Thursday night was the monthly alumni networking session for Ivy Business School. I never really thought I would be someone who would go to business school, let alone become part of a business school alumni organization. But I really like the organizers so I go to chat with people – and cause trouble 😉
This week I said inflammatory things about executive pay levels and expressed the view that Quebec is the equivalent to a whiny spoiled brat within confederation (of course, part of that audience included French Canadians – otherwise it would have been boring 😉
No one kicked me out of the club though. And since it’s principally men I think they secretly like the fact that I normally show up in short skirts and flirt with them. Because I don’t have a proper job so am rarely coming there from an office.
But I turned out more business school than I would have ever thought possible. I may not have a proper job but I have a decently successfully consulting practice that I am hoping will allow me to semi-retire by 55 and keep bringing in a little cash flow as long as it’s entertaining.
So I did learn a thing or two at Western… as the business school was known back in my day – before the rebranding and corporate sponsorship. In those days, it was the most famous business school in Canada and trying hard to be the Canadian version of “Harvard Business School.” We used the case study method and a lot of the cases we discussed had been written at Harvard.
This was the 80’s, people. You’ve seen Wall Street? The 80s were actually a really interesting time. The world was full of poverty and protest. We were well past the glories of the post-war renaissance and everyone was trying to come to grips with what to do with the western world. Somehow Germany and Japan had lost the political war but won economically.
So everyone in North America was trying to figure out how to kick start the economy. Some things worked. Some things didn’t. It was a decade filled with both serious recession and economic excess. It was actually a pretty interesting time to be in business school with academics trying to figure it all out.
I’m not entirely sure how I got into Western Business School in 1983. I had to work every minute to pay for it so managed to convince them I didn’t need to do the requisite courses and would parachute in from a Bachelor of Commerce program at the University of Manitoba to third year business school at the University of Western Ontario.
I had planned on the challenge being the academic part of my life but that was pretty easy. What I was completely unprepared for was the fact that I was now part of one of the “country club” university choices made by children of privilege from Toronto who had attended private schools in the great British tradition.
I felt like a complete alien. I had no idea what to say and no chance of blending in. Luckily, I spent the summer between third and fourth year in Calgary at the lucrative summer job in an oil company I had secured from my University of Manitoba connections. The summer of 1983 will remain one of the most important periods of my life. I still have a number of friends from those four months.
But what changed my Western experience was meeting Mike. He was from Toronto. He had gone to private school. He was impossibly sophisticated to a country bumpkin like me. I spent the first party we threw together in the kitchen cutting fruit cause I had no idea how to talk to his friends. It was as though I had been transported into the Bloomsburg circle without a manual.
Mike taught me a lot about life – and was the catalyst for my conversion to city girl and eventually to globe-trotting adventuress. But what was most important for me that summer was Mike introducing me into his world of “faux punks”. He was obsessed with music so that was the crux of it. But the people he knew dressed funny. We tried to be shocking. We wanted to shake up society.
There is a lot more to say about the 80s. But what changed for me at the country club is that I went back into fourth year not caring about trying to fit it anymore. I didn’t have the background. I didn’t have the cash. So I wouldn’t be Eliza Doolittle. I would be Siouxsie Sioux.
It was a wonderful lesson. If you don’t care about fitting in and don’t try, people will gravitate to you. They will be fascinated. Nobody kicked me out of the Ivy Alumni. I think they like that I liven up the events a little 😉