One of Rotman’s mandates is to empower and support women leaders. The Rotman Morning and Evening MBA is proud to showcase women like Yule Schmidt – a Forte Fellowship recipient and current student of the Morning MBA at Rotman. Yule sat down with us to share her experience and insight about the program.
Tell us a bit about your academic and professional background. What’s your story?
I currently work as Special Projects Manager for Air North, Yukon’s Airline – a small air carrier based in Whitehorse, Yukon. In that role I work closely with the C-Suite on a range of strategic and operational projects, including collective agreement negotiations, safety management, and, most recently, developing and overseeing a new Training and Compliance department for our check-in, ramp, and cargo staff.
One of the most difficult decisions in returning to school as a working adult is the opportunity cost of lost income. By enabling students to continue working, Rotman alleviates the pressure of that choice.
My academic background is in history (BA History, Stanford; MA History, McGill). Following my studies, I initially planned to go into government, and worked for a time after grad school as Special Advisor and Speechwriter to the Yukon Premier. However, at the behest of my mentor, the current COO at Air North, I started working in the private sector at Air North in 2015 and have not looked back.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Rotman and what most appealed to you about the Morning MBA format?
I recognized a gap in my skillset with respect to concrete business acumen, and I wanted to bridge that gap. The MBA will give me the full swathe of skills and knowledge I need to compete effectively in the private sector and eventually start my own business, which is my ultimate goal.
Rotman appealed to me for several reasons. I was of course drawn to its reputation as the best business school in Canada and its location in Toronto, but more importantly, I was intrigued by the Morning format.
There is a truly personal feel to the program – it’s like academic “Cheers”: everyone knows your name.
One of the most difficult decisions in returning to school as a working adult is the opportunity cost of lost income. By enabling students to continue working, Rotman alleviates the pressure of that choice. Beyond that, the format truly does enable us to apply what we learn directly. The week following my first intensive course on Negotiation in the fall, I was involved in collective bargaining at work. The two dovetailed perfectly and I drew on much of what I’d learned to inform our strategy.
What is the hardest part of the degree? The most rewarding part?
The biggest challenge I find is balancing school with work and life. Because I work remotely this is additionally challenging as I have to travel back to the Yukon every month or two, and miss class as a result. However, both the administration and the professors have been very accommodating of that fact, and the recorded classes help (although there is no substitute for attending in person).
I was worried that I would be far behind my classmates, all of whom I assumed would be finance and math geniuses. Now that I am in the program, it is clear to me how unfounded those fears are.
The most rewarding part has been how much I have learned, not only about accounting and negotiation, but about myself. I entered Rotman without any knowledge of accounting, finance, Excel, or the like. I was terrified of those courses because, as an ex-humanities student, I have adopted the schema that I am good at the “fuzzy” stuff and bad at numbers. Destructing that schema and finding that I can actually excel in the quantitative realm has been extremely rewarding, and given me new confidence in business as I no longer feel that there are any skills or abilities that are beyond my reach. I just have to keep learning.
Do you have any advice to other women who are considering their MBA at Rotman?
Before starting the program, I had a very long list of reasons why I shouldn’t do it. I was worried about the cost. I was worried about fitting school with family planning, as I was applying at 30. I was worried that I would be far behind my classmates, all of whom I assumed would be finance and math geniuses.
Now that I am in the program, it is clear to me how unfounded those fears are. My experience has been that, first, students come from absolutely all corners and bring a broad range of talents and experiences. Some are financial geniuses – most are not. And the nature of the program is very collaborative – perhaps because, unlike the full-time MBA, we all have jobs so there is less competition for internships and the like.
The Rotman program is accessible to everyone, regardless of background or current skillset.
Second, I have also learned that the people here at Rotman will do absolutely everything they can to support and accommodate you. There is a truly personal feel to the program – it’s like academic “Cheers”: everyone knows your name. And I have only encountered people in the administration who genuinely care about my success and will do everything they can to facilitate it.
If you truly want to do the program and have a purpose in mind, then don’t let fear of the challenges stop you. You will find a way, and Rotman will help you navigate it.
What do you think other people should know about Rotman?
The Rotman program is accessible to everyone, regardless of background or current skillset. The standard is high, so you will have to work hard, but there is no prerequisite knowledge required to succeed.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was how much emphasis is placed not only on skills development but on psychological development. I have evolved my self-awareness and awareness of others more in my first semester at Rotman than I have in my entire life. From the Leadership Development practicum, to Self Development Lab sessions, to core courses like Business Problem Solving using a Model Based Approach, there is a range of opportunities to expand and evolve how you think. I have found this useful not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well.
The Forté Foundation is a consortium of major corporations and top business schools working together to launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women. The Forté Fellows Program was created with the intention of increasing the number of women applying to and enrolling in MBA programs by offering fellowships to women. At Rotman over the previous 2 years, over 30 Forté Fellows have been awarded more than $1M in total scholarships. To be considered for a fellowship, you must submit an MBA application – no additional application is required.
To learn more about the Forté Fellowship and the Morning & Evening MBA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.