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emba diary

Toronto’s skyline.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Jill Javier works in the partnerships business of financial services company Capital One and is pursuing her Omnium global executive MBA through University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, with expected completion in 2016. This is her second blog in a series.

Toronto's diversity is a large part of what makes the city fascinating. I've heard people refer to it as a "city of neighbourhoods." These neighbourhoods each bring a unique flavour but blend beautifully into the next.

In that light, Toronto made the perfect backdrop for the start of the Omnium program. Students joining the program from around the world flew in for the first of six two-week international residencies.

A few weeks before we began last August, the class started connecting via social media. All the way from Austria, we started hearing from a lawyer named Eva, who works in international corporate and business law. She's fluent in five languages, is passionate about sailing and, on the side, started a company that makes environmentally-conscious cosmetics and body care products.

One of the first people I met when I arrived at the Rotman campus for the start of the residency (or module) was Martin. He's hard to miss – he has long dark curly hair tied back in a ponytail, and to me looks like a cheerful mad scientist. Indeed a man of science, Martin has a PhD in physics and is currently leading a team of data scientists in Switzerland to create a database of human genome sequences. He's also a family man who loves to do jazz dancing for fun.

Miguel from Spain can compete with me when it comes to the number of shoes owned. He's a creative thinker, and wears interesting patterns, cuts and colours, and has a well-groomed beard. In discussions as part of our applied innovation course, he shared a story of a time when he lived on the street as a way to figure out the "fringe." He has deep knowledge and experience in driving customer empathy to deliver strategic innovation.

Of course, there are the amazing Torontonians – two doctors, a wellness-based dentist, two women who work in the film and television industry, a social media software executive, an entrepreneur who works in the pharmaceutical business and an officer from the Canadian Armed Forces, among many others.

There is not enough space to describe all the impressive and interesting individuals who have joined our class from 13 countries and a wide variety of industries.

Much like Toronto with its colourful neighbourhoods blending into the next, these unique personalities started to mesh together as we began tackling the demanding program requirements.

In spite of my travels and global experience, I'm still very much in awe of our class diversity. Our level of learning soars when a classmate provides a perspective that goes way beyond what our professor had prepared for us.

For any of us who aspire to deliver products and services at a global level, being surrounded by a group similar to this one is a golden opportunity to test assumptions and break through biases – and there's no better place to start than Toronto.

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