Learning and Leaning In: How an EMBA gave Darielle Corsaro the confidence to take her career to new heights
Darielle Corsaro was looking for a new challenge. On the advice of a mentor, she enrolled in an MBA program — and returned to work not only with added knowledge, but also a newfound confidence. The former controller is now VP of finance and operations, and embracing big-picture thinking.
By Kristen Sears
Darielle Corsaro never once thought about getting her MBA. Ever. The 33-year-old, who grew up in Irma, Alberta, spent her twenties working full-time in Edmonton — first as an accounting assistant at a car dealership, then as a controller with the Summit Group of Companies, a manufacturer and distributor of valves and control systems.
Along the way she got a degree in accounting from the University of Lethbridge and also completed her CGA.But after revamping Summit’s accounting department, by 2015, Darielle felt she was ready for a new challenge. She just wasn’t sure what to pursue.
Fortunately, her mentor had an idea: He suggested she get her MBA.
“He told me that I was pigeonholing myself into accounting, that I had so much more to offer,” she recalls. “I thought I was done with school at that point. But I love learning. That’s always been one of my strengths.”
Three years ago, Darielle enrolled in the Queen’s Executive MBA Americas program and was the recipient of a tuition-based scholarship awarded by the business school in partnership with the 30% Club, a global organization dedicated to accelerating the representation of women at senior levels in business.
“The whole experience was life changing,” she says. “It was mentally and intellectually stimulating — and when I finished the program I’d evolved into someone completely different.”
During the program, Darielle realized that her heart and soul was no longer solely in accounting; she wanted more.
“I really realized that I could bring value and make an impact in a lot of different ways, over and above just the financial side of the business. It’s almost like I needed the encouragement or permission that it was okay to offer my input in areas that weren’t 100 per cent in my wheelhouse,” she explains.
Prior to entering the EMBA Americas program, a dual-degree program offered jointly by Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business and Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Darielle says if she was in a meeting she shied away from engaging in discussion outside of her field of expertise.
“As I progressed in my EMBA, I found myself giving my opinion and input more and more outside of the accounting department, and it was very much welcomed.”
“It was mentally and intellectually stimulating — and when I finished the program I’d evolved into someone completely different.”
With newfound confidence, Darielle set to work with a colleague and developed a plan to restructure Summit and create a VP position for herself. She then presented the plan to the company’s owner. “If it wasn’t for the MBA, I would never have had the moxie to do that — not in a million years.”
Darielle says her new position as VP of finance and operations goes beyond financial statements, cash flow, KPI’s, metrics and reports. It involves big-picture thinking and strategic decision-making.
“As a controller, my job was always very transactional. I did love the black and white of accounting, but now I’m in a much more transformational role,” she says. “Questions I would have before would be, ‘how can we get the financial statements completed faster?’ But now, questions I have are, ‘how can we structure ourselves so that we can achieve double growth?’”
Outside of the office, Darielle has more free time than she’s had in years — having graduated with her MBA this past spring — which she is taking full advantage of. She’s taken up meditation, reconnected with friends, and is catching up on some reading. She’s also found a new way to satisfy her desire to learn by volunteering on a board of directors for Northern Light Theatre, an Edmonton-based theatre company.
“I’m really focused on giving back, I want to pay it forward in any way I can,” she says.
Are you looking for your next challenge? Each year, Smith School of Business, in partnership with the 30% Club, offers two scholarships to highly-qualified women entering its Executive MBA programs. Here, you’ll find more information about the scholarship and Smith’s other initiatives in support of the advancement of women in the workplace.