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#64 University of Toronto Rotman MBA Program & Admissions Interview with Leigh Gauthier

Leigh Gauthier - University of Toronto Rotman School of Management

“The rigor of our teaching is very high at Rotman… this is a very intensive degree which I think has its benefits to employers – they see that our students can hit the ground running, that they have a very strong toolkit, and that they can make a difference and add value very early on in their careers.”

About our Guest

Leigh Gauthier is Acting Director, Recruitment & Admissions & Director of Careers of the Full-time MBA at Joseph L Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Prior to joining Rotman in 2008, she was a management consultant at Accenture. Leigh has a passion for training and development, and has conducted over 1000 coaching sessions and hundreds of workshops as a Certified Coach (CPCC) (PCC) and professionally trained facilitator.

What is relatively unique about about the Rotman MBA? What are its key advantages?

  • Largest and most diverse MBA class in Canada
  • Pioneer reputation in business education with “design thinking” (how to design innovative customer experiences) and “model-based problem solving” focus (how to understand complex problems in real-time)
  • Rotman uses “live” case studies – students work on organizations’ current business problems
  • Students get intensive year-long feedback on their communication style, patterns and presence through Rotman’s self-development lab
  • Largest management faculty in Canada (~120) with 48 faculty members in finance; Rotman has one of the top-ranked finance faculty in the world
  • Rotman students can get student loans without a cosigner
  • Each student gets a career coach for the entire 2 years; Rotman has a 18 member career services team

Potentially a good fit if:

  • You’re pursuing a career in finance or consulting in Canada; Rotman also deepening ties to companies in healthcare, technology, marketing, and consumer packaged goods
  • You want to go beyond the traditional MBA curriculum and be exposed to design thinking, model-based problem solving, and intensive feedback on your communication style and presence
  • You want to work and live in Canada – Rotman MBA graduates are automatically eligible for a 3 year work permit, and after that many get permanent residency; MBA spouses can also work in Canada during the program

Touch MBA’s Rotman MBA Fast Facts

Program Highlights (2:42)

  • University of Toronto was established in 1827, first Master of Commerce degree offered by School of Business in 1938
  • 1 intake / year in September
  • Length: 20 months (16 months classes, 4 months for internship or elective study)
  • Campus in downtown Toronto, Canada’s business and financial center, and one of the world’s most multicultural cities
  • 350 participants/intake
  • ~33 nationalities/intake, class is ~50% international
  • Choose from 10 majors and 90 electives
  • Students rated Finance the highest
  • Over 30 student clubs, most popular are Rotman Finance Association, Management Consulting Association, and Business Design Club
  • Partnership with 23 exchange schools in 16 cities
  • Rankings: #51 Financial Times 2014, #96 Economist 2013
  • #1 by Bloomberg Businessweek for International Capital, Top 10 by Financial Times in Finance
  • Accredited by AACSB
  • Joint Degree Options: JD/MBA, Master of Global Affairs/MBA, Skoll BASc/MBA

Admissions (19:51)

  • 5 deadlines Nov – June
  • Int’l applicants encouraged to apply before Rd 3 (March)
  • Acceptance rate: NA
  • Avg GMAT: 674 (range 540 – 760), Avg GPA: 3.5 (range 2.2 – 4.0), minimum 3.0 GPA encouraged
  • GRE accepted
  • Avg age: 27 (22-39), Avg work experience: 4.2 (0-15), 2 years work experience recommended
  • Min TOEFL: 100 (internet), IELTS: 7
  • Interviews done by Assistant Directors of Admissions
  • Candidates must answer 2 video questions, one about values, and one about interests
  • Looking for candidates with intellectual ability, diverse experiences, people skills, self-management skills

Financing (30:35)

  • Full-time MBA Tuition: $91,460 CAD (for Canadian students), $104,637 CAD (for international students), roughly $82,731 USD and $94,707 USD
  • Recommended budget: $124,000 – 154,000 CAD, $112,000 – $140,000 USD
  • $3 million CAD of scholarships available
  • ~50% of participants awarded scholarships; average amount is $20,000 CAD
  • Scholarship amounts range from $10,000 CAD to full-tuition
  • Scholarships are merit-based
  • The Rotman Problem Solving Challenge offers over $300,000 CAD in awards – including a full tuition scholarship
  • International students can access student loans without a cosigner
  • Rotman pays the interest on your student loan when you study

Career (34:13)

  • Rotman MBA – Full-time placement report (Class of 2013)
  • 76% of graduates had jobs within 3 months of graduation
  • Average Salary (Bonus): $91,282 CAD ($13,350)
  • Graduates in 2010 experienced 85% increase in salary
  • Top 5 industries: Finance 48%, Consulting 21%, Legal Services 7%, Technology/Telecom 6%, Consumer Goods & Retail 4%, Energy & Natural Resources 4%, Pharma/Healthcare 4%
  • Top 5 functions: Finance 47%, Consulting/Strategy 25%, Marketing/Sales 8%, Legal 7%, Operations 6%
  • Top 5 regions: Greater Toronto Area, Alberta, New York, and Hong Kong
  • 18 career coaches and industry experts support students
  • 14,000 alumni worldwide in 70 countries
  • After graduation, international students are eligible for a 3-year Canadian work permit; married or common law partners can get a work permit while you are in school and can extend the permit without a job

Get in Touch

Full Transcript

Darren: I think the top ranked business schools in the US tend to get the most attention, but what about getting a top and elite MBA in Canada and working in Canada? I think this is a great option for many of you and I can’t wait to speak with our next guest, Leigh Gauthier. Am I saying that right, Leigh?

