Originally posted by Jordan Fujiwara.
Hello all. First I want to apologize for the lack of blog last week. It was a turbulent time with Thanksgiving and school so I decided to postpone last week’s until today. With that said, I’d like to introduce you to Lesley Vair! She’s originally from Halifax, she took a BBA and BA (major: French) at Acadia University and had the pleasure of working with Northstar Trade Finance Inc. on her corporate residency as a Credit Risk Analyst.
Lesley’s boss was Milton Spidla (the Chief Credit Officer a Northstar). Lots of folks in our class know Milton, as he spent about a week sitting in our lectures and events in the early part of the school year in 2009. He was getting a feel for the class (and, evidently, a feel for future possible employees). Lesley says: “every single day I worked very closely with Milton. We were practically joined at the hip: it was a great opportunity to learn from him. I started working right when they were in a trial and error process of determining whether or not they were going to start a European subsidiary. Soon after, they decided to go ahead with it, and Milton was heading that up from the Toronto office.”
The company assesses creditworthiness of small businesses, start-ups or recovering businesses and then lends money (on behalf of major Canadian banks) to some of these businesses. “I was on the credit side of the European Team,” says Lesley, “so I was analyzing financial statements in several different languages.” In addition to French, Lesley also knows some German and some Spanish, which I’m sure was quite helpful! (She was working physically in Toronto, not Europe though. However, if she goes back to work for Northstar, she will have to move to Luxembourg in order to fully serve the new European subsidiary!)
Despite not actually working overseas, Lesley was exposed to her fair share of international culture. Apparently when the World Cup rolled through, her office was a whirlwind of excitement. Even when it wasn’t happening she had to adapt to her co-workers’ tastes: “We’d always have lunch in the boardroom; we pretty much operated like a small family-owned business. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, I’d want to talk about the previous night’s game, but no one would have seen it! By the time the World Cup was underway, it was a totally different story; all anyone ever wanted to talk about was soccer.” Lesley was one of four Canadians working in the 16-person office. Sorry hockey, you were outnumbered.
Toronto offered her a breadth of experience beyond a diverse work environment. Lesley was in the Eaton Centre when it was evacuated due to the G20 riots in Toronto’s downtown core. “I honestly feared for my life; there were no cabs and to get home we had to walk against a sea of belligerent protesters. By the time I made it back to my apartment, I’d look out my window to see clouds of smoke from burning cop cars.” On a happier note, she was able to raise over $5,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society with the help of some of her classmates who were also positioned in the city.
On the whole, Lesley “feels really good” about the program. A late joiner (she wrote the GMAT in June and got her Letter of Acceptance during orientation week), she was eager to put her summer to use with the start of July classes. Before entering the program, she hadn’t thought too hard about her career aspirations. “This focussed me. I came in not knowing what I wanted, but now I know I’d be very happy working for a small company. I’ve learned the importance of happiness over that of money. I’m interested in finance, and would ultimately like to work for a Not-For-Profit.” Apart from the vocational focus, Lesley is a fan of some of the social events that inevitably come with being in an MBA program. “I really enjoyed the first- and second-year dinners,” she says with a smile. Every year the two classes split into several small groups and the second-years cook a meal for the group, and the first-years provide the libations. Typically the groups merge into one afterward and embark on some sort of adventure (for the past two years it’s been a boat cruise on the harbour) followed by exploring (to use the term lightly) the many venues that cater to the Halifax nightlife.
Finally, Lesley offers this piece of advice to our new and prospective students: “As easy as it is to get all wrapped up in the workload, events, etcetera that come with this program, don’t lose sight of who you are and what is important to you. As Jenny and Scott emphasized in one of our first PPE sessions, by all means make sure to afford yourself ‘dessert’ – whatever it might entail.”
And that’s that! We’ll see you next week (promise)!