Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Long Cao, University of Toronto (Rotman)

“I love to read, travel and watch films to explore new ideas and ways of thinking.”

Hometown: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Fun fact about you: I’m a history buff. I like to spend hours wandering around historical sites or museums by myself.

Elementary school and major: Wabash College, Economics

Last employer and job title: Robert Bosch, Process Lead Accountant

Integrative thinking is one of the cornerstones of the Rotman MBA experience. What does integrative thinking mean to you and how have you been able to apply it so far? I learned about integrative thinking from a book by Roger Martin, the former dean of Rotman. The idea is to harmonize different or even opposing ideas to create a new concept that combines the best elements of the initially contradictory ones. During the class discussions and group projects, the students came up with many different ideas. Then, by challenging each other, we came to a final solution that could accommodate the team members’ best ideas.

What has been your favorite place in Toronto so far? What Makes It Such a Great Place to Earn an MBA? Toronto is very diverse and accommodating. People from different backgrounds live together all year round and celebrate their cultural heritage. New immigrants are well supported with various programs and people who volunteer or donate. Toronto is also a financial and commercial center where many large companies and startups operate. An MBA program in Toronto gives students access to the recruiting opportunities of these firms and ample opportunities to network with professionals across multiple industries.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key factor in the Rotman MBA program that made you choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Many elements led me to choose Rotman. One of them is the broad network of alumni. Rotman is part of the University of Toronto, so the affiliated network of alumni is huge. Rotman and U of T Alumni help Rotman students connect with diverse employers through networking events and informational sessions. Students can learn about and build relationships with specific companies to help them find internships or full-time positions.

As for the curriculum, I’m impressed with the Creative Destruction Lab. The lab has successfully grown into chapters outside of Rotman and Canada, with multiple streams focusing on emerging industries such as space technology, neurotechnology, and climate solutions. Selection for the CDL course is competitive, and select students have the opportunity to help CDL partners develop plans to commercialize their ideas and scale their startups. It’s also a great opportunity for students to network with entrepreneurs, investors, and program mentors.

Self-Development Lab is another program that is very beneficial for students. The program includes a range of small group activities with an emphasis on improving soft skills. Three to five students participate in interactive activities with an expert and receive feedback directly in the sessions, both from their peers and the event host. Feedback is timely, detailed, straightforward, customized, and fairly counterintuitive. The comments are sometimes insightful, with many psychological insights.

The students support each other. The workload of the program is heavy, and several events take place during the semester. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and miss important events. We help each other keep track of deadlines and manage class workloads.

What class, club or activity has you enjoyed most at Rotman so far? My favorite courses are Finance I by Professor Mike Simutin and Strategic Management by Professor Brian Silverman. In Finance I, we discuss many practical applications and tips for personal finance, in addition to technical knowledge. In Strategic Management, business cases are thoroughly examined with diverse insights from the different experiences of the students from childhood, home countries, careers and lifestyles.

I have also attended many Business Technology Association and Management Consulting Association events which provide diverse opportunities to network with alumni and professionals from related industries and to acquire the necessary skills for the recruitment processes.

Describe your greatest achievement in your career so far: I used to be responsible for preparing financial statements for a retail company. Without an accounting degree and practical experience with Vietnamese accounting standards, I initially encountered many challenges in understanding the finance and accounting concepts and how they relate to business activities. Nonetheless, the work enabled me to develop a comprehensive view of the company’s business, interacting regularly with senior management and gaining insights essential to management and operational decision-making. My analysis uncovered abnormal cost changes and forecast various store performance scenarios, conducive to the completion of business improvement actions.

Describe your greatest achievement to date as an MBA student: As a freshman student, most of my time was focused on classroom and club activities. My main achievements are the completion of Term 1 and soon Term 2, the continued development of my skills and knowledge both in the classroom and in other resources.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission to the Rotman MBA program? In order to be successful in the application process, early preparation is essential. Applicants should start their research no earlier than one year before the intended deadlines. You should also wait until Round 2 to apply to benefit from Rotman’s ongoing admissions process. Spike factors are the key factors in distinguishing candidates from others, so they should spend enough time reflecting on their past experiences and constructing a coherent and authentic story about themselves. Interviews with admissions officers, current students and alumni, and participation in online webinars help applicants understand their areas of interest and prepare for their final interviews.


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