Raised in India by refugees, Kalsang Tanzin has had a long journey to where she is today: living in Toronto, working in her dream job at LinkedIn, and pursuing an Executive MBA at Smith School of Business.
By Hailey Eisen
Kalsang Tanzin recalls watching The Lion King as a child and her dad saying: “You’re Simba!” Today she’s grateful for his message. “He wanted me to know that I was the main character of any movie I wanted to be in.” Growing up with that sense of self-worth has had a big impact on her career.
“My parents were Tibetan refugees who settled in India,” Kalsang explains from her office in downtown Toronto. “They worked incredibly hard and were able to send us to great schools as a result.” The international boarding school in the Himalayas she attended as a teenager exposed her to a diverse group of students from around the world. Next came an undergraduate degree in economics at a liberal arts college in New England. There, Kalsang says she learned “how to challenge myself — how to seek out learning opportunities whether in lecture halls or coffee-shop discussions.”
Upon graduating, Kalsang followed her family to Toronto (where they’d by then settled). It was there, in 2010, that she took a job at Olive Media, the digital media branch of the Toronto Star and La Presse. After three years in digital advertising, she was ready to make a move. Her professional network alerted her to an opportunity at LinkedIn. “The most important part of my decision in choosing LinkedIn rested with the company’s mission and vision: to create economic opportunity for the world’s workforce,” she recalls. “Through my upbringing, I had seen what economic opportunity could do for families and communities — and how powerful that was.”
Five years later — a long time in the tech space — she’s still as passionate about the cause and has worked in a number of areas within LinkedIn, from account management to marketing solutions, sales and people management.
“Through my upbringing, I had seen what economic opportunity could do for families and communities — and how powerful that was.”
A strong advocate of diversity and inclusion, Kalsang has taken on a volunteer role within the company, as global president of Women at LinkedIn, an employee resource group for 2,000 members. She also founded Own Your Story, a program at LinkedIn Toronto that helped empower female employees.
With the support of LinkedIn, Kalsang has also embarked on a new challenge: reconnecting with her love of learning by going back to school to earn an MBA.
Looking to increase her foundation in business and gain access to a diverse network of professionals, Kalsang was drawn to the joint Executive MBA degree offered by Smith School of Business, Queen’s University and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. “I was attracted to the sense of community the program at Queen’s offered,” Kalsang says. “The second degree from Cornell provided an additional benefit, and most importantly, the Executive MBA fit my schedule. I was saddling quite a bit for work and had to maintain that as well.”
During the course of the 17-month program, Kalsang spent every second weekend in class in the Toronto area, and travelled to both the Queen’s and Cornell campuses for residential sessions.
“The balance is challenging,” she says. “It’s important that you recognize it, because if you don’t, you won’t know to ask for help.” She’s learned to set boundaries professionally and with her classmates, and to prioritize all aspects of her life — family, friends, health, work, and school — at different times. “I’ve picked up meditation again…building in time for myself to unwind and focus on having more deliberate mindful moments.”
The best part of doing an MBA while simultaneously working, Kalsang says, is moments when “a class is over and a month later you see the material you’ve learned play out in a professional setting. You’re in a meeting and suddenly it all makes sense.”
The Executive MBA Americas program is the only program of its kind in the world. Want to learn more? Register for the upcoming Aug. 14 online info session highlighting Smith’s two Executive MBA options. Find out what sets these programs apart from the competition and have your questions answered by the programs’ alumni.