Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How I Graduated With Zero Debt

With 2013 quickly approaching, this is the certainly the time of year that people around the world are creating New Year's resolutions. Since "manage debt" and "spend less, save more" are some of the most common resolutions, I thought that this would be an ideal time for me to outline how I graduated from my MBA with zero debt. I hope that my story enlightens you and teaches you that it is possible to obtain a high quality education without sacrificing your financial status.

It is thanks to the Canadian education system that I was able to do the unthinkable. Though I have heard that many American MBA students can go up to $230,000 in debt to obtain the same degree as me, I was able to benefit from the lower priced schooling in Canada. As an American who resided in Montreal for eight years prior to beginning my Master's degree, I had established Permanent Residency in Canada, particularly in Quebec. Though students were recently protesting tuition hikes in Quebec, Quebec still maintains the lowest cost for education in Canada (and this is of course significantly lower than American schools).

Since I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the low education costs in Quebec, I applied to HEC Montreal for my MBA. Not only was the program one year, enabling me to lose only one year's worth of salary and pay less tuition, it was a public institution (not to mention a well-ranked school). Though McGill University recently privatized their MBA program, HEC Montreal has steadfastly remained public. Therefore, I paid local Quebec fees (as a Quebec resident) which totalled approximately $7,000 for my entire MBA studies.

Because I had previously saved enough money to cover these tuition costs, as well as my living costs for the year, I was able to graduate from my MBA with zero debt. For those of you who might have financial worries and/or dreams of obtaining an MBA, I hope that my story has demonstrated that it is possible to get an MBA and live debt-free.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Although my office was technically closed yesterday, four of us were there to get work done during this quieter time. So I spent the day working alongside three of my officemates from a startup called ChowNow. We even celebrated Christmas Eve together (pictured below), enjoying dinner and holiday music well into the night.

As I promised myself I would, I spent Christmas day away from work revelling in the beauty of the great outdoors. I felt like a true Californian as I jogged along the beach and hiked the Santa Monica Mountains today. The landscape was unlike anything I had ever seen before and it's hard to believe it's all right in my own backyard. It was truly a magical Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter in Wonderland

I am told quite frequently that I resemble Ellie Kemper from The Office, so I thought it was about time that I create a side-by-side image of the two of us. This is my holiday gift to my blog readers. You're welcome!

Since I last posted, I have been keeping up my busy schedule of work and networking events. During the past couple weeks I've attended the following:

These events have helped to shape my understanding of the LA tech/startup community and given me an opportunity to meet countless people. Now that it's holiday time, it's kind of sad to see my calendar so empty until well into the new year.

Though there are Christmas decorations all around, including the above display at Santa Monica Place, it doesn't quite feel like December here. There are sunny, clear skies nearly every day, which is why I asked my Montreal friends to show me their snowy apartment view on Skype today. While I miss the snow and I feel confused about the season, I am so happy that I made the move to LA. I'm looking forward to spending the next few days enjoying all that I have around me.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hollywood and Hackathons

My new life in LA has been a whirlwind of work, networking events, friends, and fun. As for work, we had our remote employees in town this week, so my focus was on making their time in LA productive and enjoyable. I am happy to say that our team-building activity on Thursday at the UCLA Outdoor Adventures Center was a huge success and I strongly recommend it for any company in the area.

This has also been a crazy time of networking events! I had two days this week with two events in one day and today was officially the first time in two weeks that I did not have an alarm waking me up. Even my last weekend was spent at a hackathon (photo above), where I was learning and observing the entire time. I'm already looking forward to my next hackathon experience! These past couple weeks have been exhausting, but truly amazing. I attended all of the following, in order:

What has been great about participating in so many events is that I've already made many new friends. The startup community in Silicon Beach has started to feel much like the one in Montreal, in that I see a lot of the same faces.

It's hard to believe, but I've also had time to do things outside of the tech/startup scene, as well. One of my new friends works at Fox and got me a ticket to see Hitchcock on the studio lot. Also, knowing my love of film, he brought me to see Arbitrage at the Aero Theatre, where there was a Q&A with Richard Gere after the screening. I suppose my life of Hollywood and hackathons is not too shabby.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Down to a Science

It is amazing how influential my one week as a volunteer at C2-MTL truly was. It led me to my current job and helped me to develop strong business contacts and friendships. In fact, I have kept in touch with many of the people I met there, including neuropsychologist Dr. Rex Jung. When he sent an email saying that he was featured on Nova Science NOW's "How Smart Can We Get?" I had no idea what a treat I was in for!

If you watch the program via the link above, you can find Dr. Jung from about the 25-minute point until 30 minutes in (Note that the entire show is 57 minutes long). It was great to learn more about his work, but it also gave me even more of a reason to be happy that I learned to juggle many years ago. Watch the video to find out why! Also, the program delves into the human ability to be a calendar calculator, a talent my own mother possesses.

Lastly, the show focused on anxiety and stress, especially during test-taking. The act of journaling before an exam or any stressful situation is something that every MBA student can easily adopt and the amazing result is that it can boost the final score by two grades, on average. Now that I am working in the stress reduction space, it is especially important for me to note all of these anxiety-reducing tactics.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks

I have now completed one and a half weeks (the half due to American Thanksgiving) at my new job as Operations Manager at bLife. I'm happy to report that I absolutely love my position and the employees are great to work with. There are many fun aspects to my role, including planning our business trips and team-building activities. I also feel so honored to be working in Silicon Beach, the heart of LA's startup community.

As I settle into my new apartment, I'm looking forward to the stage when I'll be hanging artwork and coordinating the final touches. In fact, my friend Shane Turner who is an artist in Montreal will be creating a painting for me, which he hinted at in a recent interview with 102.7 FM, LA's number one hit music station.

I have been keeping in touch with other friends in Montreal, too, especially members of my MBA cohort. As a matter of fact, the video above was created by a classmate from my MBA who launched a video editing business. You'll see clips of me peppered throughout the video! Canadian Business also released "The MBA programs that lead to the biggest pay raises" and HEC Montreal is highly ranked on the list. 

Obviously, I'm still following the news in Canada and was happy to see the Fast Company article "This is Canada, by Canadians, for Americans (and Everyone Else)." The consumer-generated video that bucks the Canadian stereotype was facilitated by Tourism Canada can be viewed below.

I've certainly had some interesting and exciting experiences since I've moved here. For example, I had my first celebrity sighting (John Slattery of Mad Men). Also, since my driver's license was from Quebec (and even though I originally passed my driving tests in New Jersey), I had to take both a written and behind-the-wheel driving test. I'm glad to say that I passed the tests the first time around.

In the spirit of this week's Thanksgiving holiday, I also wanted to say that I am grateful for my close friend Lior (a friend from McGill), who has been so amazing in inviting me to so many activities here in LA. I went to an album release party with her, as well as a Thanksgiving potluck. I'm also thankful for the sunny weather and all that I get to experience here in Los Angeles in my new life on the west coast.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Returning to my home country has proven to be more challenging than one might think, on an administrative level. Between shifting bank accounts to getting a new driver's license, I am considered a foreigner as far as most institutions are concerned. I have discovered that people in LA have generally been extremely welcoming, though, and they're excited to hear that I moved all the way from Montreal!

I have been spending these past few days procuring an apartment lease and then spending the remainder of my time establishing myself at my new place. Fortunately, I have also had some free time, which I've spent along the beach and with friends. In fact, I met up with a friend who is launching his startup next week and I reviewed his executive summary in preparation for the impending date. I was pleased that insight from my MBA provided me with a critical eye to review his document.

I also managed to attend the Drinking Liberally Election Night Watch Party, as well as the first-ever Daily Muse meet-up (see photos from the 10 city event here). As always, these events provided me with a great opportunity to meet new people and learn about my new neighborhood. Additionally, I got to see a familiar face today when one of my fellow MBA graduates stopped by on his way to San Francisco. I'm looking forward to welcoming more friends as they pass through LA!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Dream Come True

For anyone who has been following my blog for the past year, you may be wondering what my next step will be after the MBA. After all, the sole purpose of getting an MBA is to land a job afterwards, isn't it? Well, I am happy to report that I have landed a dream position! I will be Operations Manager for bLife, a tech startup that focuses on health and wellness services. As the company is based in Los Angeles, I will be relocating in only a few days to begin the job soon.

The Importance of Networking
I am also happy to say that I was able to secure this position through my networking efforts. I met one of the co-founders of bLife in May while I was volunteering for C2-MTL and we kept in touch ever since. I know that I have often mentioned the importance of networking, but I cannot emphasize it enough.

In fact, I kept a spreadsheet of my job search process and I've recorded the successful methods through which I nabbed an interview. They include only the following: LinkedIn, HEC Montreal Career Management Services job posting, friends, and networking. While networking was not the only way I was able to score an interview, it was certainly the most fun!

Last week's McGill Young Alumni "Welcome Back" Cocktail

You may also be wondering how much influence the MBA had on my job hunt. First of all, I had access to a wide array of resources and people (i.e. professors, Career Management Services employees, courses, etc.) who contributed to my job search and helped me to narrow down my focus. I had actually met with my Managing Products and Brands and Responsible Marketing professor Yannik St-James at the very end of the program to obtain insight regarding health-focused companies in Los Angeles. Due to my meeting with my professor, I was able to identify that bLife was a perfect fit!

Furthermore, during an interview process, I was asked to prepare one PowerPoint slide identifying my fit with the company. For this file, I was able to pull from a framework that we learned in Strategic Management II entitled the SAFe criteria (suitability, acceptability, feasibility). The MBA certainly provided me with excellent tools to synthesize information and better contribute in a business environment.

The Future
However, the majority of my lessons from the MBA will probably only become apparent in the future, once I am faced with major decisions and difficult situations. I am looking forward to approaching these realities in a more equipped way. Moreover, I know that the business cases, discussions, and lessons that were raised during the year will allow me to be a more well-rounded employee with diverse knowledge to bring to the office. I can't wait to step into this next phase of my life!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Develop a Network in a New City

As someone who recently traversed the continent to explore job opportunities in Los Angeles (LA) in a limited period of only two weeks, I feel that I am qualified to provide advice on networking in a new city. This is my ultimate how-to guide for building a network in a new city, with explanations as to how I did it.

Reconnect With Friends
I am a fearless communicator who is not afraid to contact someone from my distant past. Before my trip to LA, I contacted everyone I knew in the area, including a previous colleague, college friends, high school friends, friends of friends, etc. In general, people are more than happy to help you in navigating the new city. An added bonus is that some of these friends can provide you with career advice or connections!

Do Your Homework
I did not just want to see friends, as it was important during my trip to focus on my job hunt. I was lucky enough to connect with someone in LA beforehand who could introduce me to individuals who I could meet with once I arrived. Since I knew I would be meeting them soon, I was able to review their LinkedIn profiles and learn about them before arriving in LA. I also reconnected with business contacts who I had met previously in Montreal.

Find Events in the Area
This was probably the most important aspect of my trip. Since I am interested in women's issues, startups, tech, and social media, I actively sought events that focused on these topics. To find events, I used the searches on Eventbrite and Meetup, asked my friends, and even just Googled "free Los Angeles" plus the specific date I was looking to schedule for. By using this technique, I discovered and attended the following events, in chronological order:

Me and Celia Ward-Wallace, organizer of the Empowering Women Every Day Happy Hour

MBA Women Connect - Santa Monica

Yes, it was exhausting, but I needed to maximize the success of my trip by meeting as many people as possible. Importantly, these were people with common interests, so I was already placing myself in an effective environment.

Have Fun
It is hard to believe, but I also managed to fit in activities that were not career-related. I spent a day on the set of Glee, went to two comedy shows, walked along the beach, etc. This downtime was critical in giving me a bit of a break in my busy schedule and helping me to gather my thoughts and relax. It also gave me something else to talk about with people besides my job search!

Monday, October 8, 2012

La-La Land

My first LA week was capped off with a variety of activities. On Friday night, I attended Women 2.0 Founder Friday - Los Angeles, where I heard Holden Steinberg, founder of PageWoo, speak about her experience as a female startup founder. It was a great event to network with a vast array of people (not just women!), including the couple featured in this 2005 New York Times article about Carnet, a luxury lifestyle business.

Throughout the weekend, I walked along the beach and made the most of the sunny time outdoors. I got the requisite visitor sunburn and took photos during the daylight and sunset (pictured above).

Although I'm on east coast time, I've managed to stay up for nighttime festivities. On Saturday night, I went to the Laugh Factory Hollywood with my free ticket from comedian Sunda Croonquist. Since I had already reviewed the all-star comedy lineup, I was shocked when Sunda announced that Dane Cook was there to make a surprise visit and perform his latest material. During the evening, I had a chance to briefly speak with Dane Cook and Anosh Sheytan, an up-and-coming comedian from Sweden (photo below).

Dane Cook and Anosh Sheytan (Swedish comedian and actor)

My weekend concluded with a delicious Italian meal along the beach. Now I'm off to make the most of my second week in La-La Land.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Silicon Beach

Santa Monica Pier

It's been a week since I last blogged, but I have a really good reason: I've been scoping out the LA scene, to pursue job opportunities here. While in Los Angeles, I have enjoyed a day on the set of Glee, a meeting and tour at the DreamWorks Animation offices, a walk along the Santa Monica Pier, and a TechZulu Tech Crawl in Santa Monica. While at the Tech Crawl, I felt that I was very much in my element, as it reminded me of startup and tech events that I've attended back in Montreal. I met a variety of people at the event, from UCLA Anderson MBA students to first-time entrepreneurs.

In Silicon Beach, the startup founders and techies grapple with the fact that they are working hard while their friends lie out on the beach. North of the border, though, the Quebec tech sector seems to be worried about the PQ's plan to bolster the use of French in their offices (see the Montreal Gazette article here). Meanwhile, in New York City, the program Girls Who Code is equipping young females with skills to succeed in the male-dominated tech industry, as reported by Fast Company at this link. Though I'm not yet sure whether I will end up in Montreal, New York, LA, or another location, I do know that if I'm in Montreal, I hope to participate in next year's C2-MTL event. The 2013 lineup was announced and it looks like there will be some great speakers!

I have to say, though, the weather in LA has been beautiful and my trip has already been a lot of fun, making it feel as though living out here would be a dream come true. (There are, of course, downsides which include traffic and unreliable people.) We shall see what happens as I continue to network and pursue employment opportunities here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sweet Talk

As a startup enthusiast, I could not pass up the chance to attend Wednesday's networking, panel discussion, and BBQ hosted by several influential entrepreneurial organizations. The evening was presented by the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX), Ernst & Young, Microsoft Bizspark, FounderFuel, and Startup Drinks Montreal (event details here). Below is a photo from the crowded room at Notman House during the panel discussion.

In related news, Google has announced five Canadian cities that are winners of their eTown Award (see the Techvibes article here). Since the nearby town of Dorval is one of the award winners, Google will be close by next month to present the award and meet with local businesses.

And as anyone who knows me well knows, I am a huge candy lover, which often conflicts with my attempts to be as healthy as possible. Yet, the new all-natural candy maker Unreal Brands is a company I have my eyes on. As reported by the Boston Herald, entrepreneur Michael Bronner, the brains behind the operation, was inspired to create healthier candies when he discovered that candy companies use unhealthy ingredients because they are easier and cheaper to produce (source). I hope these candies arrive in Montreal soon! In the meantime, you can watch the star-studded promotional video for Unreal below.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


With all the events I've been going to lately, it was a perfect time to discover Inc.'s "Best Way to Introduce Yourself," which provides great tips, such as brevity and focus. Last night, I attended Women in Technology - Networking Evening and Program Launch: Tech Talk, hosted by YES Montreal. There were two speakers at the event: Sandy Sidhu, a founder of Montreal Girl Geeks, and Tara "Miss Rogue" Hunt, who was featured in last year's "25 Women-Run Startups to Watch" by Fast Company. Needless to say, there were some great female minds in the room!

During the Women in Technology (WIT) event, there was a major focus on startups. It was no surprise, then, to read the following in today's news: "Canada is increasingly becoming a country of small entrepreneurs, says a new report from CIBC pointing to a sharp rise in the number of Canadians starting their own businesses" (source). In keeping with the female-laden theme, I should note that the article also mentions that "female-led startups tend to stay in business longer on average."

