Working in Harmony

A former opera singer turned banking consultant finds that life on the job has lots of similarities to being onstage. Here's a typical day in her life

My entrance to the business world was not a typical one. Prior to embarking on an MBA I was a professional opera singer. Performance careers are very challenging due to instability of income, constant travel, and smaller demand for the amount of talent out there. Deciding to leave my music career was very difficult, but I'm certain that doing my MBA was one of these best decisions I ever made.

Not a day goes by when I don't use my performance background for my job. As a retail banking consultant at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) (CM), one of Canada's biggest banks, I was part of the rotational program for MBA graduates. In the Retail Markets Leadership Program, I'm engaged in strategic work for the product management and business development areas.

As part of a small core team bringing a fairly revolutionary credit card strategy to market, we don't have many rules for what we're doing. Working on a team project that involves hundreds of people is a lot like working with an ensemble cast. You have to play to different members of the team while following a conductor. You have to respond to the person opposite you while coordinating with the chorus.

With an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at University of Western Ontario, I'm gratified by how often I draw on my MBA skills. All of the team-building work done as a student has been invaluable in the corporate world.

Here's a typical day

6.30 a.m.—Alarm goes off and it's time to greet the day.

7 a.m.—Walk the dogs, George and Kosmo, while my husband makes breakfast and a lunch for me to take to work. We take turns doing these two tasks.

7:45 a.m.—Drive by the new house we're having built. I'll often stop to meet with our contractor. On Mondays or Tuesdays, we review the laundry list of tasks to be accomplished during the week.

8 to 8:30 a.m.—Arrive at work and check e-mail.

9 a.m.—The first of many meetings. This one is fairly informal with my team. We look at our current promotional materials and brainstorm about theme and brand continuity. Working on a brand has a way of bringing together vibrant personalities with strong opinions! Our informal debates continue throughout the day until we reach a decision...

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