Leigh Gauthier: Actually, you’re very close. I’ve heard that a lot, but it’s Leigh Gauthier.

Darren: Thanks for being forgiving.

Leigh Gauthier: No problem!

Toronto Rotman MBA Program Highlights

Darren: So Leigh Gauthier is the Acting Director of Recruitment and Admissions for the full-time MBA. She’s also the Director of Careers for the full-time MBA at the Rotman School of Management, which is in the University of Toronto in Toronto. And Leigh has been with Rotman since 2008 and prior to coming to Rotman she was a management consultant at Accenture and she’s done training and development for Accenture, Prime Restaurants and she has a number of career management certifications as well, so I can’t wait to talk to Leigh about careers for MBA graduates in Canada as well. So Leigh, thank you for your time and welcome to the podcast.

Leigh Gauthier: My pleasure! Thanks, Darren, thanks for having me! I’m excited as well.

Darren: So Leigh, what I’d like to do with my first question is just get straight to the point, and that is what makes the Rotman MBA unique from other top business schools?

Leigh Gauthier: It’s a great question and a question I’m sure a lot of students ask themselves. And, you know, the truth be told, I heard this once and I believe it to be true. The fact of the matter is in a two year MBA program about 80% of the program across all schools is going to be very similar. It’s about 20% that is a differentiator. And what makes up that differentiator? Well, it’s a lot of things, but in particular you want to be looking at the faculty, so who are the people that are actually giving the education, you want to look at the students, what is the make up of the students, because they are actually in a classroom, shaping the experience, and what is the city, where is it located and what do the geographic factors have on the school as a city location that’s impacting it?

And then of course from there it’s the program side, which I think everybody starts with, but it’s only one piece of the differentiator. So when I think about the program side, I think what’s unique about Rotman are a number of aspects that we have that are different in the way that we deliver both our curricula but also some of our developmental activities as well. So if you’d like it, I’d be happy to dive into them and give you a little bit more about each.

Darren: Please.

Leigh Gauthier: Okay. So first and foremost, our school teaches in a cohort-based method, meaning that in the first year, everybody is together and they’re doing the whole first year curriculum as a class in classes of 70 people each, we have 350 people in our program. In the second year, you actually get to specialize. So you’ve got this toolkit, you’ve got this foundational set of tools and then in the second year, if you so choose, you can major by choosing 10 electives of over to 90 and you can major into clusters of which we have 13, ranging from things like brand management to health care sector management to innovation and entrepreneurship and the list goes on and on.

So I like that about our MBA, is that you get the foundational skillset as well as the specialization. But in particular, some of the things that are really unique about us is the way that we deliver that and the way that we deliver our foundations. So our program is designed around model-based problem solving, which is really going to help students identify and understand unstructured, complex problems in real-time.

And we provide exposure to students to these fundamental models and toolkits. They can teach students how to model managerial decisions and then they can take those models and export them across any area of business, so whether it’s accounting or finance or strategy. And then methods to help solve business problems, so specifying and making sense of big data. And this is truly versatile, so no matter what career you would go into, you’ve got this core skillset for business problem solving.

And one of the ways that we teach this is our Captsone Course and at the end of your first year, while a lot of schools are using cases and we certainly use the case method to a degree as well, those cases are what we call our “dead cases” or “cooked cases,” in the fact that they have an answer. They have already occurred, they’re in the past and the professor and in some cases the students already know what the answer to that case is.

What we use is we use a live case, whereby we work with organizations who have a live messy, unstructured problem, they have students get access to their live data and we’re talking a significant amount of data, where the students are able to get into their servers, roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty with a real, complex problem. At which case, at the end of the Capstone term, they create a presentation and our top presentations actually end up going to the heads of these companies and delivering what they’ve learned during this Capstone project.

So it’s a live case and it’s an amazing way to take what you’ve learned in the classroom and actually apply it to something that matters and something that’s real. So we’ve read a lot of feedback from students how that is unique and different and how it’s helping them once they get out into the real world. So I’d say that’s one thing, I’ll keep going if I may.

Darren: Yes, please, please.

Leigh Gauthier: Okay, so I’m pretty excited about the program, as you can tell. So I’d say that’s one thing, but another thing that’s really unique about us is what we’re calling the Self Development Lab. Okay, so this is an industry first, it offers all of our students individualized, intensive and professional feedback on their communication style, their presentation skills and their general presence in the world, how they show up, how they make people feel.

And what we do is we videotape and in the end give individualized feedback on their communication patterns based on their core curriculum at first year. So it’s not us saying, “Here’s how to do a better presentation per se, you can get that off the internet. This is individualized feedback on how you are coming across and how you are making people feel when you communicate with them,” which is a real core skill in leadership. Our students are going to be asked to be able to influence and to be able to take tough decisions and get people to follow them. People can’t follow you if they don’t “follow you” from a communicative stance, you know what I’m saying?

Darren: Yes.