Another study reported that Canadians are a "satisfied bunch" (article here). It didn't surprise me to learn that Canadians are generally very happy with their lives - the biggest shocker was that Quebec was the second most satisfied province!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

In Any Event

I'm so happy that my return to Montreal life has been just as busy as it was in NYC. The thought of sitting at home all day in front of the computer applying for jobs is just soul-crushing to me. Instead, I have been spending these past few days out and about, just the way I like it.

Today I attended the QS World Grad School Tour in Montreal. I was curious to see how it would compare to the QS World MBA tours I have been to, especially the recent one in NYC. The attendees seemed younger at the QS World Grad School Tour and QS Commercial Director Peter MacDonald explained to me that this tour attracts a more diversified crowd. As the schools at this fair were promoting everything from Master's degrees to Ph.D.s to graduate diplomas, I can obviously see why. I'm happy I went to the event, if only to meet another member of the QS team and satisfy my curiosity.

I was excited to learn this week that my friends at Frank & Oak were featured in the Montreal Gazette (article here). The company has all the right elements for continuing to grow their excellent e-commerce men's retail solution, including a great business idea, strong leadership, and a dynamic team. I wish them continued success!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Empire State of Mind

There is one major perk of being out of school now and traveling on a train without internet: the opportunity to read for pleasure. While in school, this is a foreign concept. In an MBA program, there are too many cases to read, too many assignments to write, and too many group meetings to attend that there is just not enough time in the day to enjoy a good book. Fortunately, I am now at a stage where I can appease my love of reading.

During my NYC trip, I fittingly enjoyed two books about chefs from the New York culinary scene. My “epicuriosity” led me to Heat and Blood, Bones & Butter. Interestingly, the books brought to mind two cases I had read in my Small Business Management course: “Make Green Delicious: Sustainability at Jamie Kennedy Kitchens” and “Tutti Matti,” both about small restaurants.

My trip taught me a lot about the business environment and opportunities in New York. I was also heartened by my experience seeing friends from my distant past. Though our life updates have been splashed across Facebook news feeds and we have kept up with each other through digital messages, my heart was warmed by the experience of meeting up in person after years of distance. Additionally, I was comforted by the time spent with friends (new and old), family, and business contacts who openly welcomed me back into the city and encouraged me to stay. It was hard not hear "Empire State of Mind" mentally playing in background music throughout my time there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

In a New York Minute

I've been in New York City (NYC) since Thursday night and it's hard to believe what a whirlwind experience this has been. After taking a relaxing 12-hour train from Montreal to NYC with no wireless internet, I've settled into a fast-paced Big Apple life. While here, I've had the chance to see friends, family, and business connections, as well as new and exciting people.

For the most part, my trip was planned around Saturday's MBA Candidate Workshop for the QS TopMBA Connect launch, where I was a speaker. In addition to helping prospective MBA students navigate their processes, I had the opportunity to meet the other speakers, more QS employees, and representatives from various MBA programs around the world who were working at the MBA fair in the afternoon. While at the fair, I managed the Admit Advantage booth with company founders Eric Allen and Kofi Kankam (who was a fellow speaker). Below is a photo of the potential MBA students who were eager to register for Admit Advantage's free consulting session.

As my trip winds down, I am sad to have to leave this buzzing city soon. Fortunately, I have agreed to keep in touch with the new people I've met, and of course, modern technology makes everything easier. We shall see what the future holds!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Cup of Tea

There has been a lot of exciting startup news for Canadians recently. Mashable released an article entitled "5 Reasons to Found a Startup in Canada," which lists talent, investor interest, immigration, a launchpad to the world, and government support as the core reasons for entrepreneurs to consider the world's second largest country. Furthermore, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation has expanded its applicant eligibility to individuals aged 18 to 39, from the previous 18 to 34 (see the article here). Additionally, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has finally released the details for an innovative startup visa that should attract high-tech entrepreneurs. The Globe and Mail article can be found at this link.

Due to my own interests in the startup community and social media, I attended last night's MEEX 8. Guest speaker Youri Hollier provided insight and feedback based on his current role as Social Media Manager for DAVIDsTEA. I appreciated Youri's candor and new ideas.

As my fellow HEC Montreal MBA graduates and I embark on our job hunts, I thought I would share the following article from Fox Business:  "Graduated, but Still on the Job Hunt? How to Stay Fresh." Although my classmates and I have only just completed our studies, it never hurts to review expert advice about positivity during the job search.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Women in Leadership

Most of the news here in Quebec seems to be focused on the recent election and all the activity that has surrounded it. Although I do not agree with the political views of Pauline Marois, the new premier elect, I feel it is noteworthy to mention that she also obtained her MBA from HEC Montreal. You can find the Montreal Gazette's profile of the new Quebec leader here.

Though Marois and I, both female professionals, obtained our MBAs from HEC Montreal, our alma mater is not generally known for its women attendees. Rather, McGill University, my other alma mater, was noted in the Toronto Star for having "more women students than any other MBA program in the country" (see the article here). The Star underlines the importance of having women in leadership positions and that an MBA can help us to get there.

Now that the majority of my MBA graduates and I are in the midst of our job hunts, it is apt to share the following article from the Globe and Mail:  "Tweet, blog and network your way to a new job." The article outlines excellent tips for this vital career process. Good luck to my fellow graduates as you embark on your exciting job searches!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Celebrate Good Times

There have been a lot of celebratory MBA activities which will continue until today. On Thursday, we had a barbecue at school with the new cohort, where we danced and partied the night away. We also attended our prom on Sunday night. It was nice to see everybody so dressed up, signing each other's yearbooks, and once again dancing until dawn. Today will be the pièce de résistance:  our graduation ceremony. For anyone who is interested in watching it, the event will be live streamed and can be downloaded later (see this link).

