At work and at home, Ghazaleh Almeida (EMBA ’17) is a problem solver. As a senior manager at TD, she looks for ways to enhance the bank’s current policies and standards, and improve the customer experience. At home, the mother of a seven-year old and 12-year old resolves squabbles, negotiates bedtimes and manages a busy household.
In fact, it was Almeida’s drive for tackling complex problems that brought her to the Executive MBA program at the Rotman School of Management.
“What I truly got out of the program was the confidence that I could take on any challenge.”
—Ghazaleh Almeida (EMBA ’17), Senior Manager, Credit Centre Operations, TD
“It was time to stock up on new skills so I could lead more complex projects,” explains Almeida, who has held a number of management roles during her 18 year career.
The school’s one-year MBA program for working professionals — which exposes experienced managers to the fundamentals of leadership and strategic thinking through hands-on work and group assignments — was just what she was looking for.
Thinking like a leader
Almeida was excited to find that the program put students to work right away. In her first few classes, she was learning about tackling problems using mental models with Professor John Oesch and the nine boxes of leadership with Professor Jim Fisher.
“It was eye-opening, Almeida explains. “I had an entirely new and expanded perspective of how I was going to think through and resolve these challenging issues."
It all came together for Almeida when she was tasked with a major project at work.
“In the beginning, we seemed to be stuck. The project was getting more and more ambitious, with many stakeholders at the table all carrying different opinions, and it seemed our focus kept shifting. We couldn’t seem to move forward,” she describes.
Well into the Executive MBA program, Almeida realized she had the tools she needed to get the job done. She drew on the techniques covered in class to map out a clearer and more streamlined decision-making process.
“I had that ‘aha’ moment that it wasn't about just getting the work done, it was about how we accomplished work, and how we engaged and drew on the diverse capabilities of the team to make it happen,” she adds.
Expanding her thinking
Almeida also credits her classmates for broadening her understanding of management and leadership.
The class of 65 students — who worked across various industries and were based in various cities and countries — were quick to share professional advice on managing teams, balancing family life and overcoming obstacles. In class discussions, the students would often tackle tough topics, including gender equity, diversity and biases in the workplace.
“By sharing their experiences, our class gave me a chance to step outside myself and explore other perspectives. Through it all, it revealed to me the kind of leader I aspire to be,” she explains.
These new ways of thinking have enabled Almeida to take on her new role as a senior manager at TD. Though the promotion came at a busy time, while Almeida was finishing up the last of her coursework, she was energized.
“If you’re presented an opportunity, you owe it to yourself to go for it,” she says. “What I truly got out of the program was the confidence that I could take on any challenge.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung.