The part-time MBA is designed for business professionals who want to broaden their expertise without throwing a spanner in the works of their careers.

Patrick Brayley graduated from the part-time MBA of McGills Desautels Faculty of Management (Canada) in 2016. He hails from Canada. Having worked in the entertainment industry for nearly a decade, Patrick has accumulated a wealth of experience in major event development, mergers and acquisitions, as well as request-for-proposal bidding. His noteworthy milestones include a winning bid for the 20-year management rights to a USD 200M, 10,000-seat arena. He has also participated in the development or acquisition of several world-renowned festivals, including Osheaga and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Patrick holds a B.Com from Concordia University. He graduated from McGill’s Desautels Professional MBA programme in April 2016 to join a top-tier management consulting firm shortly thereafter.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA degree at McGill?

My choice to pursue an MBA degree was the result of a fortunate discussion with a mentor who recommended I continue building my CV. Once I committed to that decision, I approached it like any major investment. I looked beyond the financial implications, and into the time and energy required to gain the most from it. That perspective put a premium on attending a top-tier school, making the McGill Desautels MBA a clear frontrunner.

Getting an MBA was also the best way to address knowledge gaps revealed to me as my career got underway. Although I had gained a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com) degree at the time, I quickly ran into areas of business that I needed to strengthen in order to do justice to my more senior positions.

McGill’s part-time MBA programme was perfectly suited to my needs, allowing me to benefit from a rich curriculum without skipping a beat in the workplace. I was ultimately able to fill in many of the gaps I had identified and pick up a great number of unexpected returns.

What factors made you choose a part-time MBA instead of another format?

The most critical factor was not taking a break from work. I did not want to run the risk of losing momentum I had established in my career to date. Fortunately, I was even able to accelerate my professional development over the three-year programme, which turned out to be a big win-win situation for me.

The financial benefits of not putting a hold on your earnings are also worth noting. Beyond the MBA expenses, it offers a major cost-related opportunity to avoid pushing the pause button on your career. The part-time option greatly diminishes the financial pressure of returning to school, which makes it one of the more accessible routes for aspiring MBAs.

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With hindsight, there are many other advantages related to pursuing a part-time MBA, including honing my time management skills and building relationships with like-minded, driven people from a wide range of industries.

Do you feel satisfied with your choice of a part-time programme?

Absolutely. The beauty of McGill’s part-time MBA programme is that it offers the breadth and depth of a full-time programme. This includes pursuing a specialisation, which was critical to me because I entered the programme with a business background and little interest in covering areas I had already explored.

The greatest source of satisfaction came from being able to learn something in a classroom on a Tuesday evening and then applying it in a meeting with my team the following morning. I cannot overstate how critical a role this played in crystalysing what I had learnt. The workplace became the perfect complement to the classroom, with the two worlds playing off each other to create more and more value. I cannot see how I would have retained as much of the material had I not been applying it daily over the past three years.

Another highlight which I cannot overlook was our ten-day study trip to Singapore last spring. Both streams, part-time and full-time, were invited to participate in this unforgettable experience, giving us the opportunity to see first-hand how business is conducted elsewhere. That trip was incredibly inspiring and made me realise that I wanted to have a career which would take me around the world.

How would you describe the learning environment and subjects in the course?

The programme offers a very dynamic learning environment, with a balanced combination of casework and theory. The fact that it allows students to select courses based on their interests was a major advantage, and provided a degree of flexibility which is not found in every part-time MBA.

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The classroom was always particularly exciting when the material was related to the work experience of one or several classmates, which was actually a frequent occurrence given their diverse backgrounds. Being able to see the practical merits of material and gleaning industry-specific insights from expert peers was invaluable.

How hard was it for you to combine work and study during that time?

My honest answer is that the first few months were very challenging. It took me some time to get back into the rhythm of school while working at a demanding job.

The good news is that I saw for myself how being put in situations where you need to test yourself is exactly how you grow. My peers and I quickly adapted and became a living proof of Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill the available time. It is amazing what you can do in a short period of time when you put yourself in a must-perform situation!

You also learn to establish a strong support network, starting with your fellow part-time students. The shared challenges become a bonding agent, laying a foundation for incredible relationships. Our resultant camaraderie is something I will value for the rest of my life.

Check out: The Diversity of Part-Time MBA Formats

What has the part-time MBA degree given you, career-wise?

The part-time MBA yielded major benefits both during and after the programme. As I moved through the curriculum I gained confidence in my abilities and, more importantly, a newfound awareness of the subtleties of business. I came to appreciate and refine the soft skills needed to be more effective in the workplace.

More tangibly, I entered the programme as an analyst and, by applying what I was learning, rose to a director-level role within 18 months. Entering my final year, I found myself being presented with opportunities I had not even considered before starting my MBA. As a result, today I am gearing up to start an exciting new career working for a top-tier management consulting firm.

The whole experience has been nothing short of a life transformation. I will always look back at my decision to pursue a part-time MBA at McGill as a major turning point – one I am tremendously thankful for.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “Two Sides of the Same Grit (Interview)”. An online version of the Guide is available here.