2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Cyrena Lockert, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Cyrena Lockert

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“A friendly, diligent, and ambitious woman in business, with a side of rural charm.”

Hometown: Vibank, Saskatchewan

Fun fact about yourself: I love to bake—cheesecake, profiteroles, scones, you name it! Giving away treats is my favorite way to surprise my friends and family.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Regina, Bachelor of Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Lightspeed Commerce, Customer Marketing Specialist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Kearney, Toronto

Where will you be working after graduation? Mastercard, Associate Managing Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP Industry Relations (External), Management Consulting Association
    • Owned the implementation of External Strategy Night
    • Conducted mock coffee chats, behavioral interviews, and case interviews with first years
  • VP Special Events, Women in Management Association
    • Co-chaired the 6th Annual Women in Management Conference
    • Planned informal socials for club members
  • Mentor, Graduate Business Council
    • Supported three mentees as they adjusted to life at Rotman
  • Mentor, Management Consulting Association
    • Guided five mentees through the preparation and recruitment process for management consulting internships
  • Outreach, Diversity, and Inclusion Representative, Graduate Business Council
    • Acted as a liaison between my cohort and the Office of Student Engagement, focusing on mental health check-ins and support
  • Co-founder of the Rotman Cultural Mosaic Party
    • Developed the concept and led a team to implement the online event
  • Organizing Committee Member, The Letters (club supporting LGBTQ2+ students) Day of Pink
    • Managed the relationship between The 519, the charity which we raised money for, and The Letters
  • Entrance Award Recipient, Rotman School of Management

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? After they went through one of the most difficult recruiting seasons in recent history due to the pandemic, I saw my second-years work tirelessly to shift the Management Consulting Association’s (MCA) External Strategy Night into an incredible online event. Inspired by their tenacity, I wanted to host External Strategy Night in 2021 as a way of giving back to the association that was pivotal in helping me land an internship in management consulting.

My focus was on facilitating the best possible connections between students and firms, and an important measure of that was to break the 2:1 ratio of students to corporate attendees. I led the MCA’s executive team to solicit more engagement from both students and management consulting firms than ever before and we successfully broke the 2:1 ratio. Our External Strategy Night brought out 50% more firms, 30% more corporate registrants. With 270 participants, we ended up being Rotman’s largest club event. At my first networking events in undergrad, I remember often feeling like I didn’t know where to begin and being worried I’d ask an obvious question, which deterred me from starting some conversations. To help Rotman students avoid this situation, I developed the MCA’s first ‘Lookbook’, which provided details—such as career path and practice areas—for all 29 firms attending External Strategy Night.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time at Lightspeed, I became well-versed in project management and executing campaigns but the first campaign that I took from start to finish is something I’m most proud of. The request from management was to create reports showing how our customers compared to the average retailer. From that prompt, I gathered and analyzed internal and external data, worked with public relations to create a story, and managed the development of all the creative assets to turn my vision into reality.

Many of the tasks I encountered were new to me. As such I got to work with people around the company and tap into their expertise to learn new skills. The project pushed me outside my comfort zone and was a chance to show my resilience when we faced difficulties and roadblocks. Those hardships made seeing the exciting result that much sweeter! My report earned mention at Lightspeed’s Earnings Call and was reported by Cision PR Newswire, Retail Insider, and Women’s Wear Daily.

Why did you choose this business school? Rotman isn’t for the faint of heart; I learned that while doing my research before applying to MBA programs. While my undergraduate program in business was difficult at times, I always felt comfortable there and like I belonged in the top of that cohort. It was a classic case of big fish in a small pond, and I often questioned if I had what it took to be a big fish in a big pond; Rotman offered me the chance to answer that question. After all, there isn’t much excitement or growth in a sure thing, so I invited the challenges of this program—in academics, networking, time management, and extracurricular activities—and the uncertainty that came along with it as my opportunity to prove to myself that I’m an excellent student and business professional regardless of the size of the pond.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had the pleasure of taking Catherine Barrette’s Managerial Accounting course in my first year. Professor Barrette had a course page that would make Marie Kondo shed tears of joy. She also had an impressive way of taking an often-dreaded subject and making it engaging and relatable to our everyday life.

