Every year, business schools shell out a small fortune to promote their MBA programs. Their ads pop up when you click a story link and their events fill many an inbox. However, the best advertising doesn’t cost programs a cent. And it is the oldest strategy in business: Happy customers.
MBA programs love to promote their rock star CEO alumni. However, their biggest assets are often the grads who toil in the shadows. They are the ones who take initiative, set clear expectations, harness their employees’ strengths, and stay calm under pressure. In the process, they personify the values of their alma maters and leave a lasting impression on those around them. That includes Vishaal Narkedamalli, a senior marketing manager at Restaurant Brands International — home to Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes. Over his career, he had been struck by the difference he saw from MBAs who graduated from the Ivey Business School at Western University.
“The Ivey Business School produced some of my previous colleagues who were incredibly smart, highly professional, great team players, and produced results,” he explains. “They spoke highly of their experience at Ivey and this gave me confidence in my decision.”
ALUMNI WHO CARE
That decision was to join Ivey’s MBA Class of 2022. Narkedamalli wasn’t alone in being influenced by Ivey alumni. Before moving to Ontario, Temi Busari served as the treasurer for Chapel Hill Denham, a leading African investment bank for sustainable finance. During the application process, she reached out to alumni at several business schools. However, she found “something distinctly different” in her interactions with Ivey MBAs.
“They are very confident, speak well, and exude admirable executive presence. They are all very competent and excelling in their respective careers and they stood out from the rest. This is also evidenced by the unrivalled network of alumni who are very proud and involved at Ivey.”
Overall, Ivey boasts 30,000 alumni, with the school reporting that over half hold positions of managing director or higher. That influence comes in handy for Ivey MBAs, where 95% of the MBA Class of 2020 had changed industry, role, or location. Happy alumni are engaged alumni who feel a profound connection to students who follow in their footsteps. That creates a commitment to being mentors. At Ivey, you’ll find graduates going the extra mile to open doors in their companies, industries, and professional networks. At the same time, they are always ready to share insights on the best classes and activities to prepare students for their chosen career paths. That supportiveness comes in handy for students like Chi Nguyen, a Willis Towers Watson associate from Vietnam.
“Ivey truly has a strong and “sticky” alumni network,” she writes. “All the alumni I have reached out to have been very responsive and supportive of the current MBA candidates. I have also heard countless stories of how the alumni support each other during their careers as well. As a new immigrant to Canada, having that strong network from the get-go is very important to me.”
A WOMAN WHO CAN DO IT ALL
Nguyen herself was once responsible for AIG’s Cambodia portfolio — and grew it by 15%. She is just one member of a very diverse and accomplished class at Ivey. Take Sebastian Martinez. Working for a Coca-Cola bottler, he co-led a team responsible for launching a new juice product, a wildly successful effort that boosted market share and met an ambitious sales target. By the same token, Vishaal Narkedamalli spent a year designing, testing, and implementing a sandwich station for the restaurants he promoted. The result: the new design cut employee steps by 80% and increased speed to customer by 16%.
The class’ versatility is epitomized by Temi Busari. A mother of two children, Busari calls herself a “TV girl” after working as the co-anchor for a commentary program that aired across Africa. However, Busari made an equally deep impact in banking, where she managed a treasury portfolio for 10 African countries worth $10 billion dollars…and grew it by 50% over two years to boot!
“I started off as an officer in a multinational commercial Bank and rose through the ranks to become Treasurer of an investment bank,” she tells P&Q. “I also passed three levels on the CFA professional exams on first attempt within 18 months, which demonstrates my commitment to successful outcomes. My role as a TV Co-anchor showed a different and interesting side to me and my volunteering activities, as society leader at CFA Society Nigeria and other social impact organizations demonstrated my sense of purpose.
DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS? YOUR CLASSMATES DON’T EITHER
That purpose, she says, is to boost sustainable development in Africa. Considering Busari’s television roots, it is hardly surprising that she dominated an end of course presentation at Ivey that tested “public speaking, eloquence, and executive presence.” Along with leveraging their strengths, the Class of 2022 is learning to step back, listen, and learn from peers in different. That has been the case for Connor Batchelor, an avid squash player and project manager for a cannabis firm. Starting school, he worried that his science background would prohibit him from bringing value to classroom discussions. Turns out, it was just the opposite.
“I think an important lesson and accomplishment as an MBA student has been acknowledging that my strengths come from my diversity of experiences and that I am not expected to know everything,” he admits. “I have become more comfortable with not having all the answers and learning the importance of asking the right questions and collaborating with others to get to the solution. The ability to recognize that you will not be good at everything and to focus on what you are good at has been an important lesson for me, especially as someone who is a bit of a perfectionist and likes having all of the answers.”
Business school is also a place to experiment, take risks, and pursue a mission. That’s exactly what Shamsa Hidayat has been working in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). For one, she launched the school’s first BIPOC Club to spark conversations and reduce biases. At the same time, she designed a framework that enabled EDI clubs “to leverage resources, avoid duplicative work, and enhance impact.” At the same time, Jessie Gill, a legal counsel before business school, has stepped into the spotlight as an executive director in Ivey’s LEADER Project.
“[It] aims to teach entrepreneurs in emerging economies foundational business principles using Ivey’s case method approach. The interview process for the LEADER Project was rigorous and was the first time I presented a solution to a case prompt.”
“COMMUNITY WTH A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE”
After four months together, what do class members have to say about their peers as a whole? Noreen Rachel Wu, previously the principal CEO of a Vancouver-based architectural consulting firm, describes her classmates as “selfless givers.” “There are an overwhelming number of classmates who will stay up until the wee hours of the night to help those who may be struggling with unfamiliar material,” she observes. “They always have time for you. Their doors are always open – literally.”
Mathieu Ruffe, a digital transformation specialist from Paris, is equally bullish on the class’ supportive mindset. “One great example is how some classmates very early in the program volunteered their time to provide extra sessions on specific topics such as accounting, finance, and analytics. Others sent care packages to newcomers to make them feel more at home in Canada. There is healthy competition within the program. We challenge each other to aim for higher goals while being present for each other at the same time.”
Next Page: An interview with Ivey MBA Faculty Director Larry Menor
Page 3: In-depth Profiles of the Class of 2022