Morning MBA Student, Class of 2024
Current Role: Senior Program Consultant, Ministry of Health
Past Role: Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Physiotherapist, Mount Sinai Hospital
Could you please introduce yourself, your current role, and your previous role when you began?
Of course! I'm Shabdit Shah, but people call me Shab. I am in the Morning MBA program, Class of 2024.
Currently, I work for the Ministry of Health as a Senior Program Consultant, primarily working on the provincial digital health strategy. I also provide support for financials and priority projects for my branch in the ministry.
When I started the MBA, I worked as a sports medicine physiotherapist for Mount Sinai, and I was a clinic director at Athletes Care in Yorkville. Additionally, I did some consulting work with professional athletes in the NHL. So, primarily clinical work.
That's amazing. What motivated you to pursue an MBA in the morning program at Rotman?
There were two main motivators. Firstly, I always had an affinity for business but never had the opportunity to explore it. Secondly, I had a strong desire to help people in healthcare at a broader level and quickly realized that business acumen would be vital for my career. I chose the MBA to gain more insight and experience in business to complement my healthcare knowledge and experience. My partner encouraged me to study for the GMAT and apply to Rotman, and I saw it as a perfect time to do so.
That's fantastic. Why did you specifically choose the morning program over other programs?
The Morning MBA program is flexible enough for me to maintain a full-time job. Since life in Toronto is expensive, I didn't want to put the financial burden solely on my partner for two years. The Rotman Morning MBA program made sense to me by allowing me to strike a fair balance between work, school, and personal life. The proximity to the downtown core, the brand, and the alumni network were the main factors that pushed me to Rotman as opposed to another program.
And what's the most valuable skill or knowledge that you've gained from the program so far?
The most valuable skill is networking, I think. I've always been good at talking to people. I was a clinician, so of course, I had to talk to patients all the time. But talking to people in the context of business, where you don't know them as well and likely won’t see them repeatedly week over week, is a very different skill. I think that's the most valuable skill I have developed and continue to hone.
Regarding knowledge, I think the understanding of quantitative material like capital markets, accounting, and finance is the big takeaway for me. I understand the concepts now, all of which I hadn't really delved into before.
That's great to hear. And how does the morning program schedule impact your work-life balance?
Funny enough, I'm not a morning person. I chose the Morning MBA to force myself to get up early, which has had varying degrees of success in the past. However, it has worked out pretty well so far. As for work-life balance, it was easier when I was a clinician because I could schedule my job around patients and start later in the day and work until later. This meant I could attend class from 7 to 9 am, then handle any other tasks from 9 to 9:30 am before going to work from 10 to 6 pm, for example. My current job is flexible enough that I can walk in 15 minutes after 9 and make up the time afterward, and usually, there are no morning meetings scheduled at 9 am. I consider myself lucky in that sense. I've never had any major issues regarding work and school schedules, and my professors have been flexible enough to allow me to attend evening classes when needed. This has been very useful at times.
All right. How have you found the faculty and their teaching methods in the program?
One of the most impressive teaching experiences I've ever had in my life was with Professor Glenn Whyte. It was flawless. The way he delivered the information seamlessly and how he connected everything together was practical and active. Negotiation is a practiced skill, so we got to simulate negotiations. That was one of the things that really stuck out. With all the professors that I've had in the program, they've been available. I'm still in touch with. The upper-year students as well, I'm still in touch with them. They were vital in those first few core courses. I think it's nice when the professors understand that you're also working professionals. The mutual respect is there, and the way they cater the discussion or cater the delivery to that group is much appreciated in a cohort like this, as opposed to maybe someone who is just out of school and doesn't have as much work experience.
Can you describe a particular project or assignment that you found especially beneficial?
I think of a couple of courses that come to mind. One of them was Catastrophic Failure in Organizations that I recently took with Professor Andras Tilcsik. He taught the course very well and is an amazing person overall. The course was discussion-based and open-ended, which I really enjoyed. The assignments primarily consisted of dissecting a potential or past failure to figure out the root causes and how it could have been prevented, or what could have been done differently. Andras applied this concept to various industries, which I found valuable in recognizing symptoms of impending failure in business cases and managing them earlier on. The paper we had to write was an introspective experience and probably one of the most valuable assignments I've had for my own learning.
Have you been able to apply what you've learned in the program to your current job or career goals?
For my current job, which is focused on strategy, the program has been helpful in providing me with a baseline understanding of the jargon and concepts used in this field. Even the introductory course was enough for me to get my foot in the door. Understanding how to create a strategic framework and the key considerations involved has been particularly valuable. Applying this framework in practice is the challenging part but having the foundation has been essential.
That sounds useful. Have you been able to apply what you've learned to any specific projects or initiatives?
