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Real Humans of Rotman’s MBA Class of 2020

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Leah Stemeroff, Rotman MBA Class of 2020

Leah Stemeroff, Rotman MBA Class of 2020

Age: 26
Hometown: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Undergraduate Institution and Major: McGill University, Bachelor of Science, Major Biodiversity and Conservation
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3 years working in shared value consulting and clean energy in Zambia.

Why business school? Why now?
I have been very fortunate to have incredible opportunities in the social enterprise space that allowed me to learn business hands-on and in an industry I am passionate about. I loved the work I was doing with clean energy in Zambia.

As the work shifted to a larger focus on micro-finance to accomplish scaled distribution, I realized a new interest as well as how much I still had to learn. I chose an MBA over other master’s programs because it has the unique ability to provide a strong foundation in core skills, while building up soft skills and exposing you to networks you may never have considered before.

Why Rotman? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Rotman stood out to me because they don’t shy away from embracing difference. As someone who thought an MBA was purely a finance and management consulting thing, this was a real paradigm shift.

I was looking for a program that would engage in the social impact/shared value/sustainable business space in a meaningful way, and Rotman is on the forefront of changing what an MBA means in Canada.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020?
I think my unique value-add is being unafraid to try something that I may ‘fail’ at. The people that have inspired me most have been exceptionally learning-oriented. This was critical in the start-up scene in a rapidly changing environment like Zambia. I think it will be valuable within the MBA environment, where there is a lot of pressure to perform at 100 percent, to be able to stay focused on where the opportunities to learn are.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I camped out during a dust storm in the Tankwa Karoo National Park desert in South Africa.

Post-MBA career interests?
I want to stay in the shared value business space, but I am keen to get involved in the finance side of things. At the moment, I am trying to learn everything I can about impact investing in Toronto.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would definitely introduce myself to the admissions team early again. I went to an MBA fair while I was still in the early stages of thinking through an MBA, and it not only gave me a lot of clarity about what Rotman had to offer in my interest areas, but it also gave me a chance to get to know the team before the official networking events.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would spend more time thinking through how to communicate my story. I took for granted how well I know my own story and hoped that it would somehow just come across well. Your story is asked of you often during the admissions process and beyond, so it’s worth spending time practicing how to communicate it.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
The video recording interview part of the application process. It felt super awkward—I had never done anything like it before. I do not think I had ever been recorded speaking in front of a camera before.

Although it was significantly more awkward than an in-person introduction, the purpose was the same—a first impression to the members of the admissions team that I had not met yet. Focusing on that was a helpful reminder to just be myself and get it done.

What is your initial impression of Rotman’s students/culture/community?
My first impression is how inclusive the Rotman community is. From the students to the faculty, it seems like everyone is doing things that genuinely interest them. The result is an environment where people are actually happy. This important because it looks there are a lot of long days on campus ahead! 

One thing you have learned about Rotman that has surprised you?
I was surprised how engaged everyone is in the inclusive culture. I had expected a competitive energy, which there is, but it co-exists with the community focus on diversity and collaboration.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Time management—I had been warned by current students and alumni that time management would be critical, but it’s week three and I can already see how seriously I underestimated this insight. Between meeting hundreds of new people, attending social events and club events, and coursework, there is already a lot going on so I am feeling the anxiety about managing it all.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am really looking forward to the case competitions. I am loving the classes, but I am keen to learn by doing in areas that I am passionate about. I am most excited about the two case competitions organized by the Net Impact club at Rotman, the Hult Competition and MIINT  (The MBA Impact Investing Network & Training). The Hult competition tackles large-scale social issues and MIINT is focused on impact investing.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.