Yekta Pakdaman is well on her way to a career in real estate, but trading in her life as an architect at two high-profile New York City firms for that of an MBA student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., wasn’t exactly what she had in mind when she first started out.
Inspired by the work of her father, a Tehran-based architect and urban designer, Pakdaman completed an architecture degree in her native Iran before moving to Canada in 2001 to pursue a master of architecture at the University of Toronto. But when she learned of an advanced architecture degree at Harvard University, the lure of experiencing life south of the border — something she had always wanted to do — got the best of her, so she jetted off to Cambridge, Mass., where she completed another master’s degree.
Pakdaman’s interest in the business side of architecture and development was piqued following the three years she spent working as an architect, but she felt getting an MBA would equip her with the business fundamentals she would need to succeed. “I lacked an understanding of what the clients really want, what the constraints are, the budget, the timing, and I realized an MBA would give me a lot more authority and a lot more power to make decisions, and make the right decisions.”
Pakdaman was awarded with a scholarship to Queen’s University’s 12-month MBA program by the Forté Foundation, an American-based organization that promotes women in business. Just six months into the program, she already feels that her decision-making ability has been enhanced through the projects, case studies and presentations she has had to do. But the greatest asset she’ll take with her when she leaves, she says, is increased confidence. “I really think what business school teaches a person is how to be a leader.”
The best advice Pakdaman can give to prospective MBA students is to get some solid work experience before applying. That way, they’ll be better equipped with real-life examples they can draw from. “The more students contribute in the class, and make useful and valuable comments,” she says, “the more everyone will learn.”
With six more months to go in her program, the 30-year-old is contemplating her next move. “My goal is to either focus on real estate projects in consulting companies or move over to work in a real estate company in higher, more senior positions.”