The Accidental MBA – or how I learned to stop worrying and get both sides of my brain to the meeting

If you would have told me in my early 20s that the letters MBA were in my future, I probably would have laughed at you. How did a creative artist go from media studies, photography and visual arts all the way to an MBA?

I moved to Toronto specifically for Ryerson University’s highly regarded Radio and Television Arts program (now the RTA School of Media). Throughout the early 2000s I realized that the world was shifting away from the evening news – morning paper media cycle to an up to the minute, live-tweeting consumer/contributor model. Mine is a somewhat unique generation which have straddled the digital revolution and have literally grown up integrated with emerging technology. I knew a digital knowledge economy was forming and I wanted to make sure I was a part of the early majority.

Since graduating from RTA, my professional life had taken me from independent graphic designer, video editor and other digital projects, all the way to Creative Director in the production department of an online visual content management and distribution organization in the Travel and Tourism industry- this was the life, right?

During my right brain leaning post-secondary career, I had a series of interviews for a senior position with the cute animal telecom giant. By the end of the process, I was told that despite the apparent good fit, compatible personality scores and time already invested in interviews, the other candidates were 30 something MBAs and the board would just not approve my hire. This unexpected and frustrating rejection (little did I know) would spark an otherwise dormant part of my brain with the crazy idea of a formal business education.

There I sat, 5 years out of my bachelors, with the Creative Director title I always wanted. I knew there was more out there for me, that there was still room to grow and develop beyond my comfortable creative niche. As timing and preparation would have it, I found exactly what I was looking for with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and much more through the Management of Technology and Innovation degree with a specialization in Media Management.

I ended up meeting and collaborating with so many talented and diverse professionals in both the student body and faculty who helped broaden my thinking from both creative and analytical perspectives. I was able to mould and plot my own MBA trajectory by aligning my research and projects with the emerging technology resources and innovation incubators in the Ryerson network. This meant primary research with professionals at IBM, TD, RBC, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada, while networking with organizations like Facebook Canada and The Empire Club. In addition to representing the school at several case competition (and bringing home hardware at every appearance), myself and a few of my colleagues founded and established the 1st ever Ryerson MBA Women in Leadership Association. A mentoring and networking group encouraging personal growth and professional advancement which took off and in little time was able to grow and give back to the community in a big way.

The calibre of life-long learners that the program attracts allows us to stand out as a collaborative and supportive network of faculty, professionals and alumni. You never know where the next opportunity will present itself. In fact, my job in the Media Innovation team of the Revenue Group at the CBC was  facilitated by an MBA colleague I had worked very successfully with throughout the program.  As an Interactive Producer, I was able to be hands on in the mass design, development and distribution of digital Canadian content as structured by a crown corporation.  The projects, clients and partnerships I’ve had the pleasure of working on have been incredible. They required  careful balancing between creative, innovation driven digital solutions and analytic, data-driven stakeholder management. I credit the TRSM MBA/MTI program with the bridge to access both these skills from my tool box.

Without leaving too much of my visual artist self behind, I recently had an opportunity to take part in a live competitive painting event for charity with a group I helped found and organize in 2009. Art Battle  Canada teamed up with the Women’s College Hospital Foundation for Paint the Halls, a one-night-only live competitive painting spectacle with 75 hand-picked artists from across Canada. As one of the selected I was given a 6’X6’ blank hospital wall, paint, 75 minutes and an electric crowd from which to draw inspiration. After all was said and done there were 75 works of art about the walls and the audience voted for their favourites with the profit from tickets and prints sold going directly to the Hospital foundation before the building was completely remodeled. It was an incredible night surrounded by family, friends and my always supportive MBA family.

Wherever my career takes me, I’m very pleased to say that I am a Ryerson MBA/MTI, with a specialization in Media Management. I pride myself on getting both sides of my brain into every project I come across, which allows me to market and differentiate myself as a creative design thinker, tenacious team leader, digital fire extinguisher and best of all: Jack-of-all-trades, Master of Technology and Innovation Management.

Jaime Heinke is a graduate of the Ryerson MBA MTI (Management of Technology and Innovation) program, class of 2011.

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