Blogs & Comment

What MBA grads need to know

After donating the largest sum ever by a Nova Scotian to Dalhousie's school of business, Ken Rowe talks about how to choose the right MBA program and get hired.


Photo: Nick Pearce/Dalhousie

If you’ve picked up our latest issue, you know Canadian Business is excited about MBA schools—and we’re not the only ones. Last week, Ken Rowe, executive chairman of Halifax-based IMP Group International, donated $15 million to Dalhousie University’s school of business, the largest donation ever by a Nova Scotian to the institute. Though he didn’t go to business school himself, Rowe is an MBA enthusiast because of what he thinks bright graduates can bring to Atlantic Canada: much-needed innovation. The money will go toward developing awards and scholarships so Dalhousie can improve the program’s quality. I spoke with the seasoned businessman about how to pick an MBA school and how to get hired as a recent grad:

Q: Why did you feel donating to the business school was important?

A: We need the brightest minds to teach the brightest students they can attract and turn out higher qualified graduates. Hopefully a lot of them will stick around the Atlantic region where a lot of our businesses are and help us to meet the increasing world economic challenges. Otherwise, our standard of living will drop. This is not just a problem for Atlantic Canada, it’s a problem for Canada. The solution is education and productivity.

Q: What is the value of an MBA program?

A: I look at the MBA program as a chance to broaden your mind, rather than a focused experience where students just learn about economics or something. It’s a good program but it depends if the university offers a humdrum MBA or one that has credence in it and inspires students to learn.

Q: What makes an MBA program “humdrum”?

A: If someone has an MBA from some university that hasn’t won any awards or recognition, I’d call that more humdrum. Go to an Ivey school or a school that’s well recognized and won awards like Dal. As prospective employers we don’t just say, “You got your MBA, fine.” We look at where you got it and what it’s all about. Just like you when you go into the grocery store, you like to look at the label.

Q: Any advice for MBA students?

A: First of all, it’s a competitive market out there. Aim toward the industry you feel attracted to, get a job to pay the rent, but focus on moving into a vacancy when you can get one. Hang around looking for the right job. If you start a business, remember there’s a very simple formula that kept me out of trouble when I started my new business. It’s called the three Ms: management, understanding the markets you’re going into, and making sure you have the money to overcome early curve balls thrown at you. If you’re missing one of those, you won’t succeed as an entrepreneur.

Q: Any final words of wisdom?

We don’t want mediocrity. We want everyone to be aware this is a challenging world we live in and it’s urgent we turn out as good quality graduate students as we can.