The Rotman MBA program has been ranked #1 in Canada by the Financial Times Full-Time MBA Ranking for 9 out of the last 10 years. The school is known for its strength in finance and innovative approach to business education. The program’s location in downtown Toronto, the hub of Canada’s business activity, gives the Rotman MBA further leverage with top recruiters. The full-time MBA program now has a class size of 313 (and growing), which makes it larger than most other top Canadian MBA programs. GyanOne caught up with Sheldon Dookeran, Assistant Director, MBA Recruitment and Admissions, and Erin Miller, Associate Director, Career Coaching & Education, at the Rotman School of Management. Sheldon and Erin shared key insights into the USPs of the Rotman MBA, Rotman MBA admissions, and career opportunities for students at Rotman.
GyanOne: Rotman is the top ranked MBA program in Canada (FT Ranking 2013). Over the last few years, the Rotman MBA has also become a top option for international candidates looking at an MBA in Canada. What are the key factors that you think contribute to this ranking and that make the Rotman MBA stand out among other top MBA programs?
Sheldon Dookeran: Rotman is by no means a traditional MBA school. We encourage our students to display their creative side and do things differently. Let me substantiate through three specific examples along three different dimensions.
The first differentiating factor is that we teach our students Integrative Thinking, giving them the skills they need to create innovative business models when traditional business models conflict or don’t fit. We do not take a case study approach to teach Integrative Thinking, because case studies can limit creativity. Instead, our students solve real problems for companies with confidential and live data. This trains students to make real-time decisions with live data whereas case studies remain static. Top teams present their Integrative Thinking solutions to the firms CEO.
Second, Rotman teaches student’s the concept of Business Design – another innovative approach to problem solving that applies the concepts taught at design school to business school.
The third is the Self-Development Lab at Rotman, which is a series of voluntary workshops run by a personality psychologist to ensure students pursue in life what they want to do, can do, should do. No other school invests in your personal and professional development like that.
Our main aim is to train our students to be creative problem solvers.
Our USP is therefore that we train people to be problem solvers, and excel at being business managers and business leaders in the positions they take up after the MBA.
GyanOne: The Rotman MBA Admissions process is interesting. You are one of the few schools to be pioneering the concept of video essays as part of the MBA application. What are the critical elements that the video essays test? How can one hope to do well on them?
Sheldon Dookeran: Admissions processes are getting more competitive, creative and innovative, and they aid a business school in building a good MBA class. These video responses (not essays) help the adcom get a glimpse of the candidate, wherein the candidate is asked impromptu questions (with 30-60 seconds to think about the answer), which are not aimed at inducing stress, but are fun questions. Through these , we aim to see how the candidate thinks on his/her feet, communicates, and shows his/her personality. At the moment, this is just a pilot project, and Rotman is not placing too much of weight on this aspect of the MBA admissions process.
The online software does give candidates appropriate practice to be ready for the real video. To prepare well for this essay, we recommend practicing random questions over Skype, timing yourself and doing a mini presentation (with an introduction, content, and conclusion for each response). Also, the candidate should dress professionally and have a clean background behind them. Other than this, the candidates should just be themselves and showcase their personality in the best possible manner for the video.
GyanOne: Quite a few applicants looking at Rotman come from technology / IT backgrounds. Some of them also feel that because they belong to an over-represented pool of applicants, they start off with a disadvantage in the application process. How true is this notion and what are some of the steps that IT applicants can take to submit stronger applications?
Sheldon Dookeran: International candidates with a background in technology are not at all at a disadvantage, but are in fact, looked up to for their strong quantitative abilities. The general pool that they come from is large, though. To shine through in this large pool, IT candidates should focus on finding ways to differentiate themselves and showcase various initiatives taken up by them in and outside of work.
GyanOne: Research is a strong part of the Rotman environment. Many MBA students feel only a peripheral relation to research, because the MBA program per se does not really include a required research component (except for students who initiate research projects). How do the education centers and the research institutes at Rotman help MBA students?
