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Is A Specialized Master’s The Right Move For Your Career?

Is A Specialized Master’s The Right Move For Your Career? main image

Sponsored by Schulich School of Business

If you’re thinking of studying a specialized master’s degree, it’s important to do it for the right reasons.

For some, it’s an opportunity to develop the skills needed to move up the career ladder into a managerial role or change career paths altogether. This is particularly important for some professions where only those with specific qualifications will be considered.

Muhammad Haseeb, Lucie Wang and Tracy Hui decided to get their specialized master’s degrees at Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

Muhammad left his promising career as a management consultant to return to the world of education and pursue the Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence (MMAI)  after realizing the power and influence modern technology has when it comes to business success.

“When costs are so low and returns are exceptionally high, naturally there is going to be a surge in demand for capabilities that leverage such technologies, and in turn enable organizations to outsmart competition or gain strategic advantages,” Muhammad said.

While Lucie enrolled in the Master of Supply Chain Management (MSCM) program also at Schulich, it was to further her “knowledge in business to build a stronger business foundation background since my undergraduate degree was in international relations after four years of working mainly in the customer relationship management sector.”

The supply chain was related to my everyday work, and I’ve always been interested in learning about a product’s end-to-end cycle,” she said.

Having specialized in marketing, Tracy soon found herself working in strategic marketing and consumer research at a leading Canadian retailer that led to an opportunity working at a real estate development firm as a marketing consultant.

“I loved it straight away, but I wanted to learn about the other aspects of the real-estate development process,” she said. “At the same time, I discovered the Master of Real Estate and Infrastructure (MREI) program and it caught my attention because it was a one-year program which integrates development, investment and financing in both real estate and infrastructure. It also combines classroom learning with exposure to a diverse network of industry professionals, and a co-op term where students get to apply what they have learned in class.”  

We spoke with Muhammad, Lucie and Tracy to find out more about how they think their master’s degrees have equipped them with the skills and experience needed for their dream careers. 

What do you think are the most valuable skills you’ve gained throughout the master’s? How have you been able to develop these? 

Muhammad: We learned about most of the mainstream AI and machine learning algorithms, their use cases, limitations and behind the scenes mathematics, including calculus, linear algebra and statistics. We have also learned programming languages, like Python and R, to implement these algorithms.

Since the quality of these algorithms is only as good as the data fed into them, we also learned about designing both SQL and NoSQL databases for optimized data storage. Visualization and analysis tools like Tableau have also been taught to better understand the data we work with.

Lucie: Supply chain knowledge – the courses allow you to touch on different aspects in the supply chain, such as procurement, operations, technology in the supply chain, analytics skills, marketing, international trade, and strategic management.

I was able to use the knowledge to address problems in consulting projects, case studies, and presentations with supply chain terminologies and a lean and agile problem-solving mindset.

I’ve also developed networking skills. The Schulich MSCM is all about networking with people from different backgrounds. I had a great time connecting with all my professors and classmates. I made some great friends along the way and I was able to meet people I would not have the chance to meet if I didn't come to Schulich.

Networking is hard, especially when you want to do it properly. The school platform gave me the chance to practice the skills of networking and become more comfortable reaching out to people.

Tracy: The top skills I’ve gained throughout the MREI are my interpersonal, analytical and time management skills. As many of my professors/industry professionals have stated, real estate is ultimately a peoples’ business.

Being in a cohort with colleagues who are from various backgrounds I was able to work on group projects and consider problems from different perspectives.

It also includes many case studies and group projects to apply our acquired knowledge. Whether it was our real estate finance and investment course, development course, or structuring development transactions course, the case studies have allowed me to develop analytical thinking skills by working on different types of problems.

How important do you think the practical learning experiences are in the master’s?

Muhammad: Practical learning is important for a couple of reasons. Regardless of how reputable a program or how experienced an instructor is, some aspects of work simply can't be captured in a classroom environment and are bound to be ‘missed’.

Practical experience gives us an opportunity to test our learning while we’re still at school, and in case we identify any gaps we still have many opportunities to address them.

Jobs also ask for experience, but to get experience one needs a job. Practical learning is also an excellent solution to this vicious catch-22 most students find themselves in upon graduation.

Lucie: I think practical learning experience is crucial. When I was looking for a master’s program, my top criteria were that the program must be practical, I wanted to have professors from both academic and business background, and I was looking for a program that included a consulting project with industry players. 

Tracy: Practical learning experience is a critical component of the Schulich MREI program. This includes entering case competitions, attending industry events hosted by student clubs, and reaching out to industry professionals for coffee chats. These were all incredibly valuable for understanding current events in the world of real estate and infrastructure.

In March, I was part of the winning team for the Developers’ Den case competition (a Schulich International Real Estate Case Competition presented by Schulich’s Brookfield Centre in Real Estate & Infrastructure and the Schulich Real Property Alumni Association) alongside three fellow classmates.

It was an incredible opportunity where we applied what we had learned in class to a real development project, while presenting to a large audience and getting feedback from a panel of top-tier industry leaders.

How much of an impact do you think the master’s will have on your future career prospects? 

Muhammad: A lot! Especially after this pandemic. Previously as a management consultant, I had worked at a major financial institution to help automate back-end functions. I know through experience that there was always a strong business case for smart automation. But, what has happened as a result of COVID-19 is that there is now a marketing case for automation as well.

As soon as organizations start to rebuild, most of them will really focus on smart automation and leverage AI along the way.

The MMAI program has helped me foresee and prepare for some of these opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. This, I feel will stay with me for a very long time and continue to influence the choices I make.

Lucie: The MSCM program has given me the tools and resources in the supply chain to succeed. I know that no matter which career path I choose to pursue, I can always reach out to my professors and network for advice. The foundation knowledge of supply chain management will be there whenever I need to make a decision or process improvement in the future.

Tracy: The MREI program provided me with a platform to connect with a network of professionals in the real estate and infrastructure industry. I first joined the program knowing a small group of people from working at my first development firm. I have grown my network through connecting with my current cohort, Schulich alumni and industry professionals from various backgrounds/experiences – whether they are from a family firm or individuals working at big institutional players.

During my first semester of the program, I attended an event where I met several industry professionals. I reached out to one of them for a coffee chat to learn more about their company, and it actually landed me an internship opportunity! 

Jonathan M, Ananya S & 5 others saved this
Written by Stephanie Lukins
As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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