SFU student swaps professional football for an MBA

Aug 01, 2012

With the Canadian Football League season back in full swing, one of its former stars is embarking on a new chapter in his life. Javier Glatt has swapped locker rooms, training sessions and footballs for lecture rooms, study sessions and books.

After eight years of playing pro football as a linebacker for the CFL’s BC Lions and Edmonton Eskimos, Glatt is now in the final stages of the MBA program at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

The MBA is not the only major change in Glatt’s life, however. The last few years have seen him get married, retire as a professional football player, witness the birth of his first child, Aziza, and this August he will start work in a new position at Goldcorp Inc.

Yet just a few years ago, he hadn’t even considered what he would do when his playing career finished. “As a pro athlete, you have to be so single-minded, so focused on your game, that you don’t have time to think about anything else,” explains Glatt. “It was only in 2010, after I got back from my honeymoon, that I started to think about the future. I spoke to a mentor of mine, Bill Weymark, and he got me thinking about life after football. I decided I had to start thinking of an exit plan from my football career.”

Glatt made the decision to enrol in the Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (GDBA) program at the Beedie School of Business, studying online during his final year of playing football for the Eskimos. “The GDBA is a great program, and when I was studying for it, I realized that I enjoyed learning and being back at school,” he says. “It was tough though. When the other guys were playing cards with each other on flights, I was working on spreadsheets.”

After finding out that it was possible to transfer into SFU’s MBA program from the GDBA, Glatt began to consider the idea. It was then that he once again displayed the single-mindedness that saw him become so successful on the playing field, deciding to call time on his football career early to focus on his studies. He initially took a position working as an intern in real estate development, before enrolling in the MBA program in order to learn the tools he would need to go into a career in business.

“Pro football was such a big part of my life for so long, but I was ready for something different,” explains Glatt. “I’ve had four major surgeries in my career. I tore my ACL, broke my leg, dislocated my ankle and tore my pectoral major muscle. I only ever got taken off the field on a stretcher. My body had had enough, it was tired of the beating it was taking. I had so much fun playing football, but I’m equally as excited to start my business career.”

By his own admission, Glatt was never the most academically-focused student when studying for his undergraduate degree in sociology at UBC. He was drafted by the BC Lions before he had finished his degree, eventually graduating in 2009 after completing his outstanding courses during the off-seasons. Yet he has taken the MBA experience in stride, with much of the experience gained from his football career proving useful.

“The MBA program is intense, although it’s a lot less cut-throat than pro football,” says Glatt. “I competed in a 24-hour case competition with some of my MBA cohort and we made the final, meaning we were up for 30 hours straight. The judges grilled us, but I was pleased with the way we handled it. Playing football, you are under a lot of pressure and are being filmed at all times, with your actions then analyzed for days afterwards. My experience in pro football taught me how to deal with immense pressure and retain my focus, something I’ve had to use a lot in the MBA.”

To add another variable into the equation, the birth of Glatt’s daughter coincided with the start of the MBA. “I was like a zombie for a lot of the morning lectures in the first semester,” he says. “She has two speeds: go fast and go faster. I drank a lot of espresso at the beginning of the MBA program.”

Yet despite the fact that his life has changed so much, so quickly, Glatt seems to take it all in his stride. “It all feels natural to me,” he says. “My wife and I have known each other for 13 years and been together for nine years now. She must wake up every so often and wonder who this guy next to her is because I have changed so much. Football was everything to me for so long, but now I’m just as committed to my education and my new career.”

When quizzed as to whether he misses playing football, Glatt’s response may surprise some people. “No, I don’t miss playing,” he answers emphatically. “I miss the locker room atmosphere and I miss the guys and playing cards with them, but no, I don’t miss playing football. I feel fortunate to have had the MBA to concentrate on and it’s really helped me to adjust to my new life.”

Throughout his life, Glatt has had many achievements of which to be proud, but for him, obtaining his MBA will be on a par with any. “After seven years with the BC Lions, I left with a Grey Cup and was an All-Star, but the MBA ranks right up there,” he says. “I was never the most accomplished undergraduate student, but this shows what you can do when you truly apply yourself and are passionate about what you are doing. I even made the honour roll last semester for the first time in my life. I’m pretty proud of where I am just now.”

Glatt’s new position will allow him to work in his favourite area, international business, a subject which was brought to his attention during the MBA. “The MBA program really opened my eyes to my passion for international business and sustainable development,” he says. “When I first started the program I thought I would ultimately return to working in real estate development, but the program opened the door for me to other avenues. I’m very fortunate that my new role will allow me to travel, especially to the Americas. I am always excited to see the way different cultures conduct business. My plan is to soak up as much information as I can with Goldcorp and make an impact.”

With so much change in his life, it is understandable that Glatt does not know exactly what the future holds, but one thing he is certain of, is that his life in football is now over. “I haven’t had any time for football at all since I left,” he says. “I still try to watch on TV but I didn’t even make it to the Lions’ Grey Cup triumph last Autumn. I hope to coach some little league football in the future, but that’s as far as I’d go. Who knows though, maybe I’ll have another rugrat to pass my skills on to.”