Sheldon Dookeran: Students can leverage the research centres at Rotman by opting for two research based electives in their second year, wherein they will get a chance to do their own independent research, work with professors at the research centre and get credit for the same. This often allows students to work in the area that most interests them and explore issues which may be outside the immediate purview of the curriculum, although our curriculum too is varied and extensive.
GyanOne: Scholarships are an important consideration for some students applying to the Rotman MBA. While Rotman offers a wide range of funding options, what are some of the need-based options that candidates from developing countries can explore?
Sheldon Dookeran: Rotman does not offer any need based scholarships. However, it pays the interest on student loans for 2 years of the MBA program @Canadian student loan rates. Students opting to take a loan with a Canadian bank (Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada) can get a loan up to $94,000 if they have a Canadian co-signer and up to $47,500 without a Canadian co-signer. If students opt to take a loan at higher interest in their own nations, then Rotman will still pay the interest on student loans at Canadian student loan rates.
GyanOne:Post MBA career options are a critical consideration for potential applicants looking at a school. A lot of applicants (especially those with IT backgrounds) go to B-school hoping for a career shift. How easy is this to achieve at Rotman? What are the sectors/functions that you find people most often moving to?
Erin Miller: A majority of international students with an IT background who graduate from Rotman are career switchers. Although it’s not an easy thing to do, but it certainly is achievable. Such students are advised to identify opportunities and gain exposure to their target career domains by leveraging resources, getting involved in various associations, clubs, and case competitions, and building networks at Rotman. In a nutshell these students should be able to explore stuff beyond the classroom, and enhance their skill sets for the area they wish to be a part of.
In addition, we support and mentor students one-on-one in our career centre, and encourage them to polish their marketing resources such as resumes and cover letters according to the industry they are targeting. Their resumes should be about their accomplishments and achievements and be able to bring through their core interest in the area they are targeting. Furthermore, it is also important for candidates to refine their interviewing skills to be able to enter and exit conversations and engage the employer, in addition to answering the questions raised by them. The recruiters at Rotman want to understand candidates, their motivations, and what makes them a good fit for the roles and industries that they are targeting.
GyanOne:How do you see career opportunities for Rotman MBA graduates shaping up in the Ontario region in particular and in Canada in general? How is the economic environment compared to that in other geographies? Beyond immediate opportunities in Canada, can students hope to find top jobs at par with those held by their U.S. counterparts in the larger North American region in general?
Erin Miller: We have our recruiters in Canada as well as globally. However, a majority of student look for job opportunities in Canada, specifically in Toronto (as it is the financial Capital of Canada). Students also explore roles in strategy and finance in cities like Calgary, New York, and San Francisco. Moreover, our recruiters employ students from Rotman for their offices all around the world. For example, McKinsey sees us a as a talent pool for international locations.
GyanOne: Beyond the MBA program, the Masters in Financial Economics is fast becoming a popular option for students looking at a career in financial management or economics. To what extent do you feel this program presents an alternative to the MBA in Finance?
Sheldon Dookeran: The Masters in Financial Economics is meant for students who wish to target focused careers in operational finance (including corporate finance, investment banking, and private equity). The MBA in Finance on the other hand is more broad-based and is meant for people who want to gain a general base of management skills across a wide range of functions and specialize in financial management.
GyanOne: For students looking for a career with international organizations such as the UN, World Bank, or IMF, the MGA/MBA (MGA = Masters in Global Affairs) program seems very promising. What are some of the unique career opportunities offered by this program? How different are the admissions requirements for this program?
Sheldon Dookeran: The MGA/MBA is a joint program offered for candidates who have an interest in working for global organizations, which may even be global consulting firms. The program lies at the confluence of business and international affairs. The admission requirements mandate that candidates must secure admission to both programs (MGA and MBA) separately.