Leigh Gauthier: So we’re teaching students through this Self Development Lab on how to improve this area of their leadership development. And what we love about it is it’s developmental, it’s not evaluative, meaning that you’re not going to get a grade. It’s about how do you get from who you are now today and who you need to be when you exit the program. I think that’s special and unique and distinctive for Rotman.

Another two things that I’ll point out quickly is our Creative Destruction Lab.

Darren: Creative Destruction?

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, that’s our Creative Destruction Lab and that’s pretty exciting as well. It’s our venture lab that we have launched in the school. As you know, there’s this real buzz around entrepreneurship, both at business school and externally as well and quite frankly a lot of our corporate clients are looking for this entrepreneurial spirit as well within our students. So we launched this in 2012 and it’s actually one of the world’s fastest growing venture labs.

And our companies that are going through this lab have actually raised 120 million of equity value within 20 months. And so students can work in the lab alongside start-ups, can be coached and mentored by some of Canada’s top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. So it’s a really exciting opportunity that we’re seeing growing out of Rotman.

And then the final thing that I’ll touch on that I know is distinctive in Canada and certainly I believe globally is our Design Works Program or our business design curricula. So it’s our unique approach to business innovation. So it helps students to discipline, to teach them how to put customer needs, so think about this, customer needs at the forefront of the business, meaning that students can learn how to design innovative customer experiences.

And we combine the notion of what designers bring to the table with what business brings to the table and we allow students to practice this through hackathons and workshops and elective courses through our Business Design Major. And we’re going to talk about careers later, but this type of methodology and thinking from the consumer up and this innovation approach is something that is really attracting some of our major corporate partners in terms of the way that students can think differently about the customer.

Darren: Wow, there’s so much there! If I may just pick one of those four things you mentioned, they’re all really exciting, I really believe in design thinking and the business design, as you mentioned, but when you talk about this unique model-based approach to problem solving and integrative thinking, because I think this is really core to what you guys are doing, what does that mean? How would that affect for example more traditional curriculum of studying finance, accounting, marketing operations, how would this unique model-based approach be applied to this classes? What’s the difference?

Leigh Gauthier: I think, as I said earlier, all business schools are going to be teaching the foundational core concepts in those functional areas, which are quite frankly siloed, and that’s the problem in business today. And when I talk to our corporate partners, what they’re really looking for is folks who can actually cross borders if you will within the organization and cross functions and understand a point of view and a perspective from another area. So whether it’s the strategy folks understanding the marketing folks, the marketing folks understanding the finance folks, the finance folks understanding the HR implications and everyone working together.

So these foundational courses plus the live business problems teach our students to think about the abstract and the concrete and they’re able to learn how to juggle the question and the possible answers and then to flip in-between them in real time. So our students will have a deep understanding and then they’ll own models, but not be owned by them, feeling like they only need to apply this cookie cutter model that they learned in business school. They’re actually learning how to use this model across the silos to solve problems.

Darren: That’s awesome! And how has the Rotman school changed in the past and where is it heading towards in the future?

Leigh Gauthier: That’s a really exciting question and we’re at an exciting time in that as of July 1st we have a new dean who just joined us as the former Senior Deputy from Bank of Canada. And so he’s only been in the role for a couple of months, so it’s imperative to give him some time to get to know us and to take a look at the landscape here in Toronto and the Rotman Business School and see where he might like to take it next.

Darren: And how would you describe the student culture at Rotman to someone who may not have a chance to visit campus? What is that like with that 350 student cohort you have?

Leigh Gauthier: That’s a great question. I think what I hear over and over again and what I observe from the cohort is the deep relationships that are built over the course of the two years that they’re here. We are a large program, yet there is a definite bond in community that happens with every cohort and I think in particular it’s the way the classes are structured, in that there’s a lot of teamwork, in that they are in the same classes with the same 70 people for the first term and then they switch into the second term. And then in their final year of study they get to meet even more folks.

So I think that even though we’ve got this large number of students, we’ve also got this community feel that is really special and people make friends that last for a lifetime. And I would say so to answer your question more specifically that there is an intense amount of collaboration that goes on, but I’m not sure if you’ve heard the expression “iron sharpening iron,” meaning that okay, great, while they’re also a very ambitious bunch and I feel like they’re pushing each other to a real high standard to achieve and to improve, but in a collaborative and community way, if that makes sense.

Darren: Absolutely, and you started our conversation by saying that the 20% that’s different between business schools, you should look at three things, faculty, students and the geographic region of the school, and you talked about the collaborative culture, but in terms of the faculty, what is Rotman known for in Canada and the world?

Leigh Gauthier: I’m really proud of our faculty and if you look at any of the rankings you’ll recognize that in terms of research, Rotman faculty rank considerably high in terms of the quantity and quality of research that’s being produced around the world, certainly within the top 10. And within that you’re going to get a huge range of research areas being considered, strategy, marketing and finance.

If I had to pick one, though, and I’m a bit loathe to do that, because I don’t want to pigeonhole our school per se, but without a doubt we have unequivocally the top finance faculty in the world. And when you think about it, that makes sense. I mean Toronto is North America’s third largest financial center, after New York and Chicago, it’s a known fact that Canada has worn the difficult times of 2008 very well and by a large based on our policy and our banking structure. So a number of our students, if you look at our stats, do end up in this sector and we have a very strong faculty as well to support that.

