When the classroom works to scale

Schulich Tech MBA
Embedding students in Canadian startups through Schulich’s Tech MBA.

Last month, Amanda Fong found herself in Santiago, Chile, presenting a benchmarking analysis to the CEO and management team of a local agriculture-focused venture capital firm.

Originally from Ottawa and now settled in Toronto, Fong has a commerce degree and work experience as a Product Manager for the PC Health portfolio at Loblaw Companies Limited. But she found herself on a two-week study tour of Peru and Chile as part of an optional course in her MBA in Technology Leadership, offered by the Schulich School of Business at York University.

“We take technology as a given in our lives, but no other programs really think about how technology can shape our businesses.”

Dr. Murat Kristal

Along with her classmates, Fong visited a large bank, a renewable energy startup, a recycling plant, a biofactory and vineyard, on a trip that she calls the “highlight” of the 16-month degree known as the Tech MBA.

“The pace of change in the business world is unprecedented,” she explained. “To remain competitive and effective, I knew I needed to invest in myself, continually develop my skills, and challenge the status quo.”

Fundamental principles, with a tech twist

The curriculum of Schulich’s Tech MBA is challenging the status quo of traditional MBAs. It offers courses in financial accounting, economics, marketing, financial reporting, and strategic management, all of which are viewed through a technological lens. 

“We take technology as a given in our lives, but no other programs really think about how technology can shape our businesses,” Dr. Murat Kristal, Director, MBA in Technology Leadership. “There has been a disconnect between what you want to achieve versus how it is going to be achieved technologically.”

To address that gap, the 16-month Tech MBA combines the rigorous framework of an MBA and the dynamic forces of a tech-driven world, covering the essentials of business administration while immersing students in the realities of technology’s impact on business. 

In addition to leading the program, Dr. Kristal designed one of its courses: Digitization of Supply Chain Operations, which preserves the subject’s fundamental principles while incorporating technology into the curriculum.

“If you are going to be taking Digitization of Supply Chain Operations, you need to understand how supply chains work, but our curriculum brings in this additional layer,” he said.

RELATED: Why every business leader in Canada needs a Tech MBA

Dr. Kristal said that the students’ favourite courses include the marketing course and, perhaps surprisingly, the accounting course.

“If you really understand accounting, you understand how an organization actually works. If it’s taught well, which it is in our program, it can be a fun class because you see that each decision in a company has a resource implication,” he explained.

Another standout element of the curriculum is the first-term class on ethics in technology, which delves into the ethical foundations of various technological issues, including artificial intelligence, privacy, and machine replacement. This course encourages students to challenge each other’s ideas and examine various dilemmas, perspectives, and the advantages and disadvantages of management decisions related to technology.

Fong said she also benefited from courses on emerging technologies including blockchain, generative AI, and data analytics, in which she participated in workshops that allowed her to use Tableau to analyze large datasets, derive key insights, and present data in a compelling and engaging story.

Venturing outside the lecture hall

Dr. Kristal agrees that the program is distinguished by its focus on experiential learning.

The program offers guaranteed work placements, guided by the Tech MBA Advisory Council, which includes representatives from organizations such as Amazon, Google, Deloitte, Bell, and KPMG, among others. Additionally, the Tech MBA program pairs students with established mentors for professional development.

 A cornerstone of the program is the Schulich Venture Studio, which is run in partnership between Schulich and Toronto tech hub OneEleven. Students in their third term of the program are teamed up with a high-growth startup preparing to raise their Series A round. Both startups and students are pre-screened by OneEleven and Schulich to ensure a good match. 

Amanda Fong
Amanda Fong said a two-week study tour of Peru and Chile was a highlight of the Tech MBA program (Photo courtesy of Amanda Fong)

“With OneEleven, we found a partner who was committed to building the next generation of entrepreneurial training for both masters students and founders,” said Chris Carder, Executive Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Schulich School of Business. “We also saw this as a way for Schulich to give back to the startup community by bringing our student talent to the table to help out some great companies.”

Selected startups receive pro bono and fully customized “Venture Investment Readiness Reports,” prepared by Tech MBA students under the guidance of industry instructors like Matthew Lombardi of Telus Ventures, Jack Fraser of BDC Growth Fund and Vincent Liu of Square.

This summer, students are working inside OneEleven companies Onecliq.io, a personal AI assistant for content creation, ARKI, which does architecture tech, Brizo FoodMetrics, a game-changer in food service market analytics, and Skinopathy, a pioneering dermatological AI tool created by Schulich MBA alumni and Tech MBA Advisory Council member Keith Loo. 

“It’s a game-changing opportunity to advise those companies, but also to learn directly from the co-founders,” said Carder. “The students have the opportunity to apply everything they are learning in the Tech MBA by supporting these startups in their fundraising plans and  product-readiness.”

Fong is one of the students embedded with Skinopathy through the Venture Studio program this summer, an experience that she hopes will expand her leadership skills as well as her understanding of technology companies.

“I recently met Keith and he embodies the qualities of a passionate, mission-driven, and inspirational leader and I’m beyond excited to be working with cutting edge medical Al,” she said. “The Tech MBA is more than a degree for me, it’s a transformative journey to becoming a confident leader ready to solve real-world problems in an increasingly digital and tech-driven world.”

Feature image courtesy of the Schulich School of Business at York University.


Empower your future in Tech. Offering an evolving curriculum, experiential learning and connections to leaders in the industry, Schulich’s Tech MBA positions students at the forefront of the tech vanguard. Innovate and lead with Schulich’s Tech MBA.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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