Mentorship at Rotman: charting new career paths, uncovering new opportunities, learning the art of management
When Flavia Carvalho (MFin ’19) started the Master of Finance program at Rotman, she was seeking some clarity about her career. Though she was enjoying her work in product control at RBC Capital Markets, she was curious about other options in finance.
Perhaps there was no better person than Stewart Burton, vice chairman at RBC, to help her figure out her next steps.
“It can be difficult to understand how all the individual financial areas need to come together for a bank to function properly. Someone like Stewart — with his experience and extensive knowledge on the inner-workings of finance — could provide some much-needed insight on areas and opportunities I might want to consider,” explains Carvalho.
She has been in contact with Burton this past year through the mentorship program at Rotman, which matches approximately 78 MBA, EMBA, MFin and MFRM students with senior leaders in various industries, including consulting, entrepreneurship, financial services, healthcare and real estate.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some very senior people who I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.”
-Flavia Carvalho, MFin ’19
Students accepted into the mentorship program meet with their mentors one-on-one at least once every term. Twice a year, mentors host an industry lunch or dinner — for all the students they mentor — where other senior professionals in the industry are invited to speak about current issues and emerging trends.
Ultimately, the program gives students a chance to broaden their network and get direct access to seasoned professionals, allowing them to better shape their career trajectories.
In Carvalho’s case, she was looking to acquire a big-picture perspective on the future of banking.
“It was such an enlightening and special experience, being able to ask Stewart specific questions on where he thought the industry was headed, where the bank might be expanding and which areas would be worth paying attention to,” she explains.
In terms of her own career planning, she consulted Burton about how her own skills and interests might align in finance. Burton suggested a few key areas in strategy and wealth management that she might want to explore — and connected her with leaders and executives at RBC that worked in areas she might be most interested in.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some very senior people who I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise,” says Carvalho. “In the process, I’ve really had to look hard at my own goals and skills and it’s forced me to understand myself better.”
A crash-course in Canadian entrepreneurism
While some students might be looking for career guidance or an overview of a specific industry, others, such as Rodrigo Paolucci (MBA ’19), were after some very practical and specific advice.
Paolucci, who has been an entrepreneur since he was 18 years old, had always intended to continue his work with early-stage companies or take on innovation roles at larger companies after the MBA.
Though he had been fairly successful in Brazil, where he’d grown up and gone to school, he knew that there was a steep learning curve ahead of him in Toronto.
“As a mentor, I feel I have an important role to play in providing practical advice on their studies and business approach, and helping to make industry connections.”
-Ivan Yuen, Morning MBA ’12
“Starting over in a new city is essentially starting from zero,” explains Paolucci. “I knew I had to build new relationships, establish a new network and learn about an entirely new environment. It’s intimidating even getting started and knowing where to begin.”
When he arrived at Rotman, Paolucci immediately got to work researching the tech startup space in Canada and he made a wish list of companies and entrepreneurs that he aspired to work with. Not surprisingly, Ivan Yuen (Morning MBA ’12), the co-founder and chief product officer of Wattpad, was on his list — and Paolucci jumped at the opportunity to connect with him through the mentorship program.
“Ivan is a brilliant entrepreneur who has created an impressive company with such global reach,” says Paolucci. “I knew that if anyone could give me answers, it would be him.”
Yuen connected him to other entrepreneurs and investors so he could get a better sense of funding opportunities and processes in Toronto. Along the way, Yuen also helped him think through how to position himself in the market.
“Ivan was great at pointing out which strengths to play up,” says Paolucci. “He emphasized that I understood how to develop a strong business model and could use my past experience in taking on new challenges.”
The mentorship arrangement was beneficial for Yuen, as well. Eventually, Paolucci became a part-time consultant with Wattpad, working in their marketing department.
“Many students have ideas they are passionate about but don't know how to pursue them,” explains Yuen, who was pleased with Paolucci’s enthusiasm and work this past year. “As a mentor, I feel I have an important role to play in providing practical advice on their studies and business approach, and helping to make industry connections.”
Getting high-level advice from seasoned executives
A few students, like Karen Fisher (EMBA ’18), applied to the mentorship program seeking high-level strategic advice on working in a niche industry.
Karen, who is a director of community partnerships at Bayshore Healthcare came to Rotman with an impressive professional record and extensive experience. She was interested in connecting with and being mentored by Debbie Fischer, a seasoned healthcare professional and an executive-in-residence at Rotman.
“I couldn’t think of a better mentor to give me advice and constructive feedback on some of my current work projects,” explains Karen, who often works directly with hospitals and health authorities to arrange agreements for innovative community care programs.
In particular, Karen was seeking some guidance on how to establish and manage relationships in healthcare for integrated bundled funding programs focused on alternative levels of care and quality-based procedures.
“I couldn’t think of a better mentor to give me advice and constructive feedback on some of my current work projects.”
-Karen Fisher, EMBA ’18
“Navigating and working in healthcare can be challenging. It’s a sector that involves many silos, numerous stakeholders, public-private funders and, at times, complicated legislation.”
She credits Debbie in helping her understand the organizational culture within hospitals and government bodies to effectively engage with key influencers and decision makers.
“She explained the unspoken rules that are critical for success,” says Karen. “Debbie walked me through the relationships and engagements I would need to maintain to support the implementation of a new innovative health program — from divisional leaders to the finance department of the hospital to the team overseeing quality indicators. Co-designing innovation programs involve input from myriad of key individuals in the healthcare system.”
“She helped introduce me to individuals that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to connect with,” adds Karen. “It’s been an incredible experience.”
For Debbie, the experience has been equally satisfying.
“It’s energizing and gratifying working with such engaged students,” she explains. “When I look back at my own career, I know that I’m indebted to my network. I felt it was my time to give back and support the next cadre of healthcare leaders.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung