Pick and Chose Your Battles

The MBA is all about managing your time well and strategizing. On the first day of orientation we were told ‘pick and choose your battles’. They could not have been more accurate. There is a lot going on in Rotman and there is no possible way that one person can participate in all case competitions, club activities and events, career center sessions, case prep etc. whilst keeping up with academic expectations. It is indeed about picking and choosing your battles. During the two weeks of the MBA- during foundation term- I developed a massive case of FOMO. I wanted to attend every info session, every club kickoff event; absolutely everything! Within the first 2 weeks I was burnt out! I was always in a rush to do everything and hence couldn’t do anything with 100% dedication. So I decided to strategize. I made a list of all the case competitions, events etc. that I wanted to focus on next term and what my main priorities were for term 1. I decided that I would participate in a maximum of 2 case competitions in term 1- ROMA Canadian Tire case comp, RMA Tim Hortons Case Comp or the McKinsey Consulting Challenge.

The first one was the ROMA Canadian Tire Case Comp that was scheduled to take place during the first week of Term 1 from 8th-15th October. The first step was to find a team of 4 members. My study team mate, Brian was interested in participating and since we had been working very well together I knew I couldn’t find a better teammate. We found 2 other of classmates, Amlan and Dan who were looking for 2 people to complete their team, and so our team of four members formed. We got the case the day before Thanksgiving and on the first day back to school after the short break ROMA held a case comp prep session. There 2nd years shared with us some of the techniques that had worked well for them and gave us slide deck and presentation tips.

My team and I spent the next 3 days brainstorming, coming up with crazy ideas, critiquing each other’s ideas all the while pushing each other to do better. We put school work and friends aside and focused on coming up with innovative solutions and on making out slide deck as professional as possible. On Thursday, 12th Oct- the day the slide deck was due- we spent all afternoon and evening working on our slide deck, making changes over and over again and meticulously going over every detail in an attempt to make it look perfect.

Friday evening was the internal competition- amongst teams from Rotman. Out of the 14 teams the top 4 teams that were selected would go on to the final round and compete with teams from Schulich, McMaster and the other 3 teams from Rotman. We were one of the last ones to present and we knew that we had to go in with massive energy to seize attention right away. All of us delivered our well-rehearsed parts and did reasonably well in the Q&A session. We got excellent feedback from the judges but since we had not seen the performance of the other groups we were unsure whether we would make it to the finals or not.

That night we received news through email that we had passed on to the next round and we were scheduled to have a feedback session with one of the ROMA execs. Our 30 minute session is without a doubt what helped us for the final round of the case comp. Natasha was very passionate about the competition and wanted Rotman teams to perform extremely well. Following her suggestions we decided to change our speech entirely. Since we could not change our slide deck we spent the day working on our delivery.

The next day- on Sunday was the final round at Rotman. Teams from Schulich and DeGroote were there and so were executives from Canadian tire as judges. We were the last team to present for the day and we knew that once again we would have to have crazy energy to keep the audience engaged. During our presentation we were able to immediately engage the judges, they constantly smiled at our suggestions and laughed at our jokes and it seemed like they were enjoying our presentation. We also nailed the Q&A! After out presentation while the judges were making the decision, we all were waiting outside the room. My teammates and I knew that we would win- if not first place then runner up for sure! We thought we had delivered an amazing performance in there. It wasn’t just us who thought so but other teams members who were present during our presentation had come up to us and told us what a great job we had done. And guess what… we won first place! Not just that but all 3 winning teams were from Rotman!



Eid-ul-Azha Celebrations

Thursday was my first Eid at Rotman. Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Azha on the 10th of Zil-Hajj (the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar). The festival culminates the holy pilgrimage- Hajj which is performed on the 8th, 9th and 10th of Zil-Hajj. Muslim pilgrims from all over the world gather in Makkah to perform the pilgrimage. This year around 3 million Muslims went to Makah for Hajj. Hajj brings Muslims from all over the world together. The rites of Hajj go back to Prophet Ibrahim (Also commonly known as Prophet Abraham). On the day of Eid-ul-Azha Muslims from all over the world celebrate by sacrificing animals. By Islamic tradition, 1/3rd of the meat of the slaughtered animal is distributed to the needy, 1/3rd is distributed to relatives and the remaining 1/3rd is kept by the family.

Eid in Pakistan starts with Eid prayers in the morning followed by the sacrificing of animals. My family from all over the country would gather at our house in Lahore and we would call a butcher who spent all morning and afternoon sacrificing the animals and cutting the meat into parts. The afternoon is spent cooking the meat followed by a family lunch. We spent the evening going to relative’s house and distributing meat to them. During the evening meat is also distributed to the needy so that they can also take part in the Eid festivities. It is believed that on the day of Eid no one should be left out and everyone should have meat in their house. Eid lasts for 3 days and in Muslim countries, the 3 days of Eid are a national holiday.

When I was at McGill, I was an active member of the Muslim Student Association and being a part of MSA always gave me a sense of community and hence I never felt lonely at Eid. MSA always hosted an EId namaz (prayer) in the morning, right before classes and there was an Eid dinner, usually on the weekend closest to Eid. Although Eid was not the same as it was at home but it was fun nonetheless celebrating Eid with my fellow Muslims.

The Muslim Student Association at U of T also organized an Eid namaz on the day of Eid at Hart House. MSA is also hosting a bunch of activities to ensure that students who are away from families and loved ones at this occasion are able to celebrate Eid. There is a henna night for girls on 1st October and on 2nd October MSA is hosting an Eid dinner. I still have to get my Eid dinner ticket. I am eagerly looking forward to Eid celebrations with my fellow U of T Muslims. There is no better way I would want to spend the last Friday night before Foundation Term finals begin.

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Personality Development as part of the MBA

Today I am officially 3 weeks into MBA classes but it feels like I have been here for much longer. This is probably because of the 3 week pre-MBA program that took place right before the 4 day MBA orientation. I am loving the MBA journey so far, but my favorite part has been the self-development lab (SDL).

The first class that I took at Rotman was a module of the Self Development Lab- Voicing Yourself, during the pre-MBA program. I opted for this course because I had heard from upper years that this 10 hour module had helped them improve their presentation skills. I went in for my first ever class at Rotman expecting a series of lectures and maybe the opportunity to present. I was in for a huge surprise. On arriving I was surprised to discover that the huge lecture hall had no chairs in the middle of the room, they were all aligned on the side of the rectangular hall. The instructor arrived, dressed in sweatpants and instructed us to remove our shoes and to sit in the middle of the room, on the floor! She started off by introducing herself and telling us that her course was ‘quite the revolutionary course’. At that point I didn’t understand what she meant but on Friday upon finishing the module I knew exactly what she meant. Next she started making us exercise.  I found it hilarious that 70 MBA candidates were stretching and jumping on the first day of class.

Olivia told us how her exercises will help us enhance vocal performance, improve breathing and also help with stress. After exercising she once again gathered everyone on the floor around her and told us a story that started with Once Upon A Time, about a hunter and a woman. Once the story was finished she asked us to find a partner and to repeat the story to each other by taking turns. The day ended with a group exercise involving the story about the hunter.

Since I had to go for work right after class, I went in wearing dress pants and a tucked in shirt and came out with disheveled hair and wrinkled clothes. After the first day I debated whether it was even worth it to go for class the next day. I ended up going for it. The next day was similar to the previous day- exercising, story time and then a bunch of interactive exercises. What was different about the second day from the first day was that by the end of the 2nd class I was completely and absolutely in love with the class and with Olivia! Obviously after the dressing up mistake I had made on the first day, I made sure that I changed into lose, comfortable clothes for class. Within just 2 days I felt the effectiveness of Olivia’s methods. Each day Olivia taught us something new. And guess what? Just after 10 hours of classes I felt my vocal performance and presence began to improve. Since taking this module I have given 2 presentations and I feel a significant improvement in the quality of my presentation skills from before. I can’t wait for more interactions with Olivia. There is so much that I can learn from her!

The other SDL module that I took during the pre-MBA was Self-Management. I expected a class in which an instructor would help with managing time and give tips about balancing many things at once. Once again I was in for a surprise. The instructor, Maja, is a psychologist who specializes in the field of personality development. During the 4 lectures, she taught us about how the unconscious mind plays a role in our daily performance and how past demons prevent us from reaching full capacity. What I liked the best about the course was that she taught us how to deal with negative emotions and bad past experiences. And to my surprise her techniques actually worked!

This week I have another session with the Self Development Lab, this one is with my team. A class presentation that my group gave was recorded and now we will get to see how we present to others on video! I am excited to receive feedback on how to work on my presence and presentation skills. More on that later!