MBA Guide: Zahwil Dossa

You wouldn’t normally expect a former forensic accountant and an EMBA student to need to know the difference between Italian, mill grain and potato chive rustic artisan breads. But Zahwil Dossa, 30, an EMBA candidate at Simon Fraser University, had to hit the ground running when he took up the position of general manager at the family bakery, Stuyver’s Bakestudio.

Dossa who did his undergraduate degree in business administration at SFU in Burnaby, B.C., started working at the accounting and consulting firm KPMG LLP during school. In 2002, he qualified as a chartered accountant, and a year later he became a manager at the firm. Toward the end of 2004, Dossa started working at the bakery, which is also in Burnaby. “It wasn’t a career aspiration, working for the family business, but after working for my father for a couple of years, I found I enjoyed the work that I was doing, and I stayed on,” says Dossa. “I didn’t know anything about bread or bakeries prior to joining the company.”

Knowledge of the products, the equipment and suppliers, and managing 75 employees, all had to be learned on the job. At KPMG, Dossa worked in forensic accounting, mostly investigating white-collar crime. While that required deep and very specialized skills, he says managing Stuyver’s requires a greater breadth of knowledge. “Being involved in the overall strategy is very exciting. It’s something I didn’t have before,” Dossa explains. “The company is small enough to for me to get involved in the direction in which we are going.”

Since August 2007, Stuyver’s has partnered with Premium Brands Income Fund (TSX: PBI.UN), and Dossa feels his EMBA is broadening his perspective, helping him develop strategy and understand industry dynamics. He also thinks it differs from a regular MBA because of the level of instruction and the diversity and accomplishments of his classmates.

Dossa recommends business students not be dismissive of working for a family business. “I tended not to attach a lot of value to being part of the family business, until I joined it,” he says, “and then I realized what kind of learning opportunity was available.”