by  Jacob Stief

I was recently asked where my MBA has taken me. With one final part-time semester to go, that story is certainly far from over but I do have some highlights to share thus far.

In order to properly address the question, I’ll fill you in on where I started. I am what some would call a ‘non-traditional’ MBA candidate, though the backgrounds of everyone in the program vary significantly. I am Toronto born and raised, and I’ve only ever gone to school right here at home. Following my undergraduate career at the University of Toronto, specializing in classical trumpet performance (an entire story on its own…), I transitioned into a professional role in student services and recruitment at the university. After a successful couple of years in that role, I decided to head back to school to see if I could find the ‘right’ career path for me. After many discussions with my classmates, I have found that this line of thinking is not entirely uncommon. Following a few years in the professional world, I found myself wanting something different, and the opportunity to really push my learning. That was what brought me to Schulich.

I have taken a generalist approach to my studies, with an emphasis on Real Property, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. As a generalist trying to find a direction, my course selection process has really been centralized around professorship and my overall interest in the content. I can honestly say that because of this I have been exposed to some of the most interesting, brilliant and down-to-earth people I have ever met. They have shaped my decision-making process and challenged my ways of thinking. With this approach, I have also been able to pick and choose classes from a breadth of subject areas that apply directly to my ambitions, which at the moment centralize around my start up.

Going into my MBA, I had a distinct interest in founding my own company, but a lack of business confidence to execute on a specific idea. After the first summer of my studies, I felt that I had the ability to found a company, or at least the ability to try. Along with a friend, I co-founded Fitset, a multi-studio fitness pass that aggregates over 250 partner gyms and boutique studios across Canada under one monthly membership.

Over the past 18 months, Fitset has expanded to 5 cities across Canada, and we have grown the team to 5 partners. There are unique challenges that we face every single day, and although I do not apply the content from my MBA to every one of those challenges, I certainly apply the problem solving approach. With minimal business background, there have been times during my studies that I have had quite literally no idea what I was doing. The ability to think on my feet, trouble-shoot, and learn quickly has been vital to succeeding in the program, and likewise within a startup environment.

Although many members of the Schulich community come into the program with a clear path defined, an equivalent amount come in with a much more hazy vision of their future. I was most certainly in the latter group, and although I envy those that come in with a clear path, I do believe that Schulich’s MBA can serve both the generalist as well as the specialist. The program has taken me many interesting directions thus far, and I look forward to the years ahead.

Jacob Stief – MBA Candidate 2016