Professor Barrette isn’t just a well-respected accounting expert, she has also been an incredible mentor and role model for women at Rotman. I asked Professor Barrette to take part in two ‘get to know you’ type events with women in the full-time class of 2022 as part of an independent project to give back to my classmates. We brought twenty of my classmates to participate in either chocolate tasting or a HIIT workout (you can guess which event filled up first). More than anything, my peers and I were so grateful for the chance to connect with Professor Barrette on a more personal level, especially after being separated/remote for so long. It was easy to get to know Professor Barrette because of the vulnerability she shared and her friendly attitude. My only criticism is that we didn’t have the chance to take per class in-person!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Learn how to survive without sleep prior to the MBA. I kid, but the sentiment stands that I wish I was more efficient with my time from the start so I could take part in even more programs that Rotman has to offer! In particular, I passed up the chance to take part in Rotman’s Creative Destruction Lab, which is a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science- and technology-based companies. Seeing my classmates paired with their start-ups and now working hand-in-hand with them to build business plans makes me wish I was doing the same so I could have that hands-on experience.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming from a small town, I grew up around a lot of people who had the exact same experiences I did, but Rotman is the exact opposite of that! The vast experiences that are shared because of the different cultures, career paths, and stages in life everyone has makes each gathering an opportunity to learn.

My classmates have been so willing to share their cultures and welcome me into their celebrations. During Diwali, we ate an incredible spread of Indian comfort food then sang and danced until we were hungry once again. I was honored to celebrate Ramadan with one of my classmates by practicing fasting all day and feasting on Egyptian favorites at night. On Easter Sunday, I was able to share my German traditions with classmates as we made perogies from scratch and later indulged in our hard work. Sharing experiences such as these is what I looked forward to on late nights while studying.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe the edge I had in applying to MBA programs was being unapologetically myself. When we think of MBAs we often think of buttoned-down, prim and proper, and studious individuals who put on their first suit at 16 and planned to take over Bay Street by 24; but that isn’t my story.

My story is growing up on a dairy farm in rural Saskatchewan. I’m a farmer’s daughter who’s heard all the “Old MacDonald” jokes and stereotypes, and I’ve been underestimated and teased most of my life because of it. It used to bother me, but now I’ve grown to love proving people wrong! I enjoy being the person who reminds those in the business world that we’re not all that different. It wasn’t my undergraduate professors or the workplace who taught me to be a risk-taking, motivated, methodical, and empathetic person, it was my rural community. For example, my family recently built a cabin on our property from scratch, and one of the largest jobs was installing the walls. I watched my father spend months preparing the foundation, building the walls, and planning the installation down to the minute details so the day-of went smoothly. We had 12 family members and friends join to (quite literally) help with the heavy lifting. This is a common sight in rural communities because our way of life requires empathy for others to build camaraderie.

By telling the story of my upbringing, I was able to showcase who I am—my strengths and unique perspectives—in a way that breaks the mold of who we think MBA students should be.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Nina Lochoff, whom I often get mistaken for because our names bear a resemblance, is someone I greatly admire in my MBA class. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Nina as a teammate on group projects and as my President on the Women in Management Association (WIMA), and we have become great friends throughout the process.

I admire Nina for having a positive outlook during even the toughest of situations and her willingness to lend a hand without being asked. While I was planning WIMA’s Women in Management Conference this year, Nina was quick to jump at every opportunity to support, including managing the relationship with Rotman’s admissions team and organizing our volunteers. She’s a multi-faceted leader with one of the brightest, most incisive minds I’ve had the pleasure to know, and she uses this leadership to foster inclusion at Rotman.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? When I was nine, my oldest sister, Chelon Lockert, set out to become an entrepreneur by starting her own hair salon. At that time, she was already a talented hair stylist, but hadn’t been exposed to much of the business world. Growing up, I watched her quickly learn what it takes to manage a successful business and was intrigued by the work that went into the backend of the business. My interest grew as I got older and had the opportunity to take some basic business classes in high school. It was exciting to have someone at home I could talk to about what I was learning at school and relate it to business in the real world. From then on, I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in business.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Truthfully, my professional bucket list isn’t something I’ve put a lot of thought into. Anyone who knows me will attest that I’m a major planner—you know, one of those people who has a spreadsheet for a weekend getaway—but that hasn’t translated into my career planning as I’m still learning what trajectory I want to take.

