Tom Connell, Senior Institutional Analyst and Team Lead at Dalhousie University Analytics, crossed the virtual stage to receive his MBA(Leadership) in October 2020. In a recent virtual interview with CEGE Connection, Tom spoke about how his life experiences positioned him to take on the challenge of a robust academic journey.
Many years ago, I had a manager who challenged our team to construct and share ‘bucket lists’ of both professional and personal goals. I really appreciated this exercise because it made me think deeply about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. The timing was opportune. I was in my late twenties, in the early stage of my career, a pivotal moment to think forward and plan. Through this activity I came up with a number of things I wanted to do such as hang gliding (check),work in the field of robotics, and get a master’s degree. (I really did not know which degree I would go for, but it was a seed planted). I highly recommend this activity of thinking of all the things you want to do before the clock runs out and, more importantly, to share it with loved ones so they can help you spot opportunities and have some interesting conversations.
In the subsequent years, I acquired an interest in business and finance. Meeting up with others who had achieved an MBA allowed me to explore avenues in which I could expand my knowledge in these areas. I was consistently stuck by the breadth and depth of business, finance and economic knowledge expressed in conversations about the future of companies such as BlackBerry and Tesla or how cryptocurrencies and blockchains might evolve. Working within the analytics team at Dalhousie University, I soon recognized the opportunity to work and learn at the same time. With my technical expertise and considerable experience as a data analyst, I realized that an MBA in Leadership would augment my skills and present me with an excellent opportunity to grow as an individual and give back to the greater community.
How did I keep balance between work, study, and life? Honestly, I am not sure that I did! There were certainly times when I had to take a day to work on a project or paper. Sometimes, an entire weekend was devoted to studying just to keep up with the pace of the program. I learned a lot about myself and how I dealt with the intense pressures of balancing a young family (with one child born after course #5), work and a deluge of reading, writing and participation as required. Probably the most important lesson was to find the balance – to find the sweet spot between achieving acceptable grades, managing expectations and deliverables at work, and making sure my family was smiling and learning. During these years of study, I came to value and seek balance and calm. I learned that I am more extrinsically motivated than I first thought. As a data guy, I am intimately familiar with the idea that knowing is the first step to fixing.
My studies have given me a heightened awareness of influence and leadership, the personal characteristics that make people who they are, and how these complex factors can be managed. I am able to identify applications for the case method and situational analysis, especially as it relates to data analysis and how we can extract meaning and inspire action from data. I look at strategic planning with fresh eyes and I understand now how planning forward truly helps teams keep momentum on a focused target.
I am looking forward to my next steps. I have recently accepted an 18-month secondment, which starts December 1st as Manager of Tech services in the Faculty of Computer Science. This will provide a great opportunity for me to learn and grow with one of the most impressive faculties on campus. It feels like returning to my roots in tech and it will be wonderful to stretch myself and offer my experience to help achieve the research and academic goals of the faculty.
With a new year fast approaching, I am also looking for ways in which to give back to my community. The MBA(L) has opened new possibilities for participating with others in seeking positive outcomes for our society.