Darren: And related to that, why do you think candidates should get their MBA in Toronto and Canada? I mean, wow, it’s the third largest place of commerce in North America, but what other reasons?

Leigh Gauthier: Toronto and Canada specifically, again, going back to geography, is what I would encourage candidates to think about, is where do they want to start their network and where do they want to live after their graduation, what city and what country. And again, Toronto has been voted consistently one of the most livable cities in the world, it’s beautiful, it’s clean, it’s friendly, it’s safe. It’s also very multicultural in the fact that no matter where you come from, you’re going to feel comfortable here. In fact, over 163 languages are spoken in Toronto.

Darren: Wow!

Leigh Gauthier: Yeah. So everyone is here and getting along. And so I think it’s a pretty special place in terms of livability and also familiarity, but also distinct, unique things that are happening as well on and off campus.

So those are things that I would say specific to Toronto. For folks who don’t know much about Canada and in terms of coming here and starting a life here or at least studying here, one of the benefits that we have over other regions is that our school actually, or I should say that our country actually is very liberal in our policies for students in that after you work here for two years you’re automatically eligible for a three year work permit.

So there’s no rush to leave, so there’s no problem with the employment equation after you graduate in terms of being able to stay legally in Canada, after which point, after the three years, many students qualify for permanent residency. So if you’re thinking that Canada might be a place where you want to work and live for the longer term, certainly that’s a great way to move here and start your life.

Darren: Wow, so you’re saying that Rotman MBA students automatically get a work permit after they graduate or do they have to work for two years before they can?

Leigh Gauthier: No, they automatically get a three year work permit, as does their spouse. So while the students are studying for their two years, their spouses are actually able to work as well during their study time. And after they graduate, the Canadian government, if you’re in a two year program, it’s different, depending upon the length of your program, if you’re in a two year program, you actually get a three year work permit automatically after that.

Darren: I think that’s probably the best visa policy I’ve heard so far on the Touch MBA podcast.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes.

Darren: I can’t think of another. That’s really an amazing perk, especially if you want to like you said launch your career in Canada.

Toronto Rotman MBA Admissions

Darren: Maybe we could switch gears and talk about admissions?

Leigh Gauthier: Sure, I’d love to!

Darren: I saw your admissions criteria and you listed some interesting things: intellectual ability, diverse experiences, people skills and self-management skills. Could you expand on what you mean in each of these or talk about the fit qualities  you’re looking for?

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, absolutely. So it’s a competitive process, so it is the whole package that we’re looking for. And that quite frankly mirrors what our corporate partners are looking forward to. It’s a tall order and we want to deliver on that in terms of who we’re bringing into the program. And so we’re looking for ambitious people with a proven track record of success, but not just in the traditional things, but folks who are also doing interesting things both personally and professionally.

So we’ve had some really neat students in our program over the last few years that really are able to bring a distinct flavor to the community and can contribute in the classroom in a different way. Everyone from Olympic athletes to professional poker players, we just have this real diverse perspective and it helps create a very dynamic learning experience. So I’d say that is sort of what we mean by “fit,” is being able to bring in a rich diversity of viewpoints.

Darren: I guess what that would mean for applicants is to be yourself, right? I think a lot of MBA applicants might try to “game the system,” but what you’re saying is that you’re looking for unique people with strong accomplishments and traits of course, but there’s only one way to really be that.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, yes, and thank you for saying that, because I think that that’s really important and while a number of students are certainly getting advice on their applications and I don’t see any harm in that, it really has to come from who you are and from your experience and what you want to bring to the program versus what you think we are looking for.

It’s a pretty hard thing to guess, especially in that we assess every single application, look at every detail of every application. It’s not something that you can try and guess your way through.

Darren: Yes and this is an interesting question to ask you, because you’re a career coach and you’ve helped thousands of people navigate this process, not just for MBAs, but careers. So when you’re talking about people skills, because I think intellectual ability, that’s pretty clear in terms of what that means and diverse experiences, that’s you and your experiences.

But when you talk about people skills and self-management skills, how can applicants demonstrate that? Because surely they have examples of that without saying, “I’m great with people. I manage myself really well.” Because I think that’s what I often used to see, so there’s an art to that and I was wondering if you had any tips there.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, sure, of course. I think a couple of things and one of which goes back to the self development lab in terms of presence, looking for people who are comfortable in their own skin and who are cognoscente of what sort of impression and how they are making people across the table feel, which is why we have interviews for every single application.

So it’s in that interview process that we’re really being able to assess a person’s ability to understand themselves and also get to know another person. So I think that the interview itself, just the fact that it is either in person or on Skype, lends itself to that.

Furthermore, we also, I’m not sure if we’re going to have a chance to touch on this later, so I’ll bring it up now, we were the first school to introduce the video essay component, whereby each student needs to submit two video essays. It’s all automated, so there’s no technology required other than a webcam and an internet connection, and what happens is students have a practice question, where they answer a question, and then they have two questions that get submitted into their application file.

And the questions are from a database, they’re randomized, so no student will get the same two. One is going to ask a question that sort of fits in the values category, so who you are as a person, and the other one is going to fit into sort of the interests category. So again, we’re trying to get a sense for people who are feeling very comfortable about who they are and we ask them these two questions and they would range from anything like, “Tell us who your heroes are?” to, “What is your favorite movie and what impact has it had on you?”

