Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

MBA grads increasingly look beyond ‘big corporate world’

Many of Barrick’s operations are a long way from Bay Street, but the mining company still held plenty of appeal for recent MBA grad Carolyn Burns, who took a job with Barrick as a community relations analyst.


The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

A graduate business degree offers a well-worn path to careers in finance, marketing and consulting. But what if one's preferred destination lies elsewhere?

"Those traditional pathways are what made me nervous about doing my MBA," says Carolyn Burns, a 2012 graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. "But the more I looked into specialty programs at Schulich and a few in the United States, I found they do focus on some really fascinating areas."

Story continues below advertisement

Long interested in global development and business, Ms. Burns discovered her career halfway through her MBA studies when she heard a mining executive describe his job. "I thought, wow, this is the intersection, to me, of big business providing a benefit but also looking to manage some of the negative impacts that business can have in these often-remote areas under development."

The MBA, she adds, helped her hone her ability to solve problems, understand the complexity of issues and listen to those with divergent points of view.

On the eve of graduation, she was hired by Barrick Gold Corp. as a community relations analyst to help develop standards, policies and procedures for departments to meet the company's stated commitment of "mitigating impacts and sharing benefits."

Ms. Burns is among a growing contingent of MBA graduates finding careers in non-traditional destinations.

A recent survey of 2014 MBA graduates worldwide by the Graduate Management Admissions Council found that 61 per cent of those seeking jobs in the technology sector had offers of employment before graduation. As well, the report cited manufacturing and health care/pharmaceuticals as the "undiscovered beaches of the business school job market." The two sectors account for just 7 and 5 per cent, respectively, of all students with early offers, but 74 per cent of them reported receiving at least one offer.

"More non-traditional sectors are seeking business graduates for the managerial hard and soft skills they bring to the table," Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of research communications for the Reston, Va.-based GMAC, stated in an e-mail.

Entrepreneurs account for just 4 per cent of graduates in the global survey but, like their counterparts, view the MBA as a tool to build their leadership skills – and the business.

Story continues below advertisement

When Rajen Shakya graduated from the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria in 2013, he recalls that friends and relatives assumed his MBA was a ticket to a job "in the big corporate world."

But Mr. Shakya, who with partners started a restaurant in Victoria shortly after arriving from Nepal in 2001, credits the MBA with giving him a "different mindset" to manage The Mint restaurant and lounge. "I can stand back and look at the business as a whole and see how the little bits fit in," he says.

Scholarships to help meet demand from aboriginal students

Aboriginal students in postsecondary business and commerce programs are the target audience for a new scholarship program funded by a Canadian bank and the federal government.

HSBC Bank Canada has pledged $300,000, with matching funds from Ottawa, for 188 scholarships for college and university business students over the next three years. The Indigenous Business Award will be managed by Indspire, a national indigenous-led charity that received $10-million from the federal government last year for scholarships and bursaries, conditional on matching donations from the private sector.

"There is clearly a need," says Jacques Fleurant, chief financial officer of HSBC in Canada and executive sponsor of the bank's indigenous peoples employee resource group, of his bank's support for aboriginal education. In 2011, he noted, fewer than 50 per cent of aboriginal youth graduated from high school compared to non-aboriginal students, while just 10 per cent of indigenous students earned a university degree compared to 27 per cent of non-indigenous students.

Story continues below advertisement

Scholarship applicants will be assessed on the basis of financial need, academic merit, their commitment to give back to their community and their career plans, says Indspire president and chief executive officer Roberta Jamieson.

"Lack of financial support is the No. 1 barrier [to degree completion]," she says. The HSBC donation "will enable us to support many more students who want to get in to the field of business."

Individual scholarships are $3,000 for tuition, daycare and other education-related expenses.

Since its inception in 1985, Indspire has awarded more than $65-million in scholarships and bursaries to more than 2,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis students. "There is lots more demand than we can meet," says Ms. Jamieson.

HSBC Canada offers six awards for aboriginal students at colleges and universities. Mr. Fleurant says he hopes the new program, with its national focus, will "create a pipeline of talent for our organization and others."

Dean honoured

For his work in expanding the global footprint of the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, dean Daniel Shapiro has been recognized by the Academy of International Business at its annual meeting in Vancouver.

Dean since 2009, Dr. Shapiro has overseen the development of several international-focused programs, including the Americas MBA for Executives, delivered in partnership with business schools in the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at

Report an error
About the Author
Business Education reporter



The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