A co-op placement while earning a math and computer science degree introduced Shannon Kot to the consulting world. A few years later, at the urging of her mentor, she chose to complement her skills with an MBA from Smith School of Business. In just seven years, Shannon had made partner at Deloitte — a feat she attributes not only to the knowledge she gained, but also to the leadership skills and confidence earned along the way.
By Hailey Eisen
Shannon Kot’s career path has taken her from an undergraduate degree in computer science, in 2008, to becoming a partner at Deloitte this past summer. Looking back, she attributes much of her success to mentors who helped her along the way.
The first was her mom. As Shannon explains: “[My mother] had been a computer science major in the 1980s, and I watched her career — from working in IT for an oil company, to working for the province of British Columbia in IT services, and finally to being named deputy minister in 2017.” (Shannon’s mom is Jill Kot, deputy minister at B.C.’s Ministry of Citizens’ Services.)
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Shannon took a computer science class in her first year at university. To her surprise, she loved it, and by her second year had started a co-op math and computer science degree. “I would say most of the professors knew my name,” Shannon recalls. “Perhaps that’s because I was really keen — but I also happened to be one of the few girls in the program.”
She did her final co-op placement at Deloitte in Toronto. There, she decided to pursue a career in consulting. She leapt at the chance to join Deloitte’s Technology Strategy and Architectures practice in Ottawa — a city, she notes, that is more comparable in size to her hometown of Victoria than Toronto.
It was in Ottawa where Shannon met her next mentor, Nousha Ram. Nousha would come to have an immeasurable impact on her career. “Within Deloitte, everyone is assigned a coach, and I was lucky to have Nousha, who provided a great deal of support and guidance,” Shannon recalls.
Critically, Nousha looked at Shannon’s background in computer science and technology and suggested that what Shannon needed was a stronger understanding of business. “She gave me a swift kick and said, ‘If you’re going to go back to school, now is the time.’ ”
Knowing she had Deloitte’s support, Shannon began to search for an MBA program that would be a good fit and allow her to get the most out of her investment. “I started applying to a few schools. But after visiting Queen’s and meeting the Smith administrative team, sitting in on classes and connecting with other students, I realized it was a perfect program for me. I didn’t bother finishing any of the other applications.”
“Looking back, I realize that the impact she had on me as a person and a professional was phenomenal. When you’re lucky enough to find a coach, or mentor, or sponsor who thinks you can take on the world — it’s a beautiful gift.”
Going back to school gave Shannon the opportunity to develop her business knowledge and leadership skills. “It was also an opportunity to step back and look at who I was as a professional, who I wanted to be as a leader and coach, and how to develop the confidence required to get to where I wanted to be professionally.”
At Smith, Shannon had the opportunity to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, including a number of mentors and coaches. And she garnered the skills and confidence to coach others on her team. “I learned to provide candid feedback when necessary, something I had always struggled with,” she recalls.
Here, a fellow student and member of her team was especially helpful. “He had been a high school teacher prior to doing his MBA, and was far more experienced navigating conflict and confrontation than I was,” she says. “These skills came naturally to him, so he would coach me on how to handle different situations, which helped me as a leader a great deal.”
Shannon says the MBA program and the year away from work did wonders for her confidence. It helped her solidify plans to return to Deloitte upon graduation, in 2012, and to work toward making partner.
Now that she’s achieved that goal, Shannon is happy to enjoy the moment — at least for the time being. “When I made partner, I felt very proud that I had reached something I knew I wanted to achieve. I also felt, and still feel, a great responsibility to those who helped me get here. I want to make Nousha proud and I’m eager to help develop the next generation of leaders.”
Her advice for others is simple. “The earlier you can start to know yourself better, the better off you’ll be,” she says. “Begin by asking yourself questions, such as: Do you understand the value you can contribute? Do you understand your own values? Finding clarity in those areas helps improve decision making and helps you solidify your ‘North Star.’ ”
Sadly, Shanon’s mentor at Deloitte, Nousha, passed away a few years ago. Says Shannon, “Looking back, I realize that the impact she had on me as a person and a professional was phenomenal. When you’re lucky enough to find a coach, or mentor, or sponsor who thinks you can take on the world — it’s a beautiful gift.”
MBA students at Smith School of Business build their leadership capacities through the school’s innovative team-based learning model and are supported by dedicated team, life, and executive coaches. Learn more here.