And so those types of things again are drawing out this aspect of fit and emotional awareness and ability to convey who they are and what they want.

Darren: That’s great! How much time do they have to answer those video questions?

Leigh Gauthier: Maximum two minutes each.

Darren: Maximum two minutes each, okay. So that’s not too bad.

Leigh Gauthier: No and in fact these are things that you can’t prepare for, Darren, these are questions that you should know, these are you, these are your life, these are things that you love, these are the things that get you out of bed in the morning. So again, it’s just another view into who you are as a person.

Darren: Just a personal side, but I think this authenticity is so crucial in today’s workplace and being transparent and being yourself and knowing what you’re good and bad at. I mean you can’t hide behind much anymore, let’s put it that way, at least in my opinion. So I applaud that, I think that’s a neat little part of the admissions process and actually could we take a step back, could you walk us through the life of an application? You’ve talked about a few elements, but just the 5,000-foot view.

Leigh Gauthier: Yeah, sure, so once the application is complete, it gets assigned to an assistant director who is responsible for that file, they go through all of the documentations, the videos, the essays, the references, everything that’s involved and they’re assessing for all the things that we’ve talked about, at which point they bring the application to the Admissions Committee and the Admissions Committee looks at the application in terms of the rest of the class and the folks that we’re admitting and we have a dialogue and sometimes a debate around that application and we make an admissions decision at that point.

We also are making our scholarship decisions at the same time and so we would at that point in time also be awarding a scholarship if merited.

Darren: Got it. And so then those admissions committee conversations take place after the interview that you mentioned?

Leigh Gauthier: Absolutely.

Darren: And who conducts the interviews? Is that members of the Admissions Committee as well?

Leigh Gauthier: It will be a one on one interview with the Assistant Director of Admissions, so that person will be responsible for that file if you will and will take it to completion.

Darren: Great. Any tips there in terms of being presentable and confident and yourself in the interview?

Leigh Gauthier: Yes. I think first of all, my hope is that students are doing their research in many different ways and that they’re really taking their time to get to know us to see if we’re a fit, a significant investment and we want to make sure that there’s this great partnership between them and us and that we’re the right school for them.

So someone who has demonstrated that they’ve done their research, not just on the internet, but who have reached out to us or to our ambassadors, have come to an open house if they can, if they can’t, if they’re not physically able, that they meet us when we’re around the world, we travel consistently around the world to major cities. If they can’t do that, to join us on an online conference where they can learn more about us and ask questions.

So I think a demonstration that they’ve done their homework and they’ve researched us and they feel as far as they can tell that we’re a good fit for them really makes an application stand out besides the obvious. I think that would be a tip.

The other thing is the quality of questions that are being asked. I think that says a lot about a person. And we make particular note to the type of questions that a student is asking and I think again I can’t help but parlay that back into the career center side is oftentimes candidates in a job situation either fail or succeed on the quality of their questions in the interview. And it’s no different in the admissions process.

Darren: I love that tip, that’s great. So any other last admissions tips for our listeners?

Leigh Gauthier: Just take your time, don’t rush it and as we’ve talked earlier, you used the words “authentic” and “authenticity” and just put the best possible application forward in the time that it takes you to do that, then enjoy the process. This should be really exciting, it shouldn’t be something that’s hard work or terrifying or stressful, and if it is, it may not be the best decision for you.

Darren: Actually that reminds me, I have one more question and that’s regarding your work experience, because I saw your average work experience is about four years, but your range is 0 to 15. I guess my question is how important is that work experience and then, that’s a pretty wide range, so if you had any tip on that?

Leigh Gauthier: Sure. So if you are an outlier against the average is I guess where the best advice can go, is to think about what the benefits and / or challenges would be for you and what would be the benefits and / or challenges for us having you in the program and being able to have a real conversation around that.

So you might not have any years of experience per se, but maybe there is something about your application, either your undergraduate experience or your extracurricular that really stands out to us as an application who should be in our program. You should be able to articulate why that is and why you would be comfortable working with folks who have real life world experience.

Similarly, on the other end, for folks who are more senior and who have done a lot of work, what’s it going to feel like to work with people who are of a different age and who have different backgrounds and experiences and what can you contribute into that conversation and what can you learn from it as well?

Darren: Got it, yeah, I think that’s the right framework to think about that. Because, again, that shows that level of self awareness and research, those two things you’re looking for.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, exactly.

Toronto Rotman MBA Financing & Scholarships

Darren: And in terms of scholarships, could you let us know what percentage of your class gets scholarships and what your average scholarship amounts are and then of course how can applicants improve their chances of winning one?

Leigh Gauthier: Sure, absolutely. Do you mind if I change your language on that?

Darren: No problem.

Leigh Gauthier: Of earning them, right? Because actually they don’t win them so much as they actually earn them based on the quality of their application, which is why it’s so important to take your time and do a good job. I’d say about on average 50% of our students are receiving scholarships on average of about 20K, but the range is from basically 10,000 all the way through to a full ride.

And the way that we actually disperse the scholarships in addition to the ways I’ve already explained based on the application process is we actually have Rotman Problem Solving Challenge Competition that occurs every year in the spring and students are welcome from around the world to come and compete and actually win the full scholarship and then also win multiple prizes as well. We actually give away $300,000 on one weekend.