Despite this, there are two things at the top of my professional bucket list. First, I want to live and work in another country. Like many others, I’ve been bit by the travel bug and would love the opportunity to stay in a country long enough to learn all about its culture so much that it feels like a second home. Second, I hope to one day be invited to speak at an event of my peers on something I become an expert in. Wherever my career takes me, I want to gather and hone knowledge so I can feel confident enough to share what I’ve learned with others on a large scale.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? I’ve always thought of seeking the next step in my career in terms of looking for the best match for my skills or company with interesting projects that will push me, but a new criterion has been added since the beginning of the pandemic. During the peak of COVID-19, the absence of human connections led me to realize how important it is to have a support system of people around me. Given that we spend so much of our lives at work, I now recognize the importance of working for a company that encourages employees to create those support systems in the workplace so we can help one another grow.

When we worked in the office everyday, it was much easier to find those connections and feel the support around you because of the physical reminders. Now, in a time where we often work secluded, it’s not a natural progression to develop these relationships. Due to this, I will forever be focused on being part of organizations that foster this connectivity.

What made Cyrena such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Building bridges came naturally to Cyrena while at Rotman. Cyrena was elected VP Industry Relations for the Management Consulting Association (MCA) where she led the implementation of an External Strategy Night. In this role, she increased the number of companies registered by 50% that resulted in a 2:1 ratio of students to corporates and developed the MCA’s first ‘Lookbook’ which provided student details on career path and practice areas. Cyrena also found ways to offer career support to peers in her cohort by conducting over 30 mock coffee chats, behavioral interviews, and case interviews with first year students.

As VP of Special Events for the Women in Management Association, Cyrena co-chaired the 6th Annual Women in Management Conference with a total of 164 registrants, which was an increase of 65% participation from the previous year. Cyrena organized 13 speakers for the event, worked with Deloitte to sponsor the event and developed 8 topics for attendees to explore in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style event. If that wasn’t enough, Cyrena also planned informal socials for club members that helped increase the sense of community and connection for the 2022 cohort.

As an Outreach, Diversity and Inclusion Rep for GBC, Cyrena also co-founded and planned the first Rotman Cultural Mosaic Party that had 183 attendees from Rotman. She organized 16 cultural performances, and led a team of 15 people to implement the event. This was an end of year celebration where students shared food, drinks, dance, and music from around the world.

Cyrena also became an ally to The Letters, a club which supports LGBTQ2+ students. The Letters asked Cyreana to support the Day of Pink, which is an anti-bullying day, where Cyrena’s group organized a celebration and sold pink t-shirts with all proceeds were donated to The 519 (a group in Toronto that supports the LGBTQ2S community). Cyrena co-managed the social media efforts and acted as the liaison between The Letters and The 519. The event brought out 40 attendees and over 60 t-shirts were sold.

Cyrena’s aptitude for building bridges made her appealing as a hire for Mastercard Advisors. They were looking an individual who demonstrated teamwork, strong project management and relationship building skills in both their work and education. Cyrena’s love for planning and organizational skills were evident in all of the extracurricular activities she was involved in. Consultants at Mastercard Advisors are also expected to manage multiple projects and build different relationships within the organization. Finally, the “Decency Quotient” or DQ is a key component of the Mastercard culture as the organization strives to foster an inclusive and respectful environment, both internally and externally. Cyrena’s personal disposition and her rural upbringing has taught her a great deal of empathy, which lends itself to her ability to build bridges as well as being accepting and compassionate towards others.”

Alisha Rajani
Associate Director, Career Curriculum & Coaching
Rotman School of Management

Rob Woon-Fat
Career Consultant
Rotman School of Management

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