After completing my MBA studies, it was time for me to navigate the Quebec loans and bursaries program (Aide financière aux études). Friday was the only day to pay back my loan with zero interest, so I was making phone calls all morning trying to figure out how to deal with it quickly. Through several phone calls, I learned that I would have to rush to my local BMO branch to deliver a cheque with the specific loan amount (the Aide financière aux études website combines the total for loans and bursaries). The cheque would then go through the internal BMO mail system and be accepted right away with no interest. Although the interest rate would remain quite low, I wanted to pay back my loan with no interest, taking advantage of that one day privilege. 

I also wanted to mention that one of my fellow classmates pointed out that I was eligible for a 15 percent reimbursement of my loan because I completed my degree on time. Information about this Loan Remission Program can be found here. I simply had to fill out the application and I will get it signed at the HEC Montreal registrar's office (and request a transcript) as soon as possible.

With school and my finances sorted, I was able to enjoy a day of wine tasting in Bromont yesterday (see photos below). The weather was perfect, the destination was picturesque, and the wines were delicious. I could not have asked for a better way to spend Labor Day and one of my first post-MBA days. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The End

For yesterday's Leadership and Personal Change class, we had guest speaker Eva Azoulay, Vice President of Strategic Planning & Marketing at Pratt & Whitney Canada, who spoke about leadership. As a strong and ambitious professional (who also has an MBA), she was the perfect person to encourage us as we transition into our next leadership roles.

And now my MBA year is officially over! After my team's presentation (above) on the Honest Tea/Susan G. Komen corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, a finalization of our blog assignment, and a submission of my contribution to class discussion grade for Responsible Marketing, I can happily say my MBA duties are complete. No more assignments, class participation, etc. I am no longer an MBA student, but a proud graduate.

I wanted to thank my fellow classmates, professors, administrators, friends, family, boo, blog readers, and anyone who I interacted with this year. You have all contributed to my MBA experience in an amazing way. Though there were always ups and downs, challenges and victories, it was an incredible year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, help, and encouragement. I couldn't have done it without you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Exercise Your Right to Vote

With only two more days left in the MBA program, we are officially in the home stretch. Since my Responsible Marketing team will be one of the last to present on Thursday, we will be working and waiting until the bitter end. This afternoon, I was developing the PowerPoint file for our Honest Tea/Susan G. Komen case and tomorrow morning, we will hopefully be finalizing the assignment, so that we can practice our presentation.

Although school has still been busy in this P9 semester, I managed to make time to go on a brief trip to Ottawa over the weekend and attend last night's AEMBA appreciation dinner at Jardin de Panos. Good luck to the new AEMBA candidates!

Speaking of elections, I voted in my first ever Canadian election yesterday in an advance poll! With my new Canadian citizenship, I exercised my right to vote, which of course called to mind the catchy tune from Tanner '88 below.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Speaking Of...

I thought about it and I have more advice for new MBA students. I previously mentioned the importance of getting involved in activities outside of school, but it is also great to hold a leadership position in the program. As International Affairs Director for the student association, I was able to coordinate student activities and collaborate with an amazing team. Even just running for election was an excellent way to break the ice with fellow students and warm up my presentation skills.

And look how far I have come! I will now be a speaker at the TopMBA Connect launch event, talking to potential MBA students.

I also wanted to mention that McGill University, my alma mater, was recently named one of the world's most beautiful universities by Travel + Leisure. See the article here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Prospective MBA Students

I have exciting news to report! Though I was already booked to attend the TopMBA Connect kickoff event in NYC on September 15, I received an email yesterday inviting me to be a speaker there! I am looking forward to this opportunity to present to prospective MBA students and reunite with the TopMBA Connect team. If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing an MBA and you will be in the area, be sure to register for the event here.

With only eight days left until the end of my MBA, I have been continuously reflecting on this past year and the advice I would give to new students. What have I come up with so far? Buy yourself a wireless clicker at the beginning of the program. With typically one presentation per class, you will need it. What else? Get involved in events and activities outside of school. It is a great way to expand your network, learn from within a different setting, and have fun. Among others, I attended a MEEX networking event (and will be going to the upcoming MEEX 8) and volunteered for C2-MTL. These proved to be exciting ways to learn outside of the classroom.

As my previous work experience was in email marketing, I was anxious to read the HBR Blog Network article "Why Email Marketing is King." Perhaps after reading the article, people will take email marketing more seriously.

Monday, August 20, 2012


After a relaxing weekend of doing readings, spending time with friends, and picking up fruits and vegetables at the Jean-Talon Market (pictured above), I started the second week of P9 with my Leadership and Personal Change course. Today was the first day that we began discussions of personal cases that students in the class have written. It is interesting to read and share these personal experiences, and I give a lot of credit to the students who have agreed to have their cases read by the class.

In related news, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax is now looking for immigration stories from new entrants to Canada. In the past, the museum was focused on immigration between 1928 and 1971, but it has a new mandate to collect modern experiences. To submit your story, click here. The museum is also seeking proposals from artists for works to be included in an upcoming exhibit. You can find guidelines for the artwork submissions here.

