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Learn while you earn: How Rotman’s Morning MBA elevated one grad’s productivity

April 29, 2024

Ali Ismail (MEMBA, ’23) always aspired to be a morning person.

Although he’d been on a successful career trajectory before Rotman, Ismail says the balancing act of an intense graduate business program at Rotman, along with full-time work, helped him to become an even more productive person.

Ali Ismail, MEMBA 2023

Ali Ismail, MEMBA, ’23

Originally from Lebanon, Ismail worked for years in Dubai for iSTYLE, an Apple retail partner. He worked in sales, strategy and operations, where he built the company’s B2B division. He says he thoroughly enjoyed being at the centre of the intersection of customers, technology, and business operations. But after a successful run at the company, Ismail wanted to carry out a childhood dream. “I’d always wanted to do an MBA. It soon became the natural path, and the right time, to complement my practical experience,” he says.

Deciding Canada was where he wanted to work and attend school, Ismail made Rotman his first choice because of the school’s reputation. He made the big move in late 2019, and immediately started working for Telus as an account manager, just before his program started in 2020. 

He says he was deliberate in his decision to choose Rotman’s Morning MBA program. “I wanted to push myself into building morning habits,” he says.

Ismail explains that he was also eager to immediately transfer what he was learning day-to-day at Rotman to his job at Telus - and that's exactly what happened. “I would learn about, let’s say, how to do a business plan - and then the next day or within the week or month, I would get to apply that at work,” he explains.

The Morning/Evening MBA sets students up to master business essentials and apply them directly to the workplace. In the first half of Rotman’s Morning MBA, students are in class from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. twice a week. In the second half of the program, students can choose courses and schedules that fit their specific career path. The evening MBA follows a similar structure, but with classes offered from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. twice a week. The program is a total of three years in length.

Like all Rotman MBA programs, the Morning MBA provides complementary education opportunities such as industry talks, extracurricular clubs, and fellowships, allowing students to continue to learn outside the classroom.

"I would learn about how to make a business plan, and then [shortly thereafter] I would get to apply that at work."

—Ali Ismail

Ismail’s favourite educational complement at Rotman was the Global Practicum Initiative. His class travelled to Silicon Valley, and over a week met start-up leaders and entrepreneurs who walked them through their day-to-day work. Ismail says he was inspired by the energy, as well as the spirit of reciprocity that runs through the tech hub.

“One thing that was special about Silicon Valley that I personally haven’t seen anywhere else, was its ‘pay it forward’ mentality, and how they apply that mentality to business,” he says.  

The Global Practicum Initiative provides students like Ismail exposure to global entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems (with a focus on Toronto-Waterloo and Silicon Valley). They learn industry facts and concepts through interacting directly with tech founders, founders, and corporate innovation leaders.

“During the one week in Silicon Valley, I built a routine in the morning where I kick-off the day with a run, read a book, go through news articles, and share insights on X/Twitter,” he says. He said he turned this routine into a lifestyle during his transition into post-MBA life in his final year.

These days at Telus, Ismail works as a senior product manager, where he works on the digitalization of the entire customer journey. He’s pleased he was able to round out his business education, as planned. But he says the biggest, unexpected surprise of the Morning MBA was how much his daily habits completely changed. A typical morning that used to be case studies, writing papers and program events, turned into a routine of reading books, analyzing news articles, and sharing industry insights on X/Twitter and his newsletter. He also finds the time to attend industry events at Rotman and other tech community meetups. He says this continuous learning helps to keep his MBA skillsets sharp.

“You always open your mind through learning,” he says. “And when I work with that more open mind, I find I’m able to give more throughout my day.”

Written by Meaghan MacSween | More Student Stories »

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