Perfect timing: an Executive MBA on starting a demanding new job during business school
March 5, 2020
It was the ideal opportunity, but it was coming at the wrong time. At least that’s what it felt like for Hassina Sunderji (EMBA ‘20) when she was offered a director position mid-way through the very demanding One-Year Executive MBA program at Rotman.
When Sunderji arrived at the School, she felt like she was in a good place professionally. She was working full-time as a senior manager in operational risk and analytics at Scotiabank. Having worked in the department for a few years, she had established strong working relationships and developed a reputation as a subject matter expert in her field. Reaching this level of proficiency — and having the encouragement of her manager — had given her the confidence to pursue an MBA.
“It’s a bit ironic,” says Sunderji. “I was completing the program so that I’d be prepared to handle greater responsibility, but when the opportunity to do exactly that came up, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle it because business school was so demanding.”
Ultimately, the new position seemed too good to turn down.
Fortunately, as she discovered, the professional MBA programs at Rotman are designed to support students as they go through major career advancements and pivots. The resources at the School — including excellent classroom instruction, expert faculty, supportive students and career resources — help students make the transition to senior leadership.
Before enrolling in the Executive MBA program, Sunderji’s career progression had been steady. After earning degrees in business administration and education, she started a career in corporate training, predominantly working on software training and implementation projects. She stepped into managerial roles at Scotiabank, and her responsibilities expanded to include program delivery and people management.
Like many students, Sunderji assumed that she’d see gradual improvements in her management style and slowly expand her business knowledge while completing the Executive MBA.
“There were a few stressful and very tough months, but the program and the people got me through it.”
—Hassina Sunderji, EMBA ’20
But the program was a whirlwind — in a good way. She was learning new concepts one day and applying them the next. Most notably, she was tasked with promoting Design Thinking within her department shortly after completing a course on the topic.
“There were many instances where we would cover a topic in class, and it would come up at work the next week. It gave me an advantage because the material was fresh in my mind,” she says.
The perfect time for a career transition
The School was there for her. When she was approached about applying for a new role, Hassina quickly got in touch with career coaches to get her application in order.
“I think a lot of us in the program hadn’t touched our resumes in years — my resume was definitely in need of a tune-up,” she says. “My career coach went through my resume and really helped me tailor it for an executive role.”
When she started the role — as director of strategy and delivery management, enterprise technology — she came up against many changes. Sunderji went from managing one direct report to a team of 10. Her previous roles had required her to know the technical details of one or two projects; now she had to have a strong general understanding, including the impact and business and technical aspects, of dozens of initiatives.
The most valuable support she received came from classmates.
“As one of the younger students in the program, I was able to count on the more experienced members of the class for advice,” she says.
“It also helped that many of my peers had accepted new jobs and roles during the school year. We were all experiencing the same learning curves and challenges. It was really helpful that we could talk to each other, exchange tips, and share the occasional horror story. It was all comforting.”
Now, almost 10 months into this new role — and with most of her MBA coursework completed — she’s able to breathe a lot easier.
“I have my Saturdays back now that there’s no homework,” she jokes. “Besides that, I feel more comfortable in my role, and I feel better-equipped to manage the challenges that come up. It’s been a remarkable experience. There were a few stressful and very tough months, but the program and the people got me through it.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »