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Suma Al-Senawi, Executive MBA ‘21, Ethylene Manager at NOVA Chemicals, on perspective, leadership and collaboration

Suma Al-Senawi, Executive MBA ‘21, initially embarked on her Executive MBA to fast-track her business knowledge as she stepped into more executive roles. But after a semester at Ivey, she’s discovered she hasn’t simply gained business know-how; she’s developed leadership, communication and collaboration skills that will help her have a bigger impact at her organization.

“In engineering you’re so focused on what needs to happen, you’re not really seeing the big picture, whereas now, having had, for example, an accounting case study that resembles aspects of my company, I understand why we do some of the things we do,” says Al-Senawi, Ethylene Manager at NOVA Chemicals in Sarnia, Ont.

“With Case Method Learning, Ivey is helping us to see decisions through the eyes of a CEO, so now I feel more confident to chat with my chief executive, talk about important issues and understand the goals.”

As a trained engineer used to “a textbook answer” to every problem, Al-Senawi initially found Case Method Learning difficult.

“It’s grey, and I was uncomfortable not knowing the answer, but I think what Ivey was looking for us to do was get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” she says.

“It’s OK that you don’t know the answer and that you’re going to have to apply your best knowledge at that time and focus on what’s important to the company values as the CEO. Eventually you learn that you need to work with the resources you have to make the best decision in that moment.

Al-Senawi was also surprised with how much she enjoyed working in a group with her learning team, as well as with what an adept communicator she discovered herself to be.

“It was amazing to cross such varied skills and personalities within the group. One person was so intuitive and always saw the bigger picture, and then the engineers were always in the details,” she says.

“It helped to have that dynamic – get pulled out but sucked back in because you need the details. You have to balance all that.”

Al-Senawi opted to do her Executive MBA at Ivey, partly because of the Case Method approach, the mix of courses offered, the school’s focus on leadership skills, and the program’s length and schedule – all of which fit with her current job and lifestyle.

She describes the Ivey experience, which she is balancing with her job and family, as “intense but exhilarating.”

And while she’s at times felt overwhelmed by the competing demands she faces, especially when her three young children complain that they miss her, she’s found ways to turn those moments into teaching opportunities.

“I try letting them know why this is so important to me, what this means for the positive effect of our own future, and work to gain their support,” she says.

“My greatest moment of joy was when my daughter, who is 11, told me she can’t wait to one day walk out of the Ivey building.

That brought tears to my eyes.”

EMBA '21

Ivey Business School

Suma Al-Senawi

Suma Al-Senawi

Ethylene Manager, NOVA Chemicals

Sarnia, Canada

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