So I want to put a plug-in for that, because I think it’s distinct and it’s unique and we’ve had students fly in from around the world literally to compete in this scholarship competition, which is really neat. But beyond that, as I said, average is 50% of the class at about 20K and usually ranging between 10 and 40K as an average.

In terms of improving their chances of earning a scholarship, really again it’s about the quality of your application and the ability to showcase your achievements, both professionally and personally, and really making a connection with that Admissions person.

Darren: And is GMAT score and GPA important in that?

Leigh Gauthier: Yes.

Darren: For example if someone has an average GMAT but if they crack 700, maybe that will help their chances? I mean I know it depends on each person, but.

Leigh Gauthier: It’s a really good question and if you think about it, if you have an application and they’re really strong in one area, that’s fantastic, we’re going to probe in those areas to see what’s going on and to make sure that the applicants are as well-rounded as they can possibly be. So I think it’s a mistake for people to think, “Well, I got this GMAT, so I’m obviously going to get in,” that’s not the case.

On the flip side, I think it’s harmful for people to self select out on criteria like a GMAT and say, “Well, I didn’t get such a high GMAT, I’ll never get a scholarship.” It’s like, “Woah, let’s just take a look at what you’ve been doing with your life and how you’ve been contributing and maybe you’re fast track at work and receiving multiple promotions in a short time or increases in scope and responsibility because of the type of employee that you are.” All of those things are going to go into the consideration of a scholarship.

Darren: Great, great. And I saw that international students can access student loans without a co-signer, is that right?

Leigh Gauthier: That’s correct. We have two banks in Canada who are offering that program to students to help them finance their MBA and while they’re here actually Rotman pays the students’ interest on their loans. So that’s just one less headache that a Rotman student has to deal with while they’re at school, we’ll actually take care of the interest payment for them.

Darren: That’s great, because I know most other schools, tough to get that sort of deal, to get student loans without a co-signer from that country.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes.

Toronto Rotman MBA Careers

Darren: Now if we can turn to my favorite part of the podcast, careers, and probably your favorite part too.

Leigh Gauthier: Absolutely!

Darren: The first question is what makes Rotman special from a jobs and career perspective? Very broad question, but just to get the conversation going.

Leigh Gauthier: Sure. What I’m really impressed with about Rotman is their dedication to career services and for the full-time MBA class specifically there are 18 people dedicated to career services. And when I look across my peer schools and some other schools, I don’t see that level of investment put into the career center. There are often large teams, but they’re often responsible for multiple different masters programs, whereas we have 18 people focused specifically on our students.

And in addition to the staff to student ratio, which I think is really important for personalized and individualized service, it’s customized in that each student gets a career coach who works with them for the entire time of their two years and someone who can get to know them before they even start in the program. We start reaching out to students about May, before they get on campus, and they work together to craft a career vision, so that the student is really clear on who they are and what they want and then they work right through to the tactical and practical of the nuts and bolts of the resume cover letter, interview prep and then finally onto a job search strategy and networking as well.

So to answer your question, I think the level of service and the customization of the service is unique to us. On the flip side, the other 50% of the team is actually focused on business development and client relationship management. So these folks are actually working with our current clients and making sure that they have a phenomenal experience at Rotman recruiting and that they’re meeting the right students at the right time.

And additionally we’re listing to students some preferences in terms of industries and functions on a class by class basis and on a year by year basis in determining what is the mix of employers that are required on campus and going out to get them. So for example if we find that there’s a shift, that there’s a desire for a certain function or industry that is either not served or underserved, we have our Business Development folks working on that to work with our students. So I’d say that’s probably the special part of our Career Center at Rotman.

Darren: Wow! Okay, so when you say that a student gets a dedicated career coach during their time at Rotman, what does that mean? Does that mean for example if I was a student I could reach out to this person whenever I wanted to or is it at set times? How does that work?

Leigh Gauthier: Yeah, pretty much. There are a few limitations, and that’s only based on the fact that different recruitment cycles are for our first year and second year. So the only time when a coach may not be as readily available for a student appointment is if it’s the intense time of another cohort. So for example, as you probably know, most of the recruitment for internships happens in January and most of the recruitment happens in September for full-time.

And so other than those periods when clearly the career coaches are dedicated to one class versus another, students are welcome to connect with their coach and make an appointment at any time.

Darren: That’s really amazing. And then so you talked about how half of your team is developing relationships with employers in different industries based on student demands and so forth, I saw that at least in your placement report, you have a lot of students going into finance and consulting and strategy.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes.

Darren: And so those seem to be the two big pillars, but what other industries are your students interested in and who are some of the companies that have shown interest in Rotman MBAs?

Leigh Gauthier: Absolutely. So again, it’s kind of back to that geographical conversation we were having earlier. A lot of students choose Toronto and decide that they want to stay in Toronto, not exclusively, but many do and as a result of being a large financial center, you can imagine a lot of our students go into finance. However, we’re seeing more and more that students are going into the financial services sector, but not necessarily in financial roles. So for example functionally, we’re seeing students go into marketing roles in financial services, which is exciting for us and for them.

