I walk free, thanks to Desautels

Coming from all four corners of the world, our MBA candidates bring a unique set of experiences, which contribute to the diversity of our hand-picked cohort. Today, in the Desautels MBA blog, we interviewed Usman Chohan (MBA'14).

The greatest pleasure in life is to walk free, but to be able to walk free, one must deal with a management problem, in the optimization of resources, time, knowledge, contingencies, and planning. Learning how to address management problems is the foremost contribution that Desautels has made to my life, but it is not the only contribution.

Since graduating from the MBA in 2014, I have had the opportunity to explore and get involved in a diversity of projects around the world, to the extent that even I don’t know how to formally present or describe myself anymore. These projects have included:

  1. Consulting for the World Bank;
  2. Policy initiatives that have lumped me into Australia’s 50 Top Thinkers;
  3. Citations in Canadian parliamentary legislation, for work done while at Desautels;
  4. The Presidency of the International Association of Hyperpolyglots, the largest organization for people who speak 6+ languages;
  5. Chief Financial Officer of a startup that has been featured in The Economist;
  6. Giving business school students public lectures;
  7. Regular appearances on Television and Radio, and;
  8. Academic publications including encyclopedic chapters, among others.

How is it done?

I maintain a roving office, something I learned to do during my Desautels experience as I managed an exchange program, consulting contracts, and MBA studies. But Desautels’ impact has been far more direct in the free-roaming path of my life.

Desautels has an outstanding mentorship program, which connected me with the brilliant McGill academic and World Bank official, Frederick Stapenhurst, who played a critical mentorship role and co-authored works with me. He gave me direction and insights in how to manage my MBA and plan for life after it. This led to engagements with the World Bank, which in turn led to a PhD in Australia to build the underlying theories behind the work that the World Bank was engaged in.

Just as important as the mentorship, McGill also helped me to hone my quantitative and qualitative skills which I I continue to deploy both in the academic and practitioner spheres, including strategic planning, financial modelling, and negotiation among many others.

Then there are the indirect impacts of Desautels’ philosophy that also cannot be overlooked in my personal and professional evolution. Unlike the plain-vanilla business schools across North America that are virtually indistinguishable from one another, Desautels is a School of Management.This means that it lays emphasis on the artform that is management, rather than on the process of exchange that is business.

We “manage”, to varying degrees, nearly all aspects of our lives. Desautel’s focus is on developing the psychological, interpersonal, professional, and analytical skillsets that help us to “manage,” in the broadest, most abstract, and most versatile sense in which that semantic construct is applied.

So I can walk free because I have learned the process of managing how to walk free, thanks to Desautels.

Walking into Desautels as I did, anomie-stricken and inarticulate, I instead walked out of Desautels with a sense of the “management” and the strategies required to realize projects in both a wide range of geographies and disciplines. The aspects of management and strategy are not relegated to the course of professional affairs.

I manage to read at least 110 books a year, I manage to sleep an average of 9 hours a day in a biphasic schedule, I manage to continue studying languages, and I manage to live in different countries during different seasons of the year.

With such a sublime work-life balance, close friends and colleagues have said that all I get done must be due to a form of magic. While I take it in jest, and enjoy the ring to it, there are no superstitious variables, but rather the optimization of a management problem in resources, time, knowledge, skills, and planning; which Desautels taught me how to do. Or rather... if it is magic, it is Desautels that taught me that mystical craft.

My experience at Desautels has resounded strongly with many others. My own brother, as an example, was moved to see the change in my life that the MBA at Desautels had brought, both in my professional and personal life. He therefore decided in 2017 to apply for the MBA as well. From everything I get to hear, he is now enjoying it as much I did. So it is with supreme satisfaction that I say here: I continue to owe a great debt to Desautels. I walk free, seeking out challenges in the private sector, the public sector, and academia, and then mustering some of that ‘magic’ towards addressing (read: managing) those challenges in a systematic way. So I will always thank Desautels, for that freedom, and that magic.

About the author

Originally from Pakistan, Usman Chohan graduated from the McGill Desautels MBA in 2014 and has since been selected as one of Australia's 50 Top Thinkers. He has a diverse set of experiences that took him all across the globe, including the USA, Canada, China and Australia. 

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