Jennifer Aiello is a 2008 graduate of the Jeffrey Skoll BASc/MBA Program. She began what promises to be an outstanding career in healthcare almost a decade ago as a young volunteer at Etobicoke General Hospital. Now she is looking forward to a career in healthcare consulting.
“I wanted to become a doctor,” she says, “but you don’t need to be a doctor to help people or change the system. Doctors really have the least amount of time to change things. It is the consultants and people at the ministries of health who help to make change.”
Improving access to care and reducing wait times are among the issues she is anxious to address. “We’re going into a new era. In the last 10 years, new infectious diseases have surfaced and cancer has become more prevalent. There will be even greater changes in the next decade. Everything I’ve done has centred around change; I got excited about the healthcare industry.”
Jennifer chose engineering for her first degree because she knew it would teach her effective problem-solving skills—with a view to becoming a physician. “As a doctor you’re solving problems all the time. What better way to learn than engineering?” She specialized in biomedical engineering, with a particular emphasis on orthopedics and materials—learning to build fracture fixation plates, for example.
During her Professional Engineering Year (PEY), in keeping with her longstanding commitment to healthcare, she went to work for pharmaceuticals maker Apotex. That is when she began to think seriously of a career in business consulting. “I thought I’d really like the business world. There you have a great opportunity to help people.” The Skoll Program became her path to a career devoted to making healthcare better.
“I enjoyed every single aspect of the Rotman School MBA,” she says. “The engineering program was rigorous and packed full of work and the MBA is a very intense program too, but I already had the work ethic engrained in me, so that came easy. I was used to it.” The transition really involved a shift in thinking, particularly in creative areas such as strategy and marketing. “That’s a different type of problem-solving, involving interaction with others. Rotman stresses the importance of social skills in the working environment.”
Since 1999 when she began her career as a volunteer, Jennifer has remained actively involved, at the Hospital for Sick Children and Big Brothers and Sisters of Toronto, for example. During her MBA years she volunteered to help advance women in business through groups such as Women in Capital Markets and the Women in Management Association. As SheBiz Coordinator for Women in Management she organized a day- long symposium that gave young women a chance to explore career options. “By listening to successful women in industry they learn that there’s more to do out there than be a doctor, lawyer or pharmacist.”
The Skoll Program helps women and men, she says, because degrees in engineering and business lend twice the credibility or more to graduates.
In addition to healthcare and women in business, Jennifer has worked for her local political candidates and is now vice-chair of the Etobicoke Centre Young Liberals Association and sits on the riding association executive as vice-chair of youth. She has worked with her local member of Parliament to petition for federal assistance for Somalia and she helped her local member of the Ontario Legislature raise the Italian flag at Queen’s Park for the first time in history. She does not rule out a career in politics: “A definite possibility,” she says.
Jennifer recommends the Skoll Program to other engineering students unreservedly. “It’s fantastic. There should be a spot for every single engineer. It has been amazing seven years. I wouldn’t change a thing.”