2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Idalin McKenzie, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Idalin McKenzie

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

“Inclusive leader, coach, and mentor. Passionate about community service. Loves hiking, sightseeing, and reading.”

Hometown: I’m originally from St. Thomas, Jamaica, but now live in Oakville, Canada

Family Members: Rodney McKenzie (spouse), Lauren McKenzie (daughter), Kristen McKenzie (daughter), and Alyssa McKenzie (daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: During my undergraduate degree program, I participated in a student work exchange program and lived and worked in Scotland for four months, immersing myself in the culture, including trying Scotland’s national dish, Haggis.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

MSc. Computer-Based Management Information Systems – The University of the West Indies (UWI)

BSc. Computer Studies (major – Computer Science & minor-Accounting), The University of the West Indies (UWI)

Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) – CPA Canada

Certified in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) – The Institute of Internal Auditors

Certified In Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) – ISACA

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – ISACA

Where are you currently working? KLAM Consulting – Managing Director & Principal

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Executive Entrance Award – Rotman School of Management

Rotman School Council Governance Committee

Kellogg Morgan Stanley Sustainability Investing Challenge competition

Mentor & Speaker – Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) of Ontario

Programs Committee – Institute of Internal Auditors (Toronto)

Vice President, Governance & Finance – Black Female Accountants Network

Founding Director and President – KireKids (nonprofit organization)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the Kellogg Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge 2021 competition. The competition allowed graduate students to pitch innovative finance and investing ideas that help address critical social and environmental issues. My team (Lily, Nimisha, Shirine, and I) pitched a proposal for an optimized index-based solution for farmers in Madagascar facing climate risk. We achieved a placement as one of the finalists out of 123 teams from 50 countries worldwide. This extracurricular was exceptionally rewarding, as it allowed me to utilize the skills and learnings from the EMBA to help our team conceptualize and design a solution to solve a real-world problem that addresses sustainability challenges. I made my contributions to this extracurricular activity during the most deliverable-heavy term of the EMBA journey, which reinforced that we achieve so much more when we support each other and remain motivated. At times, that meant sacrificing some sleep along the way.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my journey as an entrepreneur, the immense leadership growth I experienced since starting my consulting practice and taking my business from a concept to delivering results for my clients. The learnings from my EMBA have been instrumental in my continued growth as an entrepreneur and what I can offer.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I had the opportunity to work in diverse roles, which have allowed me to gain valuable work experiences across multiple technical disciplines. As I embarked on my entrepreneurship journey, I sought to gain the skills and competencies to lead strategically while helping my clients achieve their strategic business goals. The reputation, stellar faculty, and strengths of the Rotman School of Management EMBA program made it the school of my choice because the program aligned well with my personal and professional development goals. The focus of the Rotman EMBA’s hands-on leadership and experiential learning environment was very attractive for me to gain the strategic thinking, leadership, and advanced business acumen skills I was seeking. The program length of 13-months was also a bonus, though intensive.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA, and how did you apply it at work? The biggest learning during the EMBA was being introduced to and applying the Nadler and Tushman congruence model in the courses Organizational Leadership and Aligning People and Strategy taught by John Oesch and Maria Rotunda, respectively. As a leader delivering business transformation changes, this framework is now my go-to to fully assess, evaluate, and design organizational changes. This framework allows me to consciously consider the need for alignment between the transformational components of people, work, culture, and formal organization, while also considering the environmental inputs and the strategy to achieve the desired business outcomes. My approach to strategy execution and organization alignment is forever positively changed because of the insights from these courses.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? There are so many stories of making trade-offs during the program. As a mother of three girls, the EMBA program offered me a unique opportunity to show my girls that it was possible to achieve an education, while managing and juggling work and family and also finding time for extracurricular activities. For example, I juggled staying on top of my course materials by listening to recorded lectures while doing household chores. During the summer term, I negotiated with my daughters and husband to listen to the podcast “think like an economist” on our drive to Canada’s Wonderland and Niagara Falls, which resulted in an excellent discussion to reinforce some of the concepts I was learning in Economics. Being online, I utilized my lunch break on some school days to advance critical work assignments or meet extracurricular commitments. With 24 hours in a day and so many things to get done, it was about finding creative ways to stay organized, establishing and adhering to schedules, and knowing when to ask for support.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The EMBA program is a transformational journey in executive leadership development and is worth the investment. The more you put into the program, the more you will get out. Be prepared to commit the time to learn the course material, contribute to your classmates’ learning, and leverage your classmates and faculty to enhance your own learning experience. You will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to access some of the best minds in business education and professionals making their mark in their respective industries for a limited time, so make the most of it. I would also advise students considering the EMBA to obtain the support of family, friends, and colleagues to balance the other demands to get the most out of the EMBA program.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is not having enough time to manage school alongside work and family. I found that it was about making the trade-offs, being comfortable saying no to some things, seeking out support, and tapping into my organization and time management skills to find the time I needed to make the most of the EMBA program.

What was your biggest regret in business school? We completed most of the EMBA program online except for the final residential week due to COVID. When I met my cohort in person for the first time, I realized what I had missed. My biggest regret was not having more in-person interactions with my cohort during the EMBA program. Being in-person allows for those impromptu hallway conversations with classmates and faculty, which do not happen in an online setting. 

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My most admired classmate is Joanna Cameron. I had the pleasure of working with Joanna in the second term, which I found the most intense of the EMBA program. Despite Joanna being based in British Columbia, and three hours behind the rest of the team, Joanna would leave work with minimal downtime and join our team meetings giving her full engagement for hours. She consistently demonstrated curiosity, pushing our team to fully uncover the issues at hand, leading our team towards beautifully articulated write-ups of our proposed solutions. I am impressed by Joanna’s intellect, humble leadership and how she successfully juggled the extra-long workdays as a lawyer, the time difference, school, and mom duties.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? My main reason for choosing an executive MBA program over part-time online alternatives was to build a professional network locally and have the in-person experience of learning from other experienced executives and professionals, recognizing that we can learn as much from our peers as we do from the faculty in an EMBA program. Despite the COVID pushing our program online, our cohort, faculty, and the EMBA program staff did an exceptional job using various technologies and collaboration tools to maintain the quality of our learning while also keeping our cohort connected to facilitate peer learning.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am happy with the impact I have made and currently making in organizations. My ultimate long-term goal is to remain in the position where I continue to make a positive difference to the strategy and the organizational components to deliver impactful business results irrespective of my job title.

What made Idalin McKenzie such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Intelligent and insightful, Idalin McKenzie is a dignified force with true presence. Graciously sharing her varied experiences, she enriched the learning environment throughout the Rotman Executive MBA program. Her track record of leadership in accounting, operations, and governance, enhanced by professional designations, make Idalin a renaissance woman of management and leadership in the public and private sectors. This uniquely informed perspective helped her to bring a variety of lenses through which she could view program content, team experiences, and professional development. Inspiring her peers, she asked questions and suggested alternative models in ways that enhanced everyone’s learning and development; never a personal challenge, but always with a focus on ideas that could broaden thinking. Passionate about education and empowering others, Idalin shares her expertise in several social enterprises and finds ways to make her corner of the world a better place. As founder of KireKids, she leads an effort to bring opportunities for educational and personal growth to children who might otherwise miss out. Idalin is a confident, inclusive leader who sees problems as opportunities and helps others to get things done. An asset in any setting, we can’t wait to see what she does next.”

John M. Oesch
Associate Professor, Teaching Stream
Rotman School of Management


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.