Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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Katya Kudashkina is a current Rotman Morning MBA (part-time) student and an award-winning competitive ballroom dancer. She is very involved in the Rotman community and takes advantage of the many global opportunities offered. She recently completed a China Study Tour with Rotman and is soon to go on exchange in Italy. Katya is an Associate with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What are your goals for doing the MBA?

I grew up in Russia and worked there for a number of years before coming to Canada. When I arrived, I didn’t quite speak English and had to start learning from the beginning. I repeated my undergrad, and I changed my major from Engineering to Computer Science. Part of the reason for doing the MBA here is that I knew how business is done in Russia for example, but I had no background for doing business in North America. So I had no vocabulary even to speak to people about business. I wanted to learn how it is done here. First, I wanted to grow my career where I work right now. Eventually, I wanted to move out of the IT area towards the business side.

What’s your current role at CCPIB?

Seven months ago, I switched from IT to the HR department. I used to work with finance systems in IT and I wanted to try something different, to try something on the business side. Currently, I’m with the HR Operations and Analytics team. My role involves HR analysis, which involves figuring out how HR as a department can support the business goals of the organization.

So you’re in the Rotman Morning MBA part-time program, which means you’re working full-time and studying at the same time. How do you find the work-study-life balance?

I connected with some alumni before I started at Rotman. One in particular gave me some really wise advice. He said that managing your calendar is key. The first thing I did when I got accepted at Rotman: I made sure all my calendars are synchronized – personal, school, work. My key is that I have everything in one place. Even my tea with my mom goes in my calendar. Once the time is booked, it’s not moving anywhere. My time is already planned for this semester. I block out potential group project time. It might sound a bit extreme, but it works. You really have to be organized as a working professional. I take a couple of hours and plan it all ahead for a few months.

Katya is a competitive ballroom dancer.

Katya is a competitive ballroom dancer.

My other key is to find people who are really flexible with me. For example, my vocal teacher can meet me at 10 AM or 10 PM. Also, my family has been very supportive all along. I have some friends who I don’t see as often as I would like to but I’m not giving them up. They’re still my friends. I used to cook before the MBA. You have to give up something. You can define what that something is. I’m a competitive dancer and I don’t dance as often as before. But my ‘often’ was every day so you simply change your life to adjust. The MBA does change your life. You have to decide if you do want this change and you just go with it. If you don’t want any changes you might as well just sit where you are and not do anything.

Thanks for being so candid. You’re also very involved in Rotman! You’re not only here to study, you’re also involved in a lot of school and industry clubs. Why?

Two things. One, I believe that getting involved in all that Rotman has to offer is amazing for personal development. Two, I want to make an impact. I care what’s happening around. I care about people, my class, the Rotman community. Also, we are the ones that create our brand – being involved and making an impact will be with us in the future.

When you come to Rotman, you can just get the three letters next to your name and you’re done. Or, you can take every step and opportunity to develop yourself; to speak publicly, to interact with a large number of people, to work with bigger teams to create impact. The Graduate Business Council (GBC) gave me a great chance to impact a larger community. The Rotman community during the time that you’re here is about 900 students, and we got the opportunity to create a culture for 900 students. It’s a huge impact.

Do you have any personal accomplishments during your time at Rotman so far to share?

My recent trip to Kenya is one of my personal greatest accomplishments.* This August, I won a North American ballroom dance competition in the silver category. I was very happy because it was also the first time that I entered into the championship. This happened during my studies and in between my China Study Tour** and Kenya. In between China and Kenya trips I had to practice, practice, practice!

Getting elected as the Executive VP for GBC is also one of my personal accomplishments at Rotman. To get elected, you have to convince people why you’re best for the role. Election happens in February and as school starts in September, most people have only gotten a few months to know you. During my year on the council, I think we did a good job to set a culture of partnership and integrity. It’s a great team accomplishment.

The department move at work was also great, and I got a promotion this May, which I found out about during my China Study Tour.

I also helped my sister with art shows. The last one was a big art show, over 300 people came in.

You’re definitely very busy! What advice would you give to women who are thinking of the MBA?

If women are considering a part-time MBA, they’re looking for a change. My advice is to get confident and don’t be afraid to do it. It’ll open so many doors that you can’t even imagine. It won’t be easy, I’m not going to lie. You’ll need the support of your family – the benefits of the MBA are worth it.

Would you recommend the Morning MBA?

I personally loved the Morning MBA for a number of reasons. Dance is so important to me and there’s no way my dance teacher would do a 7AM class with me. I have to admit that I was not a morning person; but you get used to the schedule. Now, I get up early and I absolutely love it. The great benefit of doing your studies in the morning is that this leaves your evenings free to spend with your family, friends, or whatever activity you love to do.

How did you end up choosing Rotman as your MBA school?

I chose it specifically for the Morning MBA program. Without it, the school would not have been an option for me.

When I was researching MBA schools, I had criteria that had to be met. The school needed to be downtown. It had to have a program with a timetable that would fit into my schedule. Rotman’s strong brand and global reputation was also important. I came upon the Morning MBA as I was researching on Rotman’s website. I went to a recruitment event that was geared specifically to women and was able to chat with women who had already completed the program, and current students. I talked to a lot of people that day! It was definitely a turnaround point for me. It was so nice to hear from so many successful women who have done it, who have set an example and can say, “Yes you can do it. It’s all manageable.”

It’s really the people who pulled me in. I chose Rotman because of where it stood in the rankings, for the Morning MBA program, and the people who were there. From the recruiting assistant director to the managing director of the program, it was really nice that everyone was so supportive. Everyone was ready to help. As a part-time student, I appreciate that there is all this flexibility and support.

Any questions about the Rotman Morning & Evening MBA programs for working professionals? Contact us! We would love to hear from you.

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