Originally posted by Scott A.E. Smith.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is the James Ewart story?
I’ve moved around a lot in my life. I grew up in England, living there from 1993 to 2000 before coming back to Canada. Since I’ve been back, I have lived in Oakville, Ontario, where I went to high school. Since I was always strong in science I decided to go into Engineering. I attended Queen’s University where I completed a degree in Chemical Engineering and majored in the biomedical aspect of this field. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in original research in the field of biomaterials, by completing a senior thesis project centred on a specific polymer used in controlled-release devices.
Originally my intention was to try to become a doctor or get a Master’s in Engineering, but I found as I progressed through my undergrad and various summer jobs that my skills were better suited to the business world. Hence, I now find myself at Dalhousie in the Corporate Residency MBA program.
What are your personal strengths? What sets James Ewart apart?
I would say that my world experience and my technical background give me very solid grounding. I think my Engineering education gave me a very good tool set to learn and integrate new information, not only of a technical nature but also in the world of business. I also think that growing up in Europe allowed me to better understand divergent cultures and viewpoints.
Those who know me have heard me speak at great length about my experiences as a SCUBA diver. Apart from being a very enjoyable hobby, it has taught me some very useful skills. Being able to remain calm and level-headed in stressful situations is truly invaluable, not only in the world of academia but also in the workforce. Also, on a personal level, I would consider myself very persistent, patient and driven. I always want to try and be better; I don’t believe there is a cap to a skill and one should always be striving to improve. At the same time, I understand not rushing into things and would consider the ability to not make snap decisions very valuable.
You’re the only engineer in the Class of 2013. Tell us how this background has prepared you for your MBA, as well as any advantages or disadvantages it’s had.
I think the strong grounding in mathematics gives me an edge because it allows me to concentrate more on the concepts rather than getting the mechanics right. Certain areas in the business world can be very technical and I think that coming from a technical background allows me to excel in these areas. The one disadvantage is that by spending the last several years thinking primarily about science, I did not have a strong grasp of some purely business-related subject matter. Engineering at Queen’s did include business in the curriculum but the level of detail was nowhere near a pure undergrad in business.
Tell us about your work experience. What do you want to do in your career?
My experience has been limited to summer jobs. I worked for two summers at the Molson/Coors brewery in Toronto in their fermentation department and spent last summer at a contract manufacturer for the cosmetics industry called Cosmetica.
For a career I want to leverage my engineering skills in the business world and combine those with the new skills I am learning from my MBA.
Where will you be for your corporate residency? What will you be doing there, as far as you know?
For my corporate residency I will be working at Aon Reed Stenhouse in Toronto in their risk management division.
What are your thoughts about the curriculum so far? What has been your favourite class?
So far the curriculum has been great. It has been very refreshing to start learning subjects that are 100% new to me and so far have been very interesting. My favourite class has definitely been finance. The reason: I get to utilize my mathematical and Excel skills as well as learn concepts I find to be very interesting and useful.
What extra-curricular activities have you gotten involved with? How has this contributed to your MBA experience so far?
My main extra-curricular activity has been my part-ownership in Coburg Consultants. I have found this to be a great experience because I get to apply what I learn in class. I think the ability to put concepts into practice while learning them has helped solidify my knowledge in these areas.
What would you say to an engineer who might be thinking of applying to the Corporate Residency MBA program?
I would say: go for it! Coming to business school adds a whole new range of skills that sometimes Engineering graduates lack. I think that regardless of whether you decide to go down a purely science route or a purely business route, the skills learned through both engineering and an MBA complement each other. A person who decides on a pure science route could definitely benefit from knowing how to be a more effective manager and how the science fits into the strategic plans of their corporation. I also think that someone purely in the business route can benefit from understanding the more technical nuts-and-bolts of how some companies design and manufacture products.