Otis Smith was born and raised in Bathurst, NB. He started Dal as a Commerce student, graduating with a BA in Political Science. After his undergrad, Otis moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, and worked in the finance department of a law firm for eight months. He then continued his travels in the UK, ending up in Cambridge, England, to work for the summer as an event coordinator for a study holiday company. Otis then taught English in South Korea before finally returning to Canada. Apart from travelling, Otis is an avid sports fan, especially football (Minnesota Vikings). He has also been involved in music his whole life.
What made you decide to do a combined MBA/JD degree at Dalhousie?
One of Dal’s competitive advantages lies in the integrated JD/MBA program. The law school is well known across the country and the new corporate residency MBA is gaining awareness thanks to an innovative and practical approach to the study of business.
I’ve never been an excellent student, which is why it was important for me to differentiate myself from my peers, who may perform better academically. The integrated program offers someone like me the opportunity to be recognized as a top candidate because of the added skills I will bring to prospective employers. If I chose to practice corporate law I would not need further training to be able to read a client’s financial statements or to understand the business jargon. If I chose the business side, then I have an advantage in the way the study of law teaches you to strategically work through problems and synthesize large amounts of data.
Where did you do your residency and with whom?
I did my residency here in Halifax with Deloitte’s strategy and operations consulting division.
What was the greatest takeaway from your residency?
It was the realization that even when you have a job, you have to work to get work. No one is going to hold your hand and make sure you’re doing your work well. It is up to you to actively seek out projects and ensure you produce high quality of results/deliverables. This will prove your worth and lead to more challenging work. More challenging work will lead to working with senior people and working with senior people will help you advance in the organization.
What skills are required in your degrees on a day-to-day basis?
Problem solving and reading comprehension are very important. The MBA helped me to become more agile in my approach to solving problems. Law has greatly improved my ability to actually get to the point of whatever I’m reading.
What parts of the combined degree do you find most challenging?
The transition from MBA evaluation to law school evaluation can be challenging. The MBA is progressive and keeps you continuously thinking and working at problems through assignments, presentation, etc. Most law school classes have final exams worth 100%, meaning that you don’t get the opportunity to track your progress. It is a much more self-directed approach to learning.
How has the MBA helped you to develop as a leader?
It has given me confidence in what I’m talking about though the knowledge I’ve gained, and it has helped develop the way I deliver what I’m saying through presentations. It has also helped me with my approach to team work and enhanced my ability to interact with different personalities.
What are some important personal qualities for someone doing the combined degree?
Be determined and open-minded – they are very different approaches to learning and you have to understand there will be a learning curve. Key into your weaknesses and work to improve them.
Have you learned a lot from other students in your program? If so, what have they taught you?
I definitely got more out of my MBA cohort. Align yourself with people who excel at what you find difficult and ask for help. Its good practice for them to teach you and you’ll benefit from the extra tutelage. Law school is slightly more competitive, but the same principles apply. People just may not be as forthcoming with help.
What advice do you have for prospective students thinking about entering the JD/MBA program?
Make sure it’s something you’re serious about. It’s a lot of money to drop on a hunch.
Dalhousie’s MBA program is well known for its innovative curriculum. Does anything specific come to mind that you would like to speak to?
The integrative weekend was great and made you think strategically on a Saturday night… which is somewhat uncommon for most people.
Finally, make sure you take advantage of the networking opportunities. When I’ve been at the market/out for drinks/getting coffee I’ve run into business professionals I’ve met at these things and they can really help establish relationships and build your network.