So beyond the traditional finance roles, which we excel at and of course you’ve seen all of the major consulting firms are recruiting top talented Rotman, we’re seeing a lot of interest in the technology space and in particular global roles. So if you come to Rotman, your destiny does not need to be Toronto and / or Canada, it can be larger than that in scope. Certainly we’re receiving global postings from the likes of Microsoft and Amazon and then of course we would have local postings for all of our telecoms, as well as companies like IBM or SAP or Salesforce. So the technology sector I’d say is very well represented.

When people think of Canada, they think of health care, so I would say from a curriculum perspective we have a very strong health care major and a focus on that both on health care management, so hospital management, but also on the pharma side and the biotech side and the medical devices side and that’s evidenced by employers like all of our local hospitals, which are some of the best in the world, best research hospitals, which are literally down the street from Rotman, but the likes of Johnson & Johnson or Lille or many of the health care firms that folks would want to work at.

One of the things I’m proud about, this year we’ve put a real focus on consumer goods and retail. We have again some of the world’s most established faculty in these spaces in terms of thought leadership and publications. And so we’ve really been focusing on our relationships with firms that have always hired here, in the CPG area, like Kraft and PepsiCo and General Mills and P&G, but we’ve also been able to track the likes of Nike for example coming in from Portland and we’ve had three students in the last three years land in their corporate head office in Portland.

So the CPG retail space, I would say, Darren, if you’re going to watch a space that’s going to move at Rotman, in terms of a shift, that is definitely going to be one of them. And I guess I can’t leave out energy and national resources, I mean we are a resource economy. We actually offer career treks, they’re subsidized in that we fly students out to different cities where we know that our talent is going to be well received. So on the energy and national resources section, we fly students out numerous times a year to meet with recruiters and alumni and executives in the energy space, specifically companies like Shell or Suncor or Shawcor or Imperial Oil out in Calgary in the energy space.

But in addition, just since I’m on the career trek topic, we also do career treks to cities like Vancouver, Montreal, we go to Silicon Valley, which is obviously very exciting, and we’ve established a great relationship in New York as well and take our students down there a couple of times a year to visit some of the head offices in New York as well.

Darren: Wow! Where do most of your graduates end up working? I’m guessing Toronto would be… Could you let us know the top three or four regions that Rotman MBAs end up in?

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, for sure. I would say that definitely Toronto is the major employer or the GTA, as we call it, the Greater Toronto Area. Followed by that, we are seeing a lot of students move out to Alberta, to Calgary, where it’s very strong economy out there, not just on the energy and resources side, but more and more so on the financial services side and on the consulting side. We’re seeing more and more students go to the US, in particular in New York, and then after that I think the next region would be in Asia, in particular in Hong Kong, and in some other cities in China as well.

Darren: Interesting. And I know it’s tough to generalize a whole student population, but what feedback have you heard from employers in terms of what makes Rotman MBAs different than I don’t want to name another school, but other schools? Because usually schools have their stereotypes, right? So I’m asking you if you can humor me and tell me what the Rotman stereotype is.

Leigh Gauthier: Well, you know what I think it is, it’s the quality of the education and the rigor with which we teach.

Darren: Interesting, yes.

Leigh Gauthier: I have heard stories about other schools where maybe they have for whatever reason a stronger brand or have been known for a longer time in terms of being a top business school, yet the actual rigor around the teaching and the deliverables and the grading and just the quality that’s demanded by the professors is very, very high at Rotman.

And so as a result students are learning and learning a lot, and this is a very, very intensive degree which I think has its benefits to employers in that they’re seeing the students can hit the ground running, that they have a very strong toolkit and that they can actually make a difference and add value very, very early on in their career.

Darren: And what’s the most important advice you give to your students once they come in, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed? You’re there and what do you tell them to look out for? And I think that would be useful for our listeners to know, so they can get in that mindset when they’re applying.

Leigh Gauthier: From a career perspective?

Darren: Yes. To land their target jobs or yes.

Leigh Gauthier: Well, there are a couple of things that we say and this is going to sound really harsh, but I’ll say it anyway, is, “You’re not as good as you think you are.” And the reason I say that is because the students that we’re attracting and the students that we bring in are phenomenal and they’re used to being top of their class wherever they are. Top of their class in undergrad, top of their class in terms of their companies and they’re always expecting to be the A student and the top 5%.

The challenge is that now they’re in an environment where everyone is coming from the same paradigm and the fact of the matter is that it’s very competitive in a good way and that everybody needs to up their game. So while you might have been top of the pile at work or top of the pile at the undergrad, everybody now here is top of the pile. So what are you going to do to make sure that you continue to be the best possible person that you can as you go out and compete for those jobs?

And so the advice that I would say is first of all get really clear on who you are and what you want and don’t start following the herd and don’t start comparing yourself to other people, but who are you and what do you want and what’s your plan to get there. So I guess get really, really focused.

And then the second thing is plan your work and work your plan. Yes, we have hundreds of postings and yes, we have all the companies coming in, looking for top talent, but at the end of the day no one is going to give you a job. You actually have to get out there, you have to make connections, you have to meet people and you have to understand why you can create value for that company and you need to be able to articulate that.

And so it’s not just about showing up, it’s about being prepared and showing up. And again, maybe in the past that’s worked for you, because you’re smart, you’re bright, you’re friendly, you’re outgoing, you’ve got all these things working for you and that’s fabulous and don’t get me wrong, you’re still all that, but the bar is just higher and you just need to be prepared to play a different level game. Does that make sense or is that too harsh?

