2023 MBA To Watch: Caitlin MacCuish, Queen’s University (Smith)

Caitlin MacCuish

Smith School of Business, Queen’s University

“I’m a forward-thinking Metis tech leader, obsessed with improving client experiences and fostering an inclusive environment.”

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: In elementary school, I sewed all my own clothing! My grandma was an amazing seamstress and when I learned she made all her own clothes I wanted to do the same.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Queen’s University, Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Instant Financial, Manager, Implementation Team

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Not applicable. Smith School of Business is a one-year program. However, I did work at XYON Health part-time throughout the program as a customer experience consultant.

Where will you be working after graduation? I started my role at CIBC as an GLDP Associate in the Digital Strategy department on February 6, 2023, after my program finished in December 2022.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 4.1 GPA
  • Director of External Relations, Student Executive Council
    • Led initiative to received 100% class participation in raising money for the Legacy Fund (a pool of money compiled from the previous year’s class for the MBAs to use to fund initiatives that promote the Smith brand, particularly internationally)
    • Facilitated relations with other MBA and master’s programs
    • Created and hosted events for International Students
  • Contributed funds to the Upadhya Family Indigenous Award, a scholarship awarded on the basis of academic achievement to Indigenous students entering first year of the Bachelor of Commerce program at Smith.
    • My sister received the Upadhya Family Indigenous Award in her Undergrad. We are both Smith School of Business alumni and received scholarships and wanted a way to give back, specifically to the Indigenous Community. Life in Kingston can be expensive, and we wanted to lessen that stress through a scholarship that immensely helped my sister.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being selected to be a part of the Student Executive Council (SEC) as Director of External Relations. Being part of the SEC allowed me the opportunity to bring together our class, which was especially important after two years of on-and-off lockdowns. We were able to organize at least one social event a week for the class and were able to support the students to ensure their needs were met. Developing a sense of community can be especially important for those students who move from outside of Canada to pursue their MBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of becoming a manager at twenty-five at a tech company where almost all people leaders were men. It allowed me to learn early in my career the importance of working in and supporting a diverse team culture. It also broadened my own perspective and enabled me to promote three out of four people on my team into new positions that they had been trying to attain.

Why did you choose this business school? I went to Queen’s University for my undergrad. Post-graduation, I completed a program called the Graduate Diploma of Business at the Smith School of Business, which paired my undergrad degree with a foundation in business over a four-month span. I had such an amazing experience during that program that I knew I had to come back to Queen’s and Smith School of Business for my MBA. The network of individuals you create, along with the hands-on classes and career support, is truly unprecedented.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Patrick McLarty, who taught Analytical Decision Making. He was passionate about the topic and was able to simplify advanced analytical concepts. As someone who lacks a background in analytics, this course boosted both my concrete analytical skills and confidence in my abilities. He gave great constructive feedback and was fair about assignments and his expectations. I would highly recommend his course.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course during the MBA was International Business with Dr. David Detomasi. As a former history student, I appreciated learning about business with an international lens and broader historical perspective.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? .4’s are an MBA class tradition occurring weekly on Thursdays. These events are hosted by the MBA executive committee and invite the MBA class and its professors to socialize. They reflect the culture at Smith School of Business. Smith works tirelessly to facilitate environments where we can build connections and personalize our learnings. Having additional opportunities to network with our professors allows us to engage in deeper conversations that are not possible in a classroom setting and learn more about the industry knowledge and experiences our professors have.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back, I wish I had taken full advantage of the tools and resources offered. I wish I would have utilized SmithConnect – the business school’s online alumni network – to its fullest potential and used the mentorship program facilitated by the Career Advancement Centre. The alumni network and mentoring program would have offered invaluable insights and advice from professionals in my desired field. By not fully utilizing these resources to their full potential, I may have missed out on opportunities.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I found the MBA program to be an incredibly diverse and dynamic learning environment, despite past concerns around diversity and inclusion at the school. With around 50% of the class being international, I was provided the opportunity to network with and learn from students from all over the world. These students brought with them a wide variety of cultural, educational, and professional perspectives. This diversity benefited the class in many ways, providing unique perspectives and experiences that enriched the learning experience. The diversity of the MBA program is a tremendous asset that enriches the experience for everyone involved.

What surprised you the most about business school? One thing that surprised me the most about doing my MBA was the amount of teamwork involved. I learned how to effectively communicate, delegate tasks, and work towards a common goal, all of which are valuable skills in the business world. Another surprising aspect was the depth and breadth of knowledge that was covered during the program. There was a wide range of subjects covered, from finance and accounting to marketing and digital strategy. It was challenging to keep up with the pace of the program. However, it was also incredibly rewarding to see the progress and growth that I experienced.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Spending a significant amount of time crafting my application cover letter and carefully selecting the right references was a critical factor in my acceptance into Smith School of Business. The cover letter was my opportunity to showcase my strengths and motivations to the admissions team. By carefully tailoring my letter to the specific requirements of the program and highlighting my relevant experience and skills, I was able to stand out from the competition. In addition, choosing the right people to provide me with references was equally important. I ensured that I selected individuals who knew me well and were willing to vouch for my abilities, experience, and character. I had also attended Smith before in a business program, so I was familiar with the process, their expectations and the level of effort required.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Chris de Sousa Costa was an inspiration to me during the MBA program at Smith. Despite having a baby and a wife who worked full-time, Chris was able to successfully balance the demands of the program and his family life. Seeing him thrive in such a demanding environment was truly inspiring and demonstrated the importance of determination and time management skills. Additionally, I admired Chris for his seamless transition from life as an athlete to the professional world. His ability to adapt his skills and work ethic to a new field was impressive to watch and reminded me of the importance of being flexible and willing to learn new skills throughout one’s career. Overall, Chris was a role model for me and a reminder that with hard work and dedication, it’s possible to achieve great things both in one’s personal and professional life.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? As an aspiring leader, I have two main goals that I want to achieve. The first is to lead a large team at one of Canada’s banks. I am passionate about the banking industry, and digital strategy, and team-building skills make me an effective leader. I aim to create a positive and supportive work environment where my team can thrive and achieve their full potential.

My second goal is to give back to the community through various initiatives, opening doors for others. Everyone deserves access to opportunities and resources that can help them succeed. I want to use my leadership skills to make a positive impact in the lives of others by creating programs and initiatives that promote education and financial literacy. By giving back to the community, I inspire others to do the same, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

What made Caitlin such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“When it comes to checking off key qualities of tomorrow’s leaders, Caitlin MacCuish definitely satisfies ‘all of the above.’ Not only is she curious, inquisitive and open-minded, but she is also empathetic, collaborative, and committed to inclusivity.

Starting her career in risk and account management, Caitlin leveraged her experience in applied data and qualitative analysis to contribute a refreshing approach and perspective to Smith’s digital strategy and transformation specialization. She was fully committed to stimulating thoughtful insights, courageous in her approach to innovation, and inherently capable of promoting synergy in her team. It is rare to come across students that have an aspiration to contribute to something great but are also realistic about the challenges they will face along the way. When these come together, excellence in execution and agency for change are the outcomes. Keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible, Caitlin, and thank you for allowing Smith to be associated with your achievements.”

Kathryn Brohman
Associate Professor and Faculty Fellow in Digital Technology
Director, Master of Digital Product Management


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