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Life in the Professional MBA: Parenthood, promotions and prioritizing what matters

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Posted 2022-02-01
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The notion of “balancing it all”: it’s an ever-changing and often elusive pursuit for many professionals. When Ash Anwar and Mercedes Del Castillo first considered going back to school, their career commitments and busy personal lives were top of mind. Together, they share their experiences of how the UBC Professional Master of Business Administration (PMBA) program allowed them to maintain (and gain) momentum, personally and professionally.

For two years, Ash Anwar and Mercedes Del Castillo dedicated their weekends to self-growth. They immersed themselves in lessons on managerial economics, corporate strategy and market research. They began work on Monday mornings armed with new knowledge and a competitive advantage.

 

Ash Anwar (left) and Mercedes Del Castillo (right)

The immense value that both Anwar and Del Castillo offered as part-time Professional MBA (PMBA) students at the UBC Sauder School of Business didn’t go unnoticed by their employers. After first being accepted into the program, Anwar was promoted to Director of Data Science at health intelligence company Molecular You. Then, part-way through his PMBA journey in August 2020, he moved into the Senior Director, Data role.

For her part, Del Castillo was promoted to Senior Analyst at global data and analytics firm NielsenIQ early in her studies, and rose through the ranks even further upon graduation in May 2021, now managing a team as the Analytic Lead.

 

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Progressing without pausing

Anwar attributes much of his rapid career progression during this period to his business education.

“It showcases how paramount the information and the experiential learning is from the PMBA,” says Anwar. “My mentors at Molecular You recognized that I was taking a lot of initiative and they wanted to help mentor and coach me into bigger and better positions.”

Having moved to Vancouver seven years ago from her hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, Del Castillo says she simply couldn’t afford another disruption in her professional life in order to pursue more education.

“As an immigrant, I had to halt my career when I first moved here because I had to learn the language, the culture and the Canadian market,” says Del Castillo. “I didn’t have the option to stop working and completely dedicate myself to a full-time MBA, so the PMBA was the best way to maintain momentum and do both.”

 

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Being present in parenthood

Anwar’s now seven-year-old daughter was another motivating factor in choosing a part-time MBA program. Though he admits he had a fully packed schedule, he was able to direct full efforts to his work, school and family by re-evaluating his priorities and being as efficient as possible throughout each day.

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Anwar enjoying quality time with his daughter

“I was able to watch my daughter grow, take her to school and pick her up, do homework and read with her, all while working and studying,” says Anwar. “The PMBA enabled me to prioritize and cut out a lot of wasted time, it was a perfect program to help me balance my family.”

Del Castillo was expecting her first child while taking PMBA classes and her daughter was born a few months before she finished the degree. Though she was initially nervous about becoming a parent while in school, Del Castillo says that the PMBA helped her retain a sense of identity while undergoing such a significant life transition.

“The PMBA gave me quality time for myself, to join the classes, to learn, to keep my brain active, it was my little escape and there was comfort in knowing that, while on maternity leave from work, I was still growing as a professional.”

Del Castillo celebrating graduation day with her daughter

She says the support she received from UBC Sauder staff and faculty, as well as her classmates, made the balancing act possible.

“That’s why the PMBA appeals to people: when your career is advanced, it often collides with the years where you also want to have children,” says Del Castillo. “Can you do everything at once? Yes, but you need a strong support system around you.”

 

A launching pad for the future

Looking forward, Anwar says he is excited to continue growing and developing at his current employer, Molecular You, particularly because COVID-19 has highlighted the need to innovate and disrupt the health industry.

He is also an entrepreneur at heart. His third and most recent venture is a maternal telemedicine company for emerging markets called Usha International. Anwar and his team offer curated content, physician support and a proximity-based hospital locator to pregnant women in Bangladesh via a mobile app.

“I wouldn’t count out launching more ventures in the future, if there’s an interesting challenge or a way to help a community,” says Anwar. “My curiosity and interests guide my career progression.”

For Del Castillo, one thing about her future seems certain: that she’ll always love working at the intersection between business and analytics. She says her focus will be on keeping up with fast-emerging technologies related to large data sets. She also has her sights set on assuming more senior leadership positions and further developing her skills as a people manager.

“The PMBA gave me the confidence to say ‘yes’ to any chance I get, to know I can be a manager and a leader,” says Del Castillo. “When it comes to conversations with clients or senior leadership, I’m no longer hesitant to be exposed to those situations, I know I can keep up.”