Darren: That makes sense to me.

Leigh Gauthier: Okay, good.

Darren: And I think it should make sense to our listeners too, I hope it does. I think it’s advice they need to hear.

Leigh Gauthier: Good.

Darren: Is it different for international students looking for jobs in Canada than local Canadian students? For example in the US it’s a lot harder for international students to land certain jobs. I’m wondering if the same dynamic exists in Canada.

Leigh Gauthier: Well, I think what’s important to know, Darren, is if you look at our statistics, and this is not something that you’ll find in the brochure necessarily, but I can tell you with confidence that there is no discernible difference between the percentage of students employed from domestic or international at any given year.

So it’s not that domestics get jobs first and internationals second, we couldn’t operate as a school if that were the fact. So no, there are no differences in that number. The challenges are different for sure, but at the end of the day, we’ve seen some international students certainly outpace some of the domestic students, based on the quality of work experience that they may have had at organizations back home, but also the way that they can parlay that when they get to Canada.

So when I talk to international students on day one I say, “Look, you can have two perspectives on life of being an international student. You can think about it in the job market as it being a detriment in that you’re new here and people don’t know you and you don’t know them or you can think of it as an advantage in that you’ve got skillsets and experiences that people here, locally, can’t compete with.”

And basically what I’ve found since 2008, the people who have the latter perspective generally do very, very well, both within the international segment and within the domestic segment.

Darren: And I’m going to put you on the spot with one more question on careers. This is more of a broad MBA question, because you’re so closely involved with all these companies, helping to place students, helping students figure out their careers, and you’ve seen the types of changes that are taking place in the workforce. Do you think the MBA will continue to be just as valuable in the future as it has been in the past, with so many people starting new companies and so many big companies wanting more entrepreneurial people?

I think that some of our listeners might say, “Well, MBAs and entrepreneurship, maybe they’re not compatible in that sense.” But I’d just love to get your thoughts on the future value of the MBA.

Leigh Gauthier: Yes, for sure, everything is changing. Education is changing, globalization, technology, rate of change, I mean there are so many things that are happening to our world and it would be silly to say that things are going to remain constant in this one particular industry. So definitely I think we’re ripe for change and the schools that are able to work closely with the corporate partners and continue to be a source of top talent are the ones that are going to survive.

And so schools are going to need to be able to really understand what is it that corporate Canada or corporate America or corporate you name the country, corporate global companies, what do they need from mid-level managers and what is the role of business schools in that? And those who can figure that out I think are definitely going to have a place.

Now sure technology may change the way things are delivered and research is going to change where the focus is, but at the end of the day, going through a two-year rigorous process to understand the business of business and to put tools in your toolkit to be able to make bigger decisions better and faster, the desire for that is not going to go away. And in fact if anything, it’s going to be ramped up.

And as things change more and more quickly, we’re going to need tools and skillsets and models and people who are passionate about this and who can actually do the work.

Darren: Yeah and I have to say I’m a bit of a fan of Rotman, I mean I love that you guys are taking a stand with you pedagogy and I think that’s really unique, it’s something that I haven’t seen and I’ve done a lot of these podcasts and researched a lot of MBA programs.

Leigh Gauthier: Great!

Darren: So what is the best way for our listeners to get that firsthand experience of what it’s like, to connect with your students?

Leigh Gauthier: To connect with our students? So if you go onto the page you can click on the “Ambassador” section and in there you’ll see a whole host of folks who are in the school and who would like to share their experience, so you can sort by industry and function and background so that you can find someone who’s like you or someone that you want to be like, and that would be the best way.

If there’s not someone there that fits your particular angle, by all means drop us an e-mail and we’ll find a student who has a similar experience, who can help you make sense of your choice.

Darren: Great, I’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes. And is there anything else about the Rotman MBA that you just wish more candidates knew about when you’re traveling around the world and meeting potential applicants?

Leigh Gauthier: It’s interesting, because we go to a lot of fares and there are so many great schools out there and often the students will come by the booth and they’ll be like, “Oh! I never thought of an MBA in Canada.” And I’m like, “Okay,” and I just wish that they would realize that if they’re going to be able to get into a top MBA school that they really need to broaden their horizons and think about this experience and fast forward where they want to be five years from now.

And think about all the things that not only Rotman has to offer as a top business school in Canada, but quite frankly competes very well internationally as well, but also think about what we talked about, Toronto in Canada as a place to start and grow your career as a very, very exciting place.

So that’s just one thing that I would say, is open up your horizons a bit and think about the global perspective and what a Rotman MBA can do for you.

Darren: Thank you so much, Leigh, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Leigh Gauthier: My pleasure, thank you so much, Darren, I really had fun and yes, let’s keep the dialogue going, this was great!

Darren: Maybe podcast number two in the future.

Leigh Gauthier: Sounds good.

Darren: Thanks!

Thanks for listening to the Touch MBA podcast. Don’t be shy! We have a mailing list. Go to and get yourself signed up and we’ll keep you posted with the best tips and insider interviews on how to get into your number one school. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook at Touch MBA. See you soon!

Two thoughts on “#64 University of Toronto Rotman MBA Program & Admissions Interview with Leigh Gauthier

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