Originally posted by Scott A.E. Smith.
Sean Sinclair is on exchange at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, but he took a break from his studies to catch up with, across the Atlantic, ‘Coach’ Kirk Yanofsky. Kirk recently returned to campus from his Corporate Residency with Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI). In December 2011, Kirk was voted by his peers as the Class of 2013?s first-year Student of the Year. He’s a former volleyball coach, a proud father to (the cutest kid on Earth) Paige, and an all-around great guy. Enjoy!
Also: look out for our next feature with MBA Society President Christie Lang, also of the Class of 2013 (and who happened to do her Corporate Residency with Kirk at NSBI)!
You have a very interesting life story that sets you apart from the rest of your cohort. Please tell us about yourself, Kirk.
I came to the program with a slightly different (and somewhat longer) life experience than the rest of my classmates. I was a high-performance athlete coming out of high school and throughout university. I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively in Canada and been to a few places in Europe. My first career and passion was volleyball and coaching was a natural progression after my playing days. I attended the National Coaching Institute in Calgary (one of only two centres at the time) and received my NCCP Level 4 certification (which qualified me to prepare athletes for national and international level competition). A decade-long career as a professional coach followed (in university and with the national team). After this, I moved on take advantage of an opportunity to work locally (Halifax) in medical devices marketing, education and sales. After a couple years, while this was a good job with some great people, I decided it was not the right job for me and I started to look at other options. After much evaluation this led me back to Dalhousie for degree #3—I have a BSc (’93) and MSc (’99), also from Dal.
Apart from all this, I had the amazing experience of becoming a father in 2007, and the challenging experience of my wife passing away after a battle with leukemia in 2010.
Most recently, I did my corporate residency at NSBI here in Halifax.
Was it difficult to get back into the academic mindset after working for that long? And do you feel that your life experience provides you with a different focus and respect for academia than, say, your younger counterparts?
Getting back into school was challenging. I had to learn again how to operate in the academic mindset. The greatest challenge was doing work in the evenings. Once you put a child to bed your brain is calm and ready for sleep, too! I think that everyone brings their own life lens through which to focus on their academic experience. My lens is certainly shaped by my experiences and is perhaps tempered a bit more than some of my classmates. I think I have a different perspective on where I want to be and what I want to get out of this degree. While I am not specializing in one specific area, gaining the business knowledge and developing reasons for people to have a conversation with me (which is the first step in getting an amazing job), along with Paige as a constant reminder, keep me focused always on the purpose for taking on this challenge—which is to get myself in a better position so I can have the kind of rewarding professional life that can help me be the best dad I can be for my daughter.
As a result of your coaching background, you have naturally assumed a mentorship role for some of your peers—providing them with feedback after presentations, offering assistance with exam preparation, etc. What are your thoughts on these relationships? And do you think that these traits are something that will shape your future job roles?
I think anytime you can be a friend to someone and have them place trust in you, it is a special thing. I really enjoy helping people and I have been fortunate to have some classmates ask for and place value on my thoughts. The mentorship or coaching types of relationships are very much two-way and I have learned and benefited as much or more from my classmates as they have from me. Personal interaction is important to me and it is something that will be a part of my future career for sure.
Tell us about your experience at NSBI. Do you feel that you took a risk by applying only to positions in the Halifax region? What advice do you have for current and future students who might prefer to stay in a specific location for their residency?
I didn’t feel it was a risk at all to apply for only jobs in the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality). My situation was that this is where I was going to be. I think that if you are geographically fixed (for whatever reason), you need to be clear as possible as to why this is the case. You also have to be prepared to do some extra work if you run into challenges with the jobs that are facilitated through the school. The other consideration is that you may end up with a job outside your main preferences if the location is the key consideration. You have to accept that as a possibility.
I was fortunate that NSBI was one of the places that I did have a preference for. I felt confident that had jobs not worked out through MCS, I would have been able to find a position through my own contacts and some hard work.
To lighten things up a little bit, what were a few of your favourite highlights from the first year in the Dalhousie MBA program? I hear you had quite the birthday celebration!
It’s been a wonderful experience to be with such a great group of people in such an intense environment. Highlights would include some of the things from the retreat at King’s-Edgehill—my group did win the log-balancing teamwork challenge! The intensive weekend dealing with the ‘integrative’ RIM case was a great challenge and experience. My birthday night was fun, for sure, but being able to have some pot-luck dinners and spending time with my classmates outside school work was always great.
What does the future hold for the dynamic duo of Kirk and Paige?
Well, we both started school on Sept. 5, so it will be interesting to see if dad can keep up with the French immersion that Paige is taking! The future is wide-open—we’re based in Halifax for now, but some more travelling and possible living in another culture for a year or two through work would be cool! Other than that, staying healthy, active and living life to the fullest will be the main focus!