Yes, all the courses in the program build on each other. For example, I am now able to negotiate with stakeholders thanks to Glenn Whyte's course in a different way than I did earlier. I can also understand where potential failures may arise down the road thanks to the frameworks taught by Andras Tilcsik's course on organizational failures. When a spreadsheet comes through, I understand what it means in terms of very specific things like discounted cash flows and other financial concepts thanks to other courses in the program. All these skills have been amalgamated and applied to my current role in a way that was not possible, or even really necessary, in my previous job.
How would you describe the culture of the morning MBA program?
I love my classmates. The great thing about this program is that everyone realizes we all work and have other responsibilities. Some people have kids or travel from far away. Everyone in this cohort is there because it's the next step up for them, not to compete with others. There is a collaborative, cohesive, and supportive group culture. We had a WhatsApp chat even before the first intensive week, and we already had a golfing crew, book club, and debate club. The supportive nature has been there since day one and continues during electives. There is no sense of exclusion, and everyone is welcome to join in on activities.
Have you been able to make a career switch or receive a promotion because of the degree?
Yeah, I made a career switch. I was around 10 months into the program when I met somebody through a networking event. We had a short introduction, and I gave them a quick elevator pitch expressing my desire to make the jump. They reached out afterward and we had additional conversations. I think it was specifically because of my clinical background and the MBA program. They thought I would be a good fit and I heard that they had hired from Rotman before. The answer was yes!
What are some of the networking opportunities that you've had as a part of the MBA program?
Lots of industry events for sure. I attended everything I could in my first semester and was a bit more structured in my second semester. I went to industry events hosted by the student clubs. There were also informal events organized by people who heard things through the grapevine in their industry. I didn't want to close off my mind too soon to where I wanted to go next, I was open to going to various types of industry events throughout. I went to business design events, healthcare events, management consulting events, and even events for finance. I had never really thought about it, but finance has a very clear link to healthcare. Healthcare financing has areas where they want clinicians to come in. I learned a lot through these events both formally through the Rotman MBA program and my fellow students.
Do you want to talk about case competitions?
Sure. I was very, very grateful to be offered the chance to go to Yale University in February of this past year. The way it worked is Yale is part of the Business Alliance for Healthcare Management. So, one school from that alliance hosts the case competition every year. So this year, Yale sponsored it. The case was about innovation in the health service industry.
Rotman sent four students as a sponsored team: myself and three classmates, two of whom are Morning MBA program students, with a Full-Time member as well. And we were able to compile over the span of eight weeks a comprehensive argument for the case prompt. We got to go to Yale for the competition weekend. I think it was a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We competed, and we ended up winning. That was a thrill to compete against Yale, Boston University, and other places. Just the sheer volume of intellect in the room across the board at that level. I'm very, very grateful for the opportunity. I've tried to tell people who are coming into the program, "Don’t skip out on these things like, if you can make it, make it." I know the work is hard, you're doing this on top of your regular job, but it's really worth it, even just for the experience alone.
That's amazing. I love that story. How does the morning program compare to other MBA programs that you were considering?
I quickly narrowed down the list. I knew that I wanted to stay local because it didn't make sense to go abroad unless I was going to settle abroad and be there for at least a little bit. You're paying fees in different currencies. I also have a partner, so that was a consideration, and my parents live here.
I knew I wanted to go to a school with a good reputation, and with a solid alumni network that had kind of connections to not just the very specific industries but were broader, because I wanted to keep that flexibility.
I talked to a lot of people. A lot of ex-grads from Rotman, grads from Ivy, grads from Schulich, grads from Laurier, and a lot of them would say, “You know, this is what was great about my program”... But what I didn’t hear a lot of them say was why they chose that over this. When I got to Rotman, it was very clear why they chose this school over another, and I think that helped me sort of push myself toward this program. My first master’s degree is from the University of Toronto's Department of Physical Therapy, so I was also familiar with the school. I want to live in Toronto and settle in Toronto, and my first career was in Toronto. All that just kind of pointed to Rotman. Then the cherry on top was the fact that the program offered a part-time option, which was great.
What advice would you give someone who is considering the morning MBA program at Rotman?
I'll say it this way: really, really know what you want to get out of it. I think that's the first thing. I knew I wanted to develop that business acumen and mindset. You don't have to have the next seven career levels in your head, but understand in a general sense what you're going to do when you get in. Because it is a time commitment. Obviously, there’s a financial commitment too, and everyone has a life and family and so on.
Everyone has their own ambitions, but I would recommend making the effort to network broadly. When you're in the program, you're there to learn but also to meet others, and you never know who you're going to meet. I've heard people say they're going to network but don't really do it to the depth that they could. Take advantage of the time and energy you have when you have it.
Anything you want to add about the morning MBA program specifically?
Our morning cohort is very supportive, intelligent, and ambitious. I feel lucky to be surrounded by people who are going to do great things. I have no doubt that some people will quickly become leading executives after their time at Rotman. It's an incredible group to be a part of and I'm grateful.