Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Cole Lethebe, University of Michigan (Ross)

Cole Lethebe

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Raised on a northern Canadian Indigenous reserve, fascinated by people and their experiences, love hiking/backpacking.”

Hometown: Calgary, Canada

Fun Fact About Yourself: I took part in the Management Training program at Canadian Pacific that developed management employees to become qualified Train Conductors to work in rail terminals if required.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Calgary – Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Team Lead, FP&A Integration at Canadian Pacific Kansas City – overseeing one of the Day 1 required integration projects for the recently completed Canadian Pacific – Kansas City Southern merger.

Michigan Ross is best known for experiential learning programming like MAP, Living Business Leadership Experience, and the Leadership Crisis Challenge. What experiential program interests you the most? MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Projects) was a key differentiator for Ross for me and the program I’m most looking forward to. Given my background in a niche industry, I thought it would be critical to gain tangible experience in a new environment, directly applying what we learn in the classroom to the real world. Having MAP built into the standard curriculum at Ross gives students the chance to try a different function and industry than they have previously worked. It also provides an instant feedback loop for the skills developed at Ross during the first-year courses.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Michigan Ross’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The involvement of alumni and mentorship connections fostered by the admissions team at Ross was unique and invaluable during my application process. While Ross and most schools do a great job at connecting prospective students to current students during applications, it’s the involvement of alumni and their willingness to give back to the program that really stands out. Meeting with people who lived the MBA process, succeeded professionally, and can now give honest and genuine advice about school, career, and life was super unique. The Ross admissions team is incredibly thoughtful about curating these connections and using the passionate alumni base to its maximum value.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Michigan Ross? Big Ten sports! I think sports are the perfect way to bring people together and build a sense of community, and I’m excited to experience that with the class at Ross. On a personal level, for whatever reason the Big Ten Network is included in most of the TV packages up in Canada, so I was super invested in early 2000s Big Ten basketball and football growing up as it was the only college sports on TV and now look forward to experiencing it in person.

When you think of the Michigan Ross MBA program, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Authenticity. All of my conversations with students, admissions, and alumni at Ross come with the sense that the people in the program are real and genuine, with an unmistakable culture of helping others. People were always honest and straightforward (even if the advice was to look at other programs!), and you can feel that the people in the building are invested in you as a person. There is a community spirit at Ross and in Ann Arbor that is hard to describe but impossible to miss once you’re here.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Successfully leading the completion of one of the Day 1 required integration projects for the historic $30B+ Canadian Pacific – KCS merger. This is likely the last Class 1 Rail merger in North America for the foreseeable future, and the biggest acquisition in the 140+ year history of Canadian Pacific. I was asked to lead a project to build some of the critical financial and operating system infrastructure required for reporting and operating needs and compliance with rail regulations. I was picked to lead this project given a well-rounded background at CP in operations, finance, and systems, as well as the ability to think creatively about how the whole picture fits together.

Railroads often use their own esoteric and old systems and processes because the railroads generally built their infrastructure many decades ago. This means that, during the merger, we spent a lot of time rethinking how everything is done between the two companies and combining solutions that best fit both operating cultures. It was an exciting experience working across both organizations in the operations, finance, marketing, and sales groups to build out solutions to the most critical problems on a tight deadline, given the pending approval by the Surface Transportation Board.

What do you hope to do after graduation (at this point)? I want to take my previous experience working in a heavy process-oriented industry, combine it with new skills developed at Ross, and apply them in a new setting where I can work on solving a larger variety of hard problems. I’m agnostic about whether this happens in consulting vs. in industry, but instead want to optimize for fit and culture during my next career.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Michigan Ross’s MBA program? Be yourself and sell yourself. No one else in the world is better suited to showcase how unique and talented you are than yourself. Tell your story in an authentic way, and don’t be afraid to lean into the parts of your application that are unique to you. I would spend less time worrying about how “good of a fit” your background or stats are for the program and instead spend time telling the story of what you bring to the program in terms of intangibles, experience, and leadership.


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