Two recent grads on managing work, family and the Evening MBA
Among the many things that Patrick Blit (Evening MBA ’17) and Jinzi Zheng (Evening MBA ’17) learned during their time at Rotman was how much they were capable of taking on. While completing the rigorous Evening MBA program, Blit and Zheng — who are married — held demanding full-time roles, pursued new careers and started a family.
It’s not as difficult as it looked, says the impressive and very humble couple.
“There’s never a good time to start a family, especially if you’re at a point where you are very focused on your career,” says Blit. “But you can establish routines and find ways to make it all work.”
The couple credit the expertise and supportive environment at the School for helping them make great headway on their chosen career paths during a very busy period in their lives.
From science to business
Though Blit and Zheng have similar professional backgrounds — they both earned PhDs in engineering and pursued roles in medical research — they had different reasons for pursuing a management education.
Just a few weeks prior to starting classes at Rotman, Zheng — who was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and a scientist with the University Health Network — had just incorporated Nanovista, a biotech startup she had cofounded. She was looking to acquire a foundation in business so that she could develop stronger business cases and lead the company forward.
Meanwhile, Blit was working as a development manager with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine and was interested in moving further into the business development side of the industry.
The Rotman School’s well-known strength in health sector strategy, reputation as a top business school and close proximity the downtown core made it the perfect place for the two to pursue their MBAs.
The decision paid off for both of them.
During the program, Zheng and her cofounders placed first in Johnson & Johnson’s QuickFire Challenge, earning Nanovista a one-year residency at the organization’s innovation division. She recalls how Professor Will Mitchell took the time to listen to her pitch and offer pointers that helped her build a more compelling business case.
“It’s not enough to have a great idea, even if there is solid science backing it,” explains Zheng. “I really valued the advice I received on translating our group’s vision into good business terms, so that we could advance.”
Further, it was through conversations with Professor Scott Rutherford, and taking his Business Problem Solving class that she developed an initial interest in consulting.
Later on, a chance meeting with a consultant at Boston Consulting Group would eventually lead to an interview for a full-time position with the organization.
“The timing was perfect,” says Zheng, who was offered and accepted the position. “I walked into the interview with an understanding of consulting frameworks and how to apply theoretical concepts.”
Blit also transitioned into a new career. Shortly after starting the Evening MBA program, he began working in research development. He was applying his business knowledge to attract partners, secure funding opportunities and support commercialization opportunities for researchers.
“The program provided a solid overview of how the business world operates,” explains Blit, who now works in management consulting, specializing in healthcare and biotechnology, at KPMG. “Having that strong foundation in marketing, accounting, finance and leadership is crucial for developing plans on how to commercialize new technologies or forecast how a discovery or product might perform in the market.”
Balancing classes, work and family
Perhaps the most significant high point of their MBA experience was when Zheng and Blit became parents. What’s most impressive is that the two didn’t miss a single deadline and completed the program without interruption.
Though they didn’t request accommodation or extensions, knowing the support was there went a long way, says Zheng.
“We had that peace of mind that if we had to deal with a family issue we wouldn’t need to worry about our status in the program,” she says.
To keep up with classes, the new parents streamed the lectures online during the first few months of their son Liam’s life. And they arranged for their parental leaves to take place at the same time so that they could manage their new responsibilities together.
When the couple eventually returned to class, Liam’s grandparents stepped in to babysit. Typically, the pair would often trade off parenting duties, so that while one parent looked after Liam the other could focus on school work or attend an elective class.
Completing the program at the same time worked to their benefit.
“Since we were going through the same program, we understood the amount of time needed to study and work on deliverables,” says Blit. “There were times that were tough, where we were working a lot and not getting a lot of sleep. But it helped to know that we were both in the same boat.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »