My EMBA is incredibly time consuming. Last week I lifted my head from the cases and projects they I have been working on and realized that winter is over and it’s all of a sudden really nice outside. If I count the modules we have done I find that our class is just past the midpoint of the program! Summer is almost here, but first I have two more 4-day class modules and 5 more projects before this term is done. Then we have the summer off before we start up again in September. Summer will give us a bit of a breather so that many of my classmates and I will have time wandering what the heck we’re going to do when this is all over.
The intensity of the EMBA is a lot like my workload in vet school; I never seem to get ahead of it and I always wish I could understand a subject just a little better. Vet school had a balance between studies and my personal life, while the EMBA has this, plus the addition of a full time job. Some of my classmates are working 60-80 hours a week at their jobs, while trying to find the time to do their school work and scratch out a couple hours in the week to see their family. All of us are struggling to give attention to work, school and family, yet it seems that many of us, are undergoing some personal changes that are creeping in from the periphery and starting to distract us when we really don’t have the time to deal with it. We all started the program set in our careers, perhaps looking at other options, but not really sure what is out there. Hopefully, the EMBA would give us some skills that would help get us a promotion, or at least help us do our current job better. That was my goal. I wanted to learn more business skills that would help me run our veterinary businesses better. That was then. And now? Many of my close friends in the program have reverted to their teenage selves as they ask what do I want to do when I grow up (get out of this program)?
How are these changes affecting me? A few months ago I attended the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual convention in Nashville. Usually, I look forward to this for months. I can’t wait to see friends, check out new medical equipment and indulge in CE. Attending the convention this year was a shock to my system and it has only been recently until I have figured out why. I flew to the convention the morning after a 4-day EMBA module in downtown Toronto. This means that I’m staying at a hotel and going to class right smack in the middle of the bustling financial district. I’m wearing a suit and tie and working with driven classmates from a wide variety of industries and businesses. Four days of 8-hour classes, group work before and after classes and yes, social activities, is draining. But when you are there it is all encompassing and you get into a groove. After the module I went home, repacked my suitcase and flew into Nashville the following morning. I arrived at the convention center and I saw thousands of horse vets wearing the uniform of horses. Depending where they are from in North America this could mean Wranglers and cowboy boots to khakis and polo shirts. I greeted old friends and we started talking about equine veterinary medicine, mutual friends, their own businesses and I’m struggling. Really struggling. What was once so comfortable to me is making me very anxious. I’m having a hard time adjusting from talking about contribution margins, writing a marketing exam and fretting over an upcoming Information Technology project to the easy going relaxed manner of equine vets. Some of them are my closest friends that I have shared the ups and downs of our respective businesses through the recession, and people I have called, or have called me for advice on veterinary cases. What the heck am I doing here?
It wasn’t until about 3 months later, when I was talking to another vet who is also a grad of my EMBA program about the situation, that I realized I was probably having an identity crisis. What the heck? Am I 16 again filled with angst wondering who I was in the world? Not quite, but when I examine the situation I realize that I came into the program with a distinct professional life as a successful veterinarian and businessman. Since the EMBA I have been exposed to so many new business skills and colleagues that appear so different from where I came from. I feel that I am being pulled hard between my current life and one of other professional opportunities. From a predictable and comfortable life with people I admire and trust as my closest friends, I have come to this new land of ever expanding horizons.
I am comforted that many of my EMBA colleagues are feeling the same way. I have had many conversations with people that are going through what I am. Classmates are seriously contemplating career changes, transferring to other countries or just waiting for a opportunity that feels right. One of my Term 2 workgroup teammates, Sonal, put it perfectly when she described her own questioning as “what will some of us do with all of this, and how can we add value to our lives and those of others?”. The last part is huge in many of our lives in that until this EMBA at Ivey we have been focused on our careers and businesses and improving our lot in life. Now, like every great education should do, our minds have been opened to opportunities and how the power of our knowledge can do a lot more for ourselves, and the world around us.
I love veterinary medicine. I think it is one of the most honorable professions in the world in that we can help care for those who cannot speak for themselves. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the relief on a horse owners face when I have been able to successfully treat their suffering horse, although, between school and running the business I don’t get to see this enough. As a business owner I’m excited thinking about the positive changes that are happening to our business because of this education. Yet, I am also chomping at the bit exploring other business opportunities that are now opening up before me. The last time I felt like this was in my final year of vet school. I knew I was going to be a horse vet, yet I knew there was more than that to come. I was right. One year later my wife and I had opened our own vet practice that continues to grow. So what is next? What else is out there beyond running our business with more skill and insight than I did before, or is that enough? Can I use my education to help other vets and the profession, branch into other industries, work with classmates in other businesses, or donate my time to a charity? I never thought when I started the EMBA that I would be facing these decisions. I thought I was done with these career choices years ago. I’m glad I was wrong. What a wonderful position to be in.
Mike Pownall DVM