I am also proud to announce that Montreal was selected by the New York Times as one of the hippest cities in the world. The article "Hip Cities That Think About How They Work" can be read at this page.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Today has been a jam-packed day! This morning, I rushed to do my readings, assignment for next week's Responsible Marketing class on Food, Inc., and my reflection paper and team evaluation for P8. I am now officially done with the P8 supervised consulting project! During the P8 semester, one of my teammates had been our paparazzo, taking many photos throughout the project. I am thus including a couple below.

I then spent the entire afternoon today participating in a scavenger hunt around the city with the new cohort of HEC Montreal's MBA students. Though my team did not win a medal, it was an amazing and fun experience! Below is a photo of my awesome team. Afterwards, we had a barbecue at school where I was able to answer many questions about the program and help the new students begin to navigate their MBA year.

Team 2

Though I spent last night hanging out at Bar Waverly with the Frank & Oak team, I've been running on adrenaline for the entire day. As I see the incoming MBA students with their excitement and I reflect on this year, the end is certainly bittersweet. I also wanted to mention that, for anyone who is thinking about doing an MBA, TopMBA Connect will be hosting a launch event on September 15 in NYC that is for potential MBA students to meet admissions directors and network with business leaders. You can find more information here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

That's the Spirit!

Today was my team's presentation to the National Film Board (NFB) and I cannot be prouder of my group. We received excellent feedback from our professor, as well as our client. I hope that the NFB is able to integrate elements from our marketing plan when launching their upcoming film about women's issues in Canada. I wish the NFB the best success with this documentary!

With only two and a half weeks left in the MBA, it seems like everyone is feeling nostalgic. We definitely have memories to last a lifetime. Though the below photo was taken a few months ago, it certainly captures the enduring spirit of my 2012 cohort.

HEC Montreal 2012 MBA Cohort

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stars in My Eyes

It's shocking how much I feel that I have been thrust right back into the craziness of classes. After a weekend of kayaking and biking, and also watching the Quebec-made Monsieur Lazhar (Canada's 2012 official Oscar selection for the Best Foreign Language Film category), I returned to school for my first day of P9 today. As per prior semesters, I already have readings and assignments to work on, even during this first week. After all, the P9 semester is only three weeks long!

I have also several times practiced my section of tomorrow's presentation to the National Film Board (NFB). I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the NFB again and letting them know what our team has been developing for the past five weeks for the P8 consulting project.

I recently joined The Daily Muse's Insider List which provides career tips. A recent email from The Daily Muse contained the following article:  "Work the Room:  How to Be the Star at a Networking Event." Since networking is an important skill to gain for all professionals, especially MBA students, I recommend reading the article and trying out its suggestions.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

End of P8

On Thursday morning, I attended a breakfast to welcome the new cohort's international students. It was a great opportunity for the graduating MBA students to share words of wisdom with the new class. After the breakfast and presentation by International Student Services, I led a tour of the Cote St. Catherine HEC Montreal building, to orient students and answer their questions.

It's hard to believe that yesterday was our last full day of the P8 semester. Though my team still has to wait until Tuesday to give our presentation to the National Film Board (NFB), and we have to submit a final reflection paper and team evaluation afterwards, we are done with our written marketing plan and PowerPoint file. We spent yesterday formatting the paper and practicing our presentation. Then, we went out to dinner to celebrate at Juliette & Chocolat and it truly warmed my heart when my team paid for my dinner, since I had secured the NFB mandate. Thank you, 5 Senses Marketing Team!

Now, I will be spending the weekend reading for next week's P9 classes and practicing my part of the NFB presentation. Related to the film my team has been working on, Fast Company had a couple articles recently that deal with women's issues:  "How to Create a Company That Won't Fail? Put Women On Your Board" and "How Women Lead Differently, And Why It Matters."

I also noticed a Techvibes article that mentioned how Waterloo is promoting itself as Canada's innovation hub (see here). Though Montreal and other Canadian cities may seem like obvious centres of technology, it is not surprising to find Waterloo as a self-proclaimed hub. After all, the city is home to Research In Motion (RIM).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Space Between

I just finished reviewing and editing my team's marketing plan for the National Film Board (NFB). Though we initially planned to finalize the document by today, I believe we are pretty close to completing it. I am hoping to have it done by tomorrow, so that we can spend all day on Friday working on our presentation. I am so proud of my team and all that we have accomplished, especially in this last week.

Since today was our final day of work at the NFB office, as the remainder of our time on the project will be spent elsewhere, we took a final parting photo:

As my team's unofficial "chief editor," I often get asked grammar and punctuation questions. Today arose a question about spacing after periods, which seems arbitrary and funny, but actually it was interesting to briefly research the topic. There is a very passionate article on Slate entitled "Space Invaders:  Why you should never ever use two spaces after a period." I quite enjoyed the article and my team's discussion, and I am happy to report that one space after a period is the acceptable convention.

Regarding my team's dynamic and success, this may be due in large part to our group's size. According to the HBR blog entry "Why Less Is More in Teams," the optimal team size is four to five members. Since team effectiveness is such an important factor in business school, I think the aforementioned article would be of interest to anyone in an MBA program.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

La Belle Ville

My third article for QS TopMBA Connect was published today! The article about Montreal startup events and resources can be found here. I am more than happy to share the knowledge I have acquired about entrepreneurial events in "la belle ville."

Considering my team is in the final week of our consulting project with the National Film Board (NFB), things are pretty calm. We are busy adjusting our recommendations, marketing plan, and presentation, but we are attacking our work efficiently. Hopefully, we will be able to finish our written document tomorrow, so that we can focus on our oral presentation for the remainder of the week.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

I saw the headline "Want to Have More Fun? Go on a Mission" and I couldn't help but read the ensuing article. As someone who typically tries to stay positive and is always looking to have fun, I was curious to learn the one method to boost happiness. It turns out that the key is to have a mission, a purpose. One of my life missions is definitely to travel to every European country, and my quest certainly makes globetrotting more fun.

