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emba diary

Deanna Burger brings more than 17 years of corporate marketing and sponsorship strategy expertise to the table leading teams at Fortune 100 companies. She’s also an executive MBA (EMBA) candidate at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, an accomplished marathoner, and is involved in the prevention of violence against women. This is her first blog for EMBA Diary.

Life is astounding. It’s equally full of surprises, disappointments and moments for celebration. This past 12 months have challenged my determination and mental stamina, while testing my resilience and tenacity. I’ve said yes to the things which scared me.

In June of 2017, not only did I turn 40, but I also accepted a new job in a new industry. In July, I was accepted to the EMBA program at the Rotman School of Management, which started in September. Then came August — I found out I was pregnant. This was when I said yes to being a single mother, while navigating a new job and doing my master degree. I decided to lean into the chaos.

Deanna Burger is an executive MBA candidate at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.Handout

Instead of pregnancy books, I analyzed case studies. Instead of decorating the nursery, I studied for exams. Instead of reading my adorable newborn nursery rhymes, I read him lecture notes. Instead of watching Netflix while he’s snuggled in my arms, I finish assignments.

At seven months into the pregnancy, a complication was discovered and I was admitted to Sunnybrook Hospital’s high-risk obstetrics unit on strict bed rest. During the 38 days, I turned my space at the hospital into an office.

I remotely managed my team at the office while continuing my studies and staying healthy. The days became a rhythmic dance of goals and accomplishments.

The hospital team was extremely supportive and encouraging, advocating for the continuation of both school and work — so much so that the hospital chief executive officer popped by for a chat. During morning rounds the staff checked in on assignments and worked around conference calls and study group meetings. They even proctored an exam.

Maintaining my connection to both work and school allowed me to forget the pregnancy difficulties, shelve the stress and conquer the fear, even for a few moments. With every win, my confidence grew.

Of course, there have been days when getting dressed felt like a Herculean effort, but those days are balanced by moments where I feel I’m #WinningAtLife. I am so grateful for the support from my classmates, as continuing my EMBA wouldn’t be possible without this network. After having a healthy baby five weeks early, I walked into class to a room full of beaming smiles and a cascade of support.

Each of these milestones would be a monumental life shift for anyone. This past year has required me to keep a strong hold on the “why” behind my decision to rise to the challenge of an extremely intense, condensed curriculum, while pregnant and navigating a new job.

It’s true, I love a challenge and this year has been nothing short of challenging. There are moments where I feel overwhelmed, but also incredibly privileged for these opportunities.

I would not have come this far without the relentless love and support from my family, friends and colleagues. Every day, regardless of the setbacks and self-doubt, I make the decision to push a little harder, not only for my son, Anderson, but also for myself — to prove to myself my own capabilities and to be prepared for future challenges and resulting successes, thanks to the knowledge I’ve gained academically, professionally and personally.