Adrian Papara is a full-time MBA student at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, with an interest in management consulting. Previously, he held various roles in the financial and marketing industries and earned a bachelor of arts, with a major in economics, from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. In his spare time, he volunteers with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, raises funds for various charities and has a keen interest in recreational flying and automotive restoration.
It is not every day that we have the chance to press the “reset” button on our lives, but the lack of a promising career in retail banking and the decision to pursue my MBA have created that opportunity for me. What this meant was completely uprooting myself from one environment and starting over from scratch in another – new places, new friends, new experiences and eventually a new career.
The toughest part was deciding on my final destination for my life transformation.
I am not new to starting over. My family did so while immigrating to Canada from Romania in 1997 and I have done it once on my own, moving to Edmonton to begin my first “real job” shortly after finishing my undergraduate degree in British Columbia.
When selecting my current MBA program, I tried to make an informed decision by consulting the Maclean’s magazine university rankings, talking to school representatives and weighing in factors such as program focus, length and cost. But to me, this decision had long-term implications and I thought it was equally important to consider the benefits of a new city and the prospects of employment and lifestyle after the MBA program had wrapped up.
For many years, I had been living a suburban life and found the location of my recent hometown of Port Coquitlam in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland to be quite counterproductive to a fulfilling career. For those not too familiar with the Lower Mainland, Vancouver began as a city at the mouth of the Burrard Inlet and over time grew east, constrained by the mountains to its north and the U.S. border to the south. Living about a 45-minute drive east of Vancouver’s downtown business core, I found it difficult to network and meet other professionals with similar interests, leaving me with few opportunities to leverage those connections into career advancement.
Some might ask why I didn’t move closer to the downtown core. My answer: “Have you looked at the cost of living in downtown Vancouver?”
The best option seemed to be to start fresh elsewhere.
Going back to my reset analogy, after I had narrowed down my MBA program options, the University of Ottawa was my top choice. I had visited Ottawa in the past a few times and I was able to quickly differentiate the benefits with which Vancouver could not compete.
For example, I currently live a 15-minute bus ride from the university campus (add another two minutes to arrive downtown). Whether it is employment in technology, government, finance, tourism or consulting, this city has it all. Given my proximity to the city’s downtown core, I am always just minutes away from meeting business contacts over coffee, attending a networking event or socializing over a glass of wine. I believe that the transitory nature of some Ottawa residents, such as foreign diplomats and some business professionals, also facilitates cultural exchange and networking opportunities beyond Ottawa’s and Canada’s borders.
Besides providing me with top-quality education, the Telfer School of Management is an important resource that offers MBA students like me the opportunity to access, connect and interact with local business leaders, not to mention the ability to visit various high-performing companies in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
As the program winds down, the benefits of my decision are becoming more obvious, making me further embrace Ottawa as my permanent home. It is a city that is neither too big nor too small, and I have always found something to keep me busy no matter the time of year – from an abundance of museums and outdoor festivals to skating on the longest outdoor skating rink in the world during the winter. There is also no other place I would rather be on Canada’s birthday. Real estate is quite affordable in Ottawa, as well, with a two-bedroom apartment within a 20-minute bus ride of downtown starting in the low $160,000s. Unreal right?
So if I was to share one piece of advice with potential MBA students looking to press the reset button on their lives, it is this: Look at the big picture and the opportunities that new surroundings can offer when narrowing down their your program selections.
Adrian can be reached through his LinkedIn profile.