Loch Willy is a single father living in Saskatoon and operates his own business as an aboriginal relations consultant for oil and gas and mining companies. He is also an executive MBA student at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. This is his first blog for EMBA Diary.
Deciding to enrol in an MBA program is a big decision regardless of where you decide to go. The time commitment required to complete the work and the sacrifices needed in both your professional and personal lives should not be taken lightly.
I face additional challenges as I live in Saskatoon, work in Alberta, and have to travel to Toronto every second week to attend classes.
When I decided to apply and then commit to taking the EMBA program at Rotman I made sure that I carefully considered all of the pros and cons associated with my decision.
I spoke to my family, friends and co-workers about the time needed, the support I would likely need and tried to anticipate all of the possible roadblocks that I could face during the thirteen months of the program.
The two obstacles that I believed I would need to mitigate were setting aside proper time for the course work, and ensuring that I had someone to stay and watch my daughter while I was away. In addition to these, I knew the travel itself would be a challenge.
Heading back to school for the first time in a decade worried me – in particular I worried about participating in team meetings and meeting expectations from my cohort.
The executive MBA at Rotman has 23 weekend sessions and four week-long residential modules. That meant that I had to commit to 27 trips from Saskatoon to Toronto to complete the MBA. I quickly found that my life started moving in two week segments.
I used the travel days to get as much of the reading done as I could, both at the airport and on the flights to or from home.
I was able to focus completely on course work when I was in Toronto while nights at home were set aside to complete anything I wasn't able to finish while travelling.
This was only possible because I had support from work and at home. For the first two months my daughter stayed at home with my partner so I never had to worry about her getting to school or being safe.
But, as can happen in relationships, things changed and my relationship ended. I then had to find alternative arrangements for my daughter on my class weekends.
For a single parent this can be a very stressful time. We all want the best for our kids and I felt that continuing my education would benefit any short-term suffering on the home front.
I was awestruck, and deeply appreciative of the support I received from my family and friends. I had no shortage of options of people willing to care for my daughter in their home for the weekends that I had to be in Toronto. My parents even shortened their winter trip down south to return to help me out.
I found that I quickly adjusted to my new routine. "Work, school, family – repeat" became my mantra. I never expected the travel to be an issue as I have travelled for work for my entire career.
Staying in hotels while flying across Western and Northern Canada was a joy. I got to see places in Canada that most people would never consider visiting. But travelling to Toronto every second week began to get old fast. I began to see the trips eastward as time taken away from family – time that could be better used in other parts of my life.
I was hitting the mental barrier that I had anticipated when I first contemplated the MBA program. My cohort noticed a change in my attitude and the program executives offered their support to see if there was anything they could do to help me get through this rough patch.
I found that I was not the only one in the cohort experiencing this challenge. We have a person flying in from Sao Paulo, Brazil; we have people driving from Montreal, Ottawa, and others places too far away to have the luxury of simply heading home right after class.
I spoke to them, and as we shared our struggles, I found new ways to deal with my stress and found strength knowing I wasn't alone.
I started a countdown of how many trips I had left in the program during the second term. Watching the numbers shrink made me appreciate the time I had left and helped me focus on the positive side to travel again.
It also reminded me how quickly time passes.
As I write this article, I know that I am down to the single digits until the program ends and there is nothing standing in my way of completing my MBA.
The school work and family concerns never became issues and the stress of travel quickly dissipated. I believe I overcame any roadblocks by being open to change, rolling with the punches, and accepting that I could not control everything.
These life lessons were not listed in the brochure for the executive MBA program at Rotman, but some life lessons can't be found in textbooks. They appear at random, and you have the choice to learn and grow, or stay the same.
When that opportunity presents itself, will you take the chance?