Why Study in Canada?
"The MBA has given me greater capacity and resources to enact bold, positive changes."
Name: Olivier Forgues
University: McGill University
School/College: Desautels Faculty of Management
Undergraduate program and graduation date: Concordia University, Bachelor of Fine Arts (major in Studio Arts)
Why did you pursue an MBA degree?
From a bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts and Linguistics, I built an exciting career, managing projects of increasing scope and complexity. But, like bumping into a wall in a dark room, I eventually discovered the limits of my knowledge: I needed a bigger room, as it were, so chose an MBA. After all, I’m extremely curious, and to understand business is to understand the world. The MBA has given me greater capacity and resources to enact bold, positive changes around me.
Why did you choose to study in Canada?
The reasons are both quantitative and qualitative. While other countries flirt with protectionism, Canada’s attitude to global partnerships is very effervescent, full of prospects for entrepreneurial thinkers. In addition, people here are friendly, human, and Canada has stellar universities at a smaller price tag than in other markets.
Did you consider getting an MBA in other countries outside of Canada? If so, why did you decide to study in Canada?
I looked all over the world! In the end, I was pulled towards McGill due to its personalized approach to recruitment. It’s easy to look back and rationalize my choice, but, like the best relationships, I chose McGill as much as it chose me.
What financial aid resources did you consider or use?
Our alumni network is eminently generous: I was fortunate to obtain three alumni-backed scholarships that significantly reduced the costs of my MBA. I also use a professional, low-cost line of credit through the RBC.
What was your biggest challenge as a student? Biggest reward?
On day 1, I had to ask our accounting professor to define "equity", a term I’d never heard before. My biggest challenge has been finding value in my uniqueness, bridging the gap between my life so far and what I bring to the corporate world. To an extent, I think every MBA goes through that same ordeal, and it gets much easier over time. My biggest reward has been how, by being exposed to a huge diversity of students, scholars, and managers, I’ve gained the ability to listen and the courage to speak.
Did you take part in an internship or other experiential learning opportunities in Canada or elsewhere? If so, how was your experience?
MBA experiential components are amazing, like running your very own lab. I recently spent a month meeting CEOs in Tokyo and hiking the Japanese Alps, and am now finishing up an internship in talent and strategy for a wonderful software firm, Montreal-based LVL Studio. I also had the opportunity to consult under the guidance of Accenture, which taught me about teamwork, client relations, and presenting effectively. If you have access to experiential learning opportunities, seize them.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about going to business school?
To succeed, your happiness must be solid, non-negotiable. For me, that means showing up ready for every class, boxing three times a week, and making time to read novels every night before bed. Make the best of your investment by clearing the mental clutter: you’ll have more fun, more optimism, and better relationships.
What is your best GMAT study tip?
Think of it as a strenuous workout: both exhausting and exhilarating at once, with clear benefits to going all in. Like many MBA hopefuls, I hadn’t done math in a decade, and my first practice quant score was merely tepid. I could have changed my target schools, but instead chose to see it as an exciting opportunity to improve. I committed to building specific skills, like calculating permutations or maneuvering around number properties. Owning the toolkit was a springboard to what I truly needed for success: an optimistic attitude about the test. All in all, the GMAT is a difficult but relatively straightforward challenge – probably the most straightforward of the entire MBA experience, since you control every piece yourself. You might as well enjoy it.
What are your post-MBA ambitions?
Even the world’s best analysts need human skills to transform their insights into actions. Working with those analysts, I want to launch a consulting practice around change management in international markets. In parallel, I’m writing a book arguing that irrational decisions in complex transactions create a goldmine of value for keen observers. Stay tuned!