Technology will change and trends will come and go, but if you commit to learning, you can stay ahead of the curve.
That was the message a panel of leaders had for Ivey’s MBA students as they prepare for careers in a rapidly evolving business environment.
Speaking at the student-organized MBA Leadership Conference, entitled Power of the Past-Force of the Future, leaders from banking, consulting, education, and technology discussed what’s to come in their industries and how to navigate these changes. The panel included Raymond Chun, Group Head of Global Wealth Management and Insurance for TD Bank Group; Louisa Greco, EMBA '03, Partner, McKinsey & Company; Seung Hwan (Mark) Lee, PhD '11, Professor and Associate Dean at the Ted Rogers School of Management; and Geoff Nielson, HBA ’09, SVP Global Services, Info-Tech Research Group.
The goal of the event was to share an industry forecast and what talent will look like as well as give the students advice for seizing the opportunities ahead. It was a fitting theme given Ivey’s centennial marketing campaign, which focuses on what lies ahead in the future. Here are some takeaways from the event.
Be curious, committed, and resilient
Since businesses are facing unprecedented challenges, Greco said being curious about the impact of those challenges and committing to engage with them is critical.
“At the end of the day, we're all intending to serve customers so you have to seek to understand [them],” she said. “Part of that is just parking your ego at the door for a little bit to be able to listen and understand and absorb so that you can actually help.”
And since what lies ahead is impossible to predict, Greco said resilience will be key for leaders to cope with disruptive changes and adapt.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies are already changing the business landscape and it’s important to embrace those technologies to stay competitive, the leaders said.
“As a leader, you need to understand what technologies are emerging and then apply it back,” said Chun. “Spend time learning what’s new, commit to that, or else you’re going to fall behind.”
Lee told how some of his students are already using ChatGPT, an AI chatbot, to submit essays, but its use has been full of controversy. Noting that calculators received a similar reception when first introduced but are now used to do applied math, he said organizations should be open to ways new AI tools might enhance the learning process.
“With any of the tools that we see, we can’t say, ‘That’s going to stop our learning. That’s going to be a limitation.’ Oftentimes, you can find a way to enhance it and work with it,” he said. “Education is going to evolve and training at companies is going to evolve, so you have to be mindful of that. Be open to it and be accepting.”
Leverage unstoppable trends
Like the rise of AI, there are many other changes that will impact society and business, such as globalization, aging demographics, and the advancement of emerging economies.
Chun said he frequently asks his team to consider what trends will impact society and their industry so the organization can leverage them.
“If you try to fight against them, I think you’ll be out of business. Or you can say, this is an unstoppable trend so what are the implications and how can we leverage the fact that this is an unstoppable trend?,” he said. “Be a thought leader, not a leader that’s going to keep resisting.”
Find your fit
Don’t be too eager to try to live up to one particular notion of what great talent looks like, instead determine your strengths and look for a role where those strengths can shine, Nielson advised.
“In our careers, as we’re finding roles that we’re competent in, number one is make sure you’re good at that thing … It’s a matter of understanding what your strengths are, what you can bring to the table, and making sure that you can contribute well in the role that you’re in,” he said. “It’s a matter of making sure that we’re doing the thing that’s the right fit for us and then, once we’re there, the doors will open.”
To follow that path, Nielson said you have to be willing to turn down opportunities that aren’t right for you and to ask for help when you are struggling in a role and need support.
“If you can put up your hand and say, ‘I don’t think this is going well, what do I need to do differently?,’ people really appreciate that,” he said. “It never feels good to admit that something is not going well, but it’s a lot better than waiting for somebody else to tell you it’s not going well.”
Listen and learn
One of the most important skills you can have in your career is the ability to take feedback, Nielson said. Instead of assuming that you always have the right answer, he said you should be listening to and learning from other team members.
“You should be listening more than you’re talking, especially at the beginning of your career, but also all throughout your career,” he said. “There’s a real tendency or bias in some people to say, ‘I’m going to solve this problem. I’m going to fix the company.’ Remember that you’re working with a lot of smart people and you’re going to do it together.”
Final words of wisdom from the panellists
Build your network
“This time you have together is a gift and it’s your very first lesson on building a network that you can nurture. It’s a gift that will multiply in your life. Suspend judgment because you’ll learn the most from people who are different from you.”
– Louisa Greco
Find your own solution
“Don’t be afraid to eat the donut with the icing side down. There are different ways to do things.”
– Mark Lee
Explore many career paths
“Your first job doesn’t matter that much. There are a lot of amazing paths for you.”
– Geoff Nielson
“You are the next global leaders of the world and you have the ability to influence society. Raise the bar and ask yourself what you’ll do to make a massive difference in society.”
– Raymond Chun
The 2023 Ivey MBA Leadership Conference was supported by the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, and also included opening remarks about the importance of character in leadership. It was organized by Ivey students Jennifer (Ye Won) Kim, Nonish Jain, Eduardo Aguilar, and Dan Vanderkaden, all MBA '23 candidates.