Balancing school, work, and family

Posted 2017-07-07

Built on the feedback of alumni like Aries Suswendi, the UBC Professional MBA is  optimized to fit the lives of busy professionals.

After completing a Part-time MBA (now known as the Professional MBA) at UBC Sauder, Aries Suswendi was promoted twice within a year. He is now an innovation leader at ICBC, where he’s responsible for technology deployments that improve the corporation’s claims and insurance systems. But his career hadn’t always been on an upward trajectory.

"I got stuck in my career progress,” he says. “I was in the same position for several years because I was lacking business knowledge.”

That’s when he decided to pursue an MBA at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School.

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Meet Aries Suswendi

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"Before the program I had to look for promotions, now I’m grateful that those opportunities come to me.”

When Aries began the program, his experience was heavily weighted on the technical side of things, while his experience with other aspects of an organization, like human resources and operations, was more limited.

"Best practices that I learned in my classes now help me identify opportunities to improve our processes,” he says. “What I learned about leadership, strategy, operations and HR allows me to contribute to the organization by considering not only my department, but also the high-level impact of any initiative I undertake.”

Overall, Aries says UBC Sauder changed how he thinks; making him consider cross-functional relationship-building and collaboration that are the foundations of big-picture strategy. 

“I used to take a more siloed approach to work – I could only see the technological side of any given issue,” he says. “Now if someone comes to me and asks about employing a certain technology, I know how to create consensus and move projects forward.”

During the program, Aries had to be more flexible and pragmatic about his personal life too. He had a preschool-aged child when he began the program and halfway through his second child was born.

“The first six months were really tough,” he says. “My wife and I were both feeling the pressure.”

To make it work they relied heavily on support from extended family. And while Aries had to make some scheduling adjustments at home in order to achieve his goals, he had to do the same at the office.

"I had to negotiate with my boss so I could adjust my work schedule on Fridays – I’d start work at 7:00 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m. – so I could get to UBC in time for Friday night classes. Still, I wouldn’t get home until after the kids were in bed so there were quite a few days where I wouldn’t see my children at all.”


UBC Sauder’s Professional MBA program was designed to work better around candidates’ work and personal lives, taking into account issues like those Aries faced.

“We made quite a few adjustments to the program schedule so our candidates can achieve a better balance,” says Darren Dahl, Director of UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. “For example, we eliminated Friday night classes so people can relax, spend time with their families and then be recharged for Saturday and Sunday in class. We now have real breaks over summer and winter – without projects due.”

Plus, classes will now be stretched over three weekends, instead of two as in the previous program, giving candidates more time to read, digest material and apply it to assignments.

“People have children during the program, people get married during the program; life still happens, we changed our approach so our candidates can more easily experience it all.”


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