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David Burton is an IT professional at Royal Bank of Canada with more than 15 years in the industry and currently an executive MBA student at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. He is also an author of four fiction novels outside his work life. This is his first blog for EMBA Diary.


That word was used on our orientation day by the director of the Rotman executive MBA program. It was a Sunday evening, and we were all gathered in the lecture hall that would become our alternate home for the next 13 months. It was a room full with approximately 70 individuals who had no idea what they were in for.

Actually, let me correct that. It's not the orientation day any longer – I see it differently now.

It was the first day of our journey.

That night, the director stated that somewhere along the way we would start to see the transformation. For some, it would be within months, for others it would be later – but somewhere along this road it would hit us.

I wish I could define that moment, it's difficult to articulate. But a few months ago it came to me. I approached the director and told her, "I'm not the same person I was when I started this."

Not even close.

To give some perspective and a little history, I work in information technology at RBC. I have a biology degree and I have never taken an accounting course, nor finance, nor economics. These were all areas that I knew I was lacking. I felt that if I wanted to make a difference in adding further value to RBC, and to my own career, I needed to fill that gap.

I looked at a couple of MBA options. Rotman was an easy choice. It's located in downtown Toronto, close to me, and its faculty is top notch. I wanted an experience where I would be sitting with the cohort regularly – I wanted to learn from the others; and it was short – 13 months. There was also an emphasis on leadership that resonated with me.

So I applied, was accepted, and went into it with what I would now regard as a rather limited view of what I was going to get out of this. I also didn't realize the amount of work that I was in for. Make no mistake about it, this is a two-year, full-time MBA program packed into 13 short months – it's a pile of work to take on while at a full-time job. Despite the amount of work, I love every second of this program. The learning and the experience is beyond any of my expectations. I just had to learn how to prioritize and make very efficient use of time. Quickly.

The first term was filled with the hard skills – finance, accounting, and so on. All of the very things that I had zero background in, and what I thought I most needed.

And I was right – partly.

I did need these skills.

What I didn't realize, and it started to slowly come together as the terms progressed, was how these various subjects were so tightly intertwined, and how I needed all the other classes that Rotman had to offer. Whether it was strategy, organizational structure, the science behind decision-making, personal resilience, relationships in data, financial decisions or employee engagement, it's all part of a larger picture of which I can see the pieces of the puzzle coming together. I've realized how well-crafted this program is, and I feel privileged to be a part of this, to learn from this school, this faculty, and (just as importantly) the other students in the class with me – professionals from all walks of life and industries – and some of the smartest people I've ever met. It is humbling to be among such incredible minds and to see their view of the world. I learn from them as much as I learn from the faculty.

I'm no longer the same – I've changed. My view of where I work, of myself, and of the world in general has been irrevocably altered – for the better.

And it continues to evolve.

I continue to evolve.

When I mentioned to the director that I'm not the same, I was just five months into the program. I couldn't believe the effect the program had had on me.

And all she said to me was, "Just wait. There's more."

We now have two months left in the program.

She couldn't have been more right.

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