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Kelly Laidlaw is an MBA student at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She previously studied for a degree in fashion design at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and worked for Le Chateau, a large Canadian clothing retailer.

When she graduates, Ms Laidlaw will replace fashion design with financial product and service design when she becomes management associate at the TD Bank Financial Group, a Canadian bank. This will be part of a two-year leadership development programme that focuses primarily on project work.

In her spare time, Ms Laidlaw enjoys cooking, travelling and studying languages.

1. When did you know you wanted to study for an MBA?

There wasn’t one particular ‘Aha’ moment when I knew that this was the path I wanted to pursue. It was really a series of small steps that has overall had a big impact on my life and career.

2. What is the best advice ever given to you?

Some of the best advice I received from both faculty and classmates was to get involved beyond the classroom because there is more to an MBA than just taking courses and doing well in exams. They were right. Some of my most rewarding experiences and closest friendships developed through executive positions such as vice-president of sustainability for the John Molson MBA International Case Competition.

3. What academic achievement are you most proud of to date?

The two months I spent on a volunteer work placement in Africa through Concordia’s International Community Outreach Program (iCOP) stands out as one of my proudest achievements. I had the opportunity to apply my MBA skills and knowledge while providing business and mentoring services to local entrepreneurs. I also developed a 10-lesson manual for a young women’s empowerment programme.

4. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

Go with your gut, don’t forget to ask ‘why’, always be yourself and stay positive. Over the years I have learned many things, but I think the biggest lesson is that there’s always going to be another lesson to learn!

5. What advice would you give to women in business?

First, I would advise women in business to ask for help when you need it. This is not admitting defeat, this is learning. Next, I would suggest finding a mentor or trusted advisor; someone you respect, who you can be yourself with and who can help you answer the difficult questions that you will undoubtedly face. Finally, I would encourage women to embrace change. This often means choosing the more difficult option, but generally there is more to gain than to lose.

6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I don’t believe that a woman needs to become one of the boys in the workplace. Though there are subtle differences, I generally deal with a male-dominated environment in the same way I would handle a female-dominated environment: with confidence, hard work and a pair of ‘power heels’.

7. What is your favourite business book?

Green to Gold by Daniel Esty & Andrew Winston was a really interesting read when I first became interested in ways to merge sustainability with innovation and business strategy. Good to Great by Jim Collins addresses the question: Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? This book confirmed the importance of personal humility within leadership roles and inspired me to remain determined during the journey.

8. Have you even been to any workshops / seminars that have helped you in your career?

Every year I attend the John Molson Women in Business Club annual conference, a fantastic way to network with other women in business within the Montreal community. This year’s theme was: Leading the Change in High Heels and topics included the future of corporate social responsibility, inspiring women to invest and productivity powered by femininity and social media: the platform of marketing campaigns. The successful women on the speaker panel never fail to inspire me both professionally and personally.

9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

If I could do it all again I really wouldn’t change anything. Life is a series of events that are unique to each individual, and for whatever reason I believe that this is the path that I was meant to follow. Changing just one thing from my past could mean missing out on other fantastic opportunities that I experienced.

10. What is your plan B?

Today I believe it’s increasingly about having a plan B, C and even D in your career. This type of varied career path is more my style and I look forward to figuring out what these plans may be.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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