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Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif., was on the itinerary for Rotman’s Global Executive MBA students.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters

With more than 10 years of experience in the public sector, John Thomas manages foreign direct investment into Ontario from the Ontario Investment Office. He is also enrolled in the Omnium Global Executive MBA program at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. This is his first submission to EMBA Diary.

Doing an MBA is life-altering. When I first decided to earn my MBA, I thought my toughest decision had already been made. Then I started researching all the schools, programs, formats and options and knew that the hard work was just beginning. For me, and for other prospective students, choosing the right program was crucial.

During the course of my career, I have been able to work on interesting challenges for companies from all over the globe. The thought of missing out on similarly exciting opportunities while in school held me back from looking into options, but I knew an MBA would make a difference in my career.

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Rotman's Global Executive MBA program caught my attention for several reasons. It extends over 11 cities and five continents, but still allows me to maintain my career. What I learned in the program would complement the global aspect of my current role while allowing me to gain more skills and business acumen.

In our fifth module, we headed to California to attend classes with a partner school, the University of San Francisco. Our focus was on entrepreneurship and the technology ecosystem. USF professor Mark Cannice and director of executive education immersion programs Jenny Fogarty provided us with context about Silicon Valley and its biggest companies, including Uber, Facebook, LinkedIn and SAP.

With offices in different corners of the city, not to mention Apple's nearby headquarters, there was a lot of real-world information to draw on. I couldn't help but feel inspired just by taking classes in the heart of the world's most famous technology and entrepreneurship hub.

In my role managing foreign direct investment into Ontario, I often compare Silicon Valley to Ontario's tech ecosystem. In North America, Ontario is among the top hubs for IT; however no one could deny the atmosphere in Silicon Valley, which has a sense of optimism that I and my classmates found awe-inspiring.

We also attended the Keiretsu Forum, where a global network of angel investors heard five startup pitches. We were able to hear all five pitches as well as the feedback from the five executives who were screening the deals, which gave us key insights to help perfect our own startup pitches.

During our final class, we had the opportunity to present our pitches to venture capitalists in person. It was a gruelling experience, but one that served as motivation for many of the groups in our class to further pursue their ideas.

We left San Francisco invigorated and full of entrepreneurial spirit, driven to create something new.

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It's not the only city, though, that we've visited.

In Santiago, our sustainability course introduced us to industries and organizations focused on sustainability.

After meeting with members of the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO) and Codelco, a Chilean state-owned copper mining company, we were asked to assist with their efforts to increase their sustainability footprint. In the limited time we had, our groups developed strategies to present to members of both organizations.

Chile is famous for its wines, and a tour of the Concha y Toro winery provided us with the inspiration we needed for the Codelco project. This large winery famously sells their Diablo wine through the LCBO in Ontario, and is committed to becoming more sustainable. That includes managing key resources such as water as well as developing more environmentally-friendly packaging. They've had great success already by engaging their vendors and partners to work alongside them toward these goals.

Learning about the successes Concha y Toro has had enriched our own ideas for our project – so much so that Codelco was able to pull elements from each of the groups to begin developing an overarching sustainability strategy. Being able to make a real contribution to one of the world's largest copper producers was an experience I could never have encountered outside of my MBA.

From San Francisco to Santiago, the course teachings and site visits allowed me to appreciate the lengths to which organizations in different industries are going to achieve a sustainable, competitive advantage. From building startups to developing a long-term sustainability strategy, the Global Executive MBA has challenged my knowledge and stretched my imagination through unique opportunities to bring what I've learned into practice in the global market.

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