To all those working professionals who are excited, but anxious, about heading back to school: Alicia Riolino (Evening MBA ’19) wants you to know that you can do it.
“I understand that balancing challenging classes with a full-time job can feel impossible, but my classmates and I are proof that it can be done,” she says.
“Working professionals actually have a real advantage. They’re already used to busy days juggling multiple priorities and meeting tight deadlines.”
When Riolino arrived at Rotman to pursue the Evening MBA program, she was working full-time as a manager of corporate strategy and juggling various volunteer commitments. Still, she never saw her busy schedule as a reason not to take advantage of the many opportunities open to her at the School.
While at Rotman, she competed in eight case competitions, tackled a global consulting project, and completed student fellowships with the Creative Destruction Lab and the Institute for Gender and the Economy.
“Rotman was instrumental in helping me pursue a new direction in my career,” she says. “Business school opened up so many opportunities to explore and identify new interests.”
Going beyond the classroom
Initially, Riolino wasn’t set on pursuing an MBA degree, but she quickly saw the benefit as she started collaborating with others on complex business challenges at work.
“Those with MBA degrees had the financial knowledge, leadership qualities and ability to take information and make it intelligible to a CEO,” she says. “The MBA became demystified. In concrete terms, I understood what the degree could give you.”
Riolino wanted to keep working, so she started researching flexible MBA programs in the city. Most importantly, she wanted a program that would give her numerous and innovative opportunities to apply what she learned.
“Rotman was instrumental in helping me pursue a new direction in my career.”
—Alicia Riolino, Evening MBA ’19
Rotman was a perfect fit. As an upper-year MBA student, she completed a global consulting project with Diversio, an AI startup that uses analytics to advise companies on how to make their workplaces more inclusive. This experience had Riolino working on infographics, organizing speaking events and flying to New York City, where she supported a promotional video shoot.
“The project changed a lot of things for me,” she says. “It opened my eyes to how rewarding I found research and finding answers to complicated questions.”
Riolino went on to complete fellowships during her final year of the program. For her project with the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE), she spent months exploring career longevity for women working in capital markets by organizing a design sprint and interviewing men and women in finance about their professional experiences.
When she wasn’t working on this project, she was focusing on her commitments as a student with the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), where she was helping an emerging startup build a solid business case and secure funding.
Riolino also has an impressive track record participating in case competitions. She competed in eight cases and ultimately placed in five. Notably, for the 2019 University of Southern California’s Everyone’s Business National Case Competition, her team came in first place and secured $10,000 in scholarship funds for future Rotman students.
“It was certainly a busy period in my life,” reflects Riolino. “I always felt like the time I spent on these projects would benefit my workplace. I knew what I was learning was transferable to the office.”
The real payoff
While these projects outside the classroom gave Riolino opportunities to travel, apply her business skills in real-world settings and expand her network, they also gave her insight on where to go next, professionally.
When her global consulting project officially wrapped up, she stayed connected with the Diversio team and continued to be engaged with them on creating more inclusive workplaces. While working on her projects with GATE and the CDL, she discovered her strong interest in research and consulting. Thanks to good timing and preparation, she transitioned to a new role, working full-time with Rotman Professor Nouman Ashraf to complete cultural audits for companies interested in making their workplaces stronger and more inclusive.
Ultimately, taking advantage of so many learning experiences at Rotman gave Riolino the confidence to pursue a new career path during the program. Earlier this fall, she started a PhD program at London Business School, where she hopes to explore issues related to management, inclusion and diversity.
Now, looking back on the past few years and ahead to the future, her words to incoming students are full of encouragement.
“You have three years to figure it out, so there’s no rush to do it all at once. Still, be sure to explore new opportunities that you are drawn to,” she says. “Take a moment to pause and consider what you’ve accomplished and learned. You’ll be surprised to see how much you’ve grown.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »