent grad who dreamt of running the department that he had just started with, but needed at least five more years of experience. At that point, I became interested in learning more about leading people and teams and how to mentor others effectively. I would read business books in the mornings, apply the lessons learned through the day, then reflect on them in the evening. After iterating like this over two years, he phoned me to tell me that, after three promotions, he had finally switched to managing the division. I’m proud of this, not only because he had achieved something, but also because I had discovered a passion of mine through the process.

Why did you choose this business school? I had strict criteria: I wanted to be in a top-tier case-based program, be surrounded by diverse and incredible individuals, become a better team member and leader, and be fully immersed in the program by design. I also wanted a program with a team-first mentality and a holistic approach to its curriculum (e.g. not memorizing and brain-dumping). A lot to ask, but Ivey was unmatched when it came to these!

Who was your favourite MBA professor?

This is a “Lebron James or Tiger Woods?” -type question! Larry Menor stood out for me:

  1. He turned a dry subject into an appreciable art. I could feel my thinking transition from a formulaic approach to one full of intuition and differentiated vantage points from which I saw problems.
  2. He is one of those individuals who can embed intrinsic motivation within others. At first, you can feel the extrinsic pull to do well. As classes progress, you have an inherent sense that you want to do well for him. Eventually, the interactions move to a point where you feel as if you are working with him through the subject matter. As a result, once you get to the final case exam, you have a sense of wanting to make him proud!

Both of these attributes are prodigious marks of leadership, and I am appreciative that I encountered someone who showcased these qualities.

What was your favourite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Given that Ivey is secluded from Toronto, and everyone lives within a few blocks of each other, our entire cohort melds into one giant family. In non-COVID times, there are countless celebrations, sporting events, and charitable activities that take part through the year that translate into lifelong bonds. With covid, given that we didn’t have the luxury of gathering together, we resorted to a new tradition: Zoom dance parties.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Given Ivey’s intensity (it’s a two-year program that is condensed into one year), we don’t have reading weeks, summer vacations, or days off between terms. With this, the pressure can always seem ‘on,’ and it’s easy to forget that your time in such a unique congregation of minds is limited. And given the social distancing of this year, the chance encounters (that our building is designed to stimulate) were challenging to come by. So, if I had to do it again, I would allocate more time to meeting every single person in the cohort. My classmates here have incredible stories, great potentials, and excellent characters. Why would I do this? Because I am bullish on humans, and a whole stable of great ones surround me!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Given Ivey is a case-based school, and there isn’t a summer break to do an internship, many question the prospect of changing careers. The data doesn’t lie: nearly 95% of our grads are career-switchers.

What surprised you the most about business school? The wholistic soft-skill development. In undergrad, I memorized tens of thousands of flashcards and crushed every exam. Here, you cannot do that and expect to succeed. I think this is a purposeful manifestation of the process by which Ivey puts you through, reflecting the world that we are diving into and about to lead. Since all of our learnings—dozens of cases, assignments, and projects per week—are team-based, you learn to thrive with others in any context, appreciate the art of judgment, and embrace the holistic nature of character formation.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Demonstration of leadership character. In the months leading up to my final-round interviews, I launched a new business division, founded and launched a new company, and was flying across the world for work. I toiled for months to get to the final-round interviews, and I knew, as soon as I walked out of the room that it didn’t go well. Rather than waiting for the ding a week later, I bought a series of books that would help me reframe, refocus, and become more pragmatic—before I even got on the flight back home. When I got the (rejection) call, I communicated that I belonged there and could prove it. Should I surpass a challenging new set of hurdles in a brief period, they would grant me another attempt at the final round interview. I accepted, with determination, and eventually succeeded.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Although he is a pervasive doer (he launched a non-profit, a sustainability case-comp, and helped me establish an Ivey cycling club), it was his less salient points that were most admirable:

  1. When a negative aura cast over us during the lockdowns, he was positive, hopeful, and enthusiastic. Even when it would be raining and near-freezing temperatures, he would still get our cycling crew together to ride.
  2. He had such an intense demonstration of purpose that few others could match. This purpose would be felt by others and served to energize me in constraining moments. Such a transmutation pushed me to assure the congruence between my values, character, and future aspirations.
  3. He has an openness to his demeanor that was confiding and supportive beyond all others.

Recruiting keeping you up at night? Go for a run with Noah; you’ll go back home ready to take on the world.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? In hindsight, it was anti-disruptive. The between-time (for example, the time ‘between’ waking up and being in a chair in class, or from one task to another) shrunk dramatically. It is more disruptive, cognitively, to hustle every day between the gym, the car, the class, the water fountain, than to do the Wake-Workout-Prep-Zoom model!

Ivey executed the transition well—we only missed one day of school at the outset. Once we were hybrid, we had a better screening, tracking, and sanitization procedure than Pearson Airport.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Shane Parrish.

I hold enormous, 50- and 100-year goals that I have been pursuing for the last decade. However, it wasn’t until after many months of self-discovery and reflection that I realized that I had a gap between what is required to achieve these, and both my current trajectory and my thinking methodologies. What inspired me was Shane Parrish’s pursuit of exploring and mastering the hard-earned lessons learned from others. Such dedication to exploring others’ minds caused me to improve my mental models and interview the leaders in my field. As a result, it was clear that there was a gap to be filled: if I wanted to be in their shoes, I had some work to do!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Top 40 under 40
  2. Measurably affect the global investment in Canada

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

“Phill has been a silent and strong leader for the MBA Class of 2021. His performance academically has been strong and consistent throughout the program. Phill’s good nature and friendly approach make him a well-known and a respected member of the class. He has shown tremendous resilience and understanding during the past year, which at times I am sure has been challenging for him as a member of the community. He approaches challenges with optimism and reality which has proven to be a great strength during the COVID-19 pandemic. Phill is well-liked by the Faculty team at Ivey who view him an outstanding student and also admired and looked up to by his peers. He continues to be involved in the virtual space through activities and creating long lasting friendships with members of the MBA Class of 2021. Without doubt, Phill is well deserving of this nomination as an exemplary student and welcomed member of the Ivey Community.”

Mindy Studnicka
Director, MBA Program Services



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