How an MBA grad forged a new career path in Business Design
July 11, 2017
You could say Christine Wheatley’s career came together by design.
A few years ago, this design strategist was based in New York, working for the Clinton Foundation. As an assistant director in scheduling, Wheatley (MBA ’13) managed all aspects of the former president’s calendar and often accompanied his team to speaking engagements and networking functions. Through meetings with the foundation’s supporters, she saw firsthand how a career in business would allow her to make a big impact in the non-profit sector.
“Rotman’s reputation for research and education immediately stood out.”
-Christine Wheatley (MBA ’13), Design Strategist, Fidelity Labs
“I was inspired by the many business leaders I met who were using their reputation and influence to advance philanthropic causes,” she describes. “I realized that having a business education could allow me to have this same impact and further causes I was truly passionate about.”
Recognizing that she needed a stronger grasp of quantitative analysis and problem-solving approaches, she left Manhattan and came to the Rotman School of Management to pursue an MBA.
Wheatley, who was born and raised in Montreal, was craving a return back to Canada.
“Rotman’s reputation for research and education immediately stood out,” explains Wheatley. She was also won over by the School’s proximity to Bay Street and the downtown Toronto core.
“Toronto felt like the right city to live, work and invest my time in,” adds Wheatley, who recalls being impressed by the number of banking, telecom and consulting and startup organizations based in the city. “I knew it would be exciting to study, work and live in the city and be a part of that experience.”
It was at Rotman where Wheatley also discovered a passion for Business Design, an approach to innovation that blends empathy for customers, design principles and business strategy. She was officially hooked after becoming involved with the School’s Business Design Club and participating in a few workshops and bootcamps organized by the DesignWorks, the Business Design studio at Rotman. And in her second year at the School, she oversaw that year’s Rotman Design Challenge — an annual competition held at the School, where students from across US and Canada are tasked with using design concepts to come up with solutions to a business challenge.
“So much of Business Design is centered on solving really tough, wicked problems and using design and modeling to alleviate some of the pain points and issues people are grappling with. It echoed my motivations and passion for doing non-profit work.”
Former Rotman Dean Roger Martin also recognized Wheatley’s passion and recommended her to colleagues at Fidelity Investments. Within a few weeks, Wheatley — who, by then, had graduated and was working in Toronto — packed her bags and headed to Fidelity’s offices in Boston to join the company’s innovation team, Fidelity Labs.
Today, Wheatley and her colleagues actively brainstorm and develop new products and services for Fidelity. Her days are spent speaking with customers, analyzing data and keeping an eye on emerging trends. Wheatley is drawing on many of the design tools and approaches she picked up at Rotman. (And she’s been able to pay some of the knowledge and mentorship forward by recently returning to the School and serving as a judge for the 2017 Rotman Design Challenge.)
At some point, Wheatley plans to use her business knowledge and connections to work on social causes she’s interested in. For now, she’s excited about being able to think creatively about solving complex challenges.
“It feels like a very fortuitous time to be working in design and innovation. There are so many opportunities and such a demand for a business design skillset. Firms are seeing that they need to think differently and bring innovative thinking in-house, or risk being outpaced by competitors.”