Yesterday, I went to Osheaga and it turned out to be one of the craziest things I've ever done. Between the oscillating weather extremes (insufferable sun and heat to torrential chilly downpour), massive crowds of people, mud everywhere, and a full day of standing and dancing, it was certainly a long day. But of course, it was worth it! After seeing awesome performances by Zola Jesus (which was, sadly, cut short due to the weather), Santigold, The Shins, Passion Pit, and Metric, I was happy to have experienced the Osheaga event.

Emily Haines during Metric's set

After my weekend fun, it was back to work at the National Film Board (NFB) today and we had quite a surprise! We learned that one of our core recommendations for the feminist film would not be suitable for the organization, and so in the last week of our consulting project, we are forced to quickly address this issue. Though it limits our recommendations, it has forced us to narrow the scope of our assignment and focus on the core things to address. While it is a setback for our team, it may prove to be beneficial for our paper and presentation in the end.

Fast Company published an article today called "Is This the Jeff Bezos of Russia?" featuring CEO Maelle Gavet. It was interesting to see that the journalist Max Chafkin had raised many of the same points that I had introduced in my final paper for Russia Campus Abroad, where I had explored technology and innovation in Russia. Though Chafkin's article is long, I recommend it to anyone who wants an accurate depiction of the Russian business environment.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Winning Advice

It is hard to believe there are only 27 days left until the end of the MBA program. In fact, what is crazier is to know that we still have to complete our P8 consulting project, make our presentation to the National Film Board (NFB), and take two classes all within those few days.

While collaborating on our PowerPoint presentation for the NFB, I shared words of wisdom with my team, care of Guy Kawasaki. One of my other classmates had sent me the video below, where Kawasaki describes his 10-20-30 rule. Though my group will not be using only 10 slides, we will be heeding the rest of Kawasaki's advice.

I am also happy to announce that my team is already on a winning path. For all P8 teams who found their own consulting project mandates (rather than selecting one of the projects organized by HEC Montreal), we were entered into a drawing for $1000. Yesterday, MBA Program Director Michael Wybo did the drawing and my team won! As Charlie Sheen would say, "Winning!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wealth of Information

Wow! I am shocked to learn that, for the first time, Canadians are wealthier than Americans. See the article here. Why am I looking at jobs in the US, then? As a dual Canadian-American citizen who has employment opportunities in both countries, I definitely need to keep both options open.

Now that I am developing a marketing plan for a film about women's rights in Canada, I seem to find articles everywhere about this issue, or related subjects. In fact, the Montreal Gazette featured a blog entry entitled "Female participation in the Olympic Games - we've come a long way... or have we?" Though "London 2012 is the first Olympic Games to have female athlete representation from every participating country," the article's writer questions women's social equality in the Olympic Games.

Because of my recent trip to Moscow, I was excited to learn that a Moscow architecture firm called Za Bor has developed a creative workspace solution for cramped cities. The firm and their office of the future have been featured in Fast Company's Co.Design section here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cite for Sore Eyes

According to Techvibes, Canada is a good place for budding entrepreneurs. It is true that Canada has a great social safety net which benefits not only startups but individuals, as well. In fact, I was just discussing this with my teammates on the car ride home from the National Film Board (NFB) yesterday.

While at the office yesterday, we had a meeting with the Marketing Manager to discuss the first draft of our marketing plan. Though she explained why some recommendations would not be feasible for the project, she was happy to see that we had developed several innovative ideas that the NFB has not yet used. Based on her feedback, we further refined our recommendations to make them more suitable for the film. But all in all, we got positive feedback, which we were happy to have received.

I have recently had many flashbacks to C2-MTL as a result of the news about Jonah Lehrer's Bob Dylan quote falsification. At C2-MTL, the fellow speaker was "called out" by Dr. Rex Jung due to his "scientific" ideas. But now that Lehrer has been accused of making up Bob Dylan quotes, his career might never be the same. Now my team can see why I insist on proper citations in our marketing plan!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Page Break

My teammates call me "chief editor" due to my ability and interest in placing proper punctuation marks and grammar in our report to the National Film Board (NFB). It is no surprise, then, that I empathized with the writer of the HBR article "I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here's Why." Like the article's author CEO Kyle Wiens, I am a grammar "stickler."

On Friday, I had to deal with a technical glitch whereby my edited version of our report did not save properly on Dropbox. However, there is one great advantage of P8:  weekends. After re-editing our document, I was able to unplug and enjoy the two-day break. This is something which is truly different than all other semesters at school and I really value this newfound freedom.

Besides, Montreal definitely comes alive during the summer. With a gamut of festivals here, it is a wonderful time to be out and about. On Saturday night, I saw the Just for Laughs Festival Joel McHale Gala at Place des Arts. Even just walking around the Quartier des Spectacles is a lot of fun - the street food at the souk is worth a visit!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On the Right Path

For any of my readers who are thinking about going to b-school, I have some good news. Aringo, a top MBA admission consulting firm, has agreed to offer a 20% discount to anyone who mentions that they heard about Aringo's services through my blog. I hope that helps you to start your MBA journey!

Today, my group sent the first draft of our marketing plan to our professor. Though we met with her this afternoon, she will not be able to send us feedback until she has had time to review it. I am anxiously awaiting her comments! In the meantime, she mentioned that she always gets nervous about our team because we are consistently quiet during our meetings with her. It's mostly because we haven't had too many questions for her, and we have not yet hit any major roadblocks. I hope she agrees that we are on the right path!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I am so excited to share a movie trailer for a film called The Oranges that is based in my hometown of West Orange, New Jersey! The star-studded film premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Enjoy the trailer below!

Last night, I was reading through my most recent issue of the McGill News, our alumni magazine. I was shocked to learn that several people who I admire are McGill alumni, such as Julie Payette (Canadian astronaut), Katrina Onstad (journalist and writer), and Moshe Safdie (architect of Habitat 67). I am truly honoured to share an alma mater with these individuals. I can't wait to learn what my fellow HEC Montreal classmates and alumni will do!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Driving Progress

July 24, 2012 would have been Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday, which is why she has been all over the news today. I was happy to catch an article entitled "Amelia Earhart:  Better feminist than pilot?" especially due to its relatedness to the film my team is working on for the National Film Board (NFB). Just like the women in the NFB film we are marketing, Earhart sought gender equality.

For our consulting project with the NFB, my team has divided the tasks to be done for this week's deliverable. This meant that I was researching and writing about infographics, photo campaigns, and other marketing tools today, while my teammates worked on other sections. Fortunately, we are able to use Skype, so we can work from home sometimes, but still stay updated on everyone's progress.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Marketing Plan Development

As a team, I think we are all feeling more confident in the development of our marketing plan for the National Film Board (NFB). Now that we are in the third week of our project, it is the first time we will have deliverables, both to the NFB and our supervising professor Johanne Brunet.

During our time at the office today, we worked on refining our positioning statement for the NFB's film about Canadian women. In doing so, we have tried to apply the KISS principle ("Keep It Simple, Stupid!"). We also developed our tables for the channels of dissemination and ways to engage our proposed segments, alongside the appropriate messages for our segments.

Throughout our work, we are keeping in mind the need for innovation. For this element of our project, I have found Fast Company's article "How Innovation is More Poetry Than Science" particularly helpful.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Woman's Work is Never Done

This morning, my team started off the day with meetings. We sat with representatives from the National Film Board's (NFB) Consumer Programs and Distribution departments. By using the Type With Me tool, my group was able to share our notes and ideas from the meetings, to aid in the development of our marketing plan for the upcoming film launch.

My team then worked to determine the appropriate marketing mix for the film by using the four Ps (price, product, promotion, and place). With promotion being the most in-depth and challenging element for us, we were only able to create a preliminary document, but will continue the rest tomorrow.

With my constant focus on women's issues, especially due to the film's content, I noted Fast Company's recent article "Meet the League of Extraordinary Women:  60 Influencers Who Are Changing The World." While the article highlights that North American women can certainly help to fight for the international rights of girls and women, the film my team is working on demonstrates that Canadian women still have a long way to go on our own soil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Job

Welcome back, Javier! Pictured above is my fellow team member who was working with us remotely last week, as we began our marketing mandate for the National Film Board (NFB). Now that my team has been reunited at the NFB office, we have worked our way through our SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), situational analysis, and STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning) for our assigned film. One video that helped us to understand the resources and innovative technologies at the NFB is posted below.

While I am working on my P8 Supervised Consulting Project for the NFB, I am simultaneously writing my 10-page analytical paper for P7's Russia Campus Abroad. Though the paper is taking longer than expected, it is fun to relive my Russian adventures through my writing.

I am also happy to report that there is growing interest in one-year MBA programs, according to CNN Money (see here). However, I am critical of the article. My HEC Montreal one-year MBA program has provided me with on-the-job experience (with the NFB), an international trip (to Russia), and plenty of electives to establish a specialization (in my case, Marketing and Management). So, for me, the disadvantages of enrolling in a one-year program, as per the article, do not ring true for my HEC Montreal MBA experience.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

At the Office

It was just another day at the office for my consulting team. We had the chance to sit in on a power meeting with the heads of different units, including Marketing, Digital Partnerships, Sales and Market Development, and Festivals and Audience Development. This week, we are collecting vital information about the National Film Board (NFB) and the employees' perspectives regarding the feminist movie that will help us to create our preliminary marketing plan proposal.

We also had a meeting with our supervising professor Johanne Brunet, who helped us to determine the essential areas of focus for our project. My team then developed a plan for tomorrow's division of tasks. We are well on our way to having a solid foundation for our team recommendation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MBA Consultants

Since I will soon be completing my MBA, I feel that it is the perfect time for me to encourage others to follow in my footsteps. For any brave souls who dare to apply to b-school, TopMBA Connect has an amazing contest, for which the winner will receive MBA and life coaching, in addition to assistance in meeting with individuals from the business school of his/her dreams. The MBA and life coaching mentorship will be provided by the amazing and talented Elisa Balabram, who I met when I visited the TopMBA Connect office last month. Information about the contest can be found here. Good luck to the candidates!

As for my own MBA adventures, P8 definitely has a different pace and tone. We are no longer in school (or traveling around Russia, for that matter); instead, the Supervised Consulting Project teams are approaching their diverse group mandates in different ways and locations. For my team, our objective is to develop a marketing plan for a National Film Board (NFB) movie about women's rights in Canada.

So far, my group has been focused on collecting primary data for our project. Yesterday, we got settled into our office at the NFB, and then conducted a meeting with Karen Cho, the director of the film. Today, we met with the NFB's market team, followed by a team brainstorming session. This is such an exciting project and I feel honoured to be a part of this amazing opportunity!