Part-time MBA program empowers student’s unconventional journey to success

May 19, 2023

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young man speaking at a lectern with a microphone

Tim Holloway will graduate this June from SFU Beedie’s part-time MBA program.

In a remarkable display of determination and resilience, Tim Holloway, a former firefighter turned business professional, defied the odds and enrolled in a graduate business program despite never completing an undergraduate degree. He will graduate this June from the part-time MBA program at SFU Beedie.

With an unconventional background that included years of firefighting and a successful stint in the real estate and sports and entertainment industries, Holloway’s decision to pursue an MBA may have surprised some. Yet, driven by a desire for personal growth and a yearning to expand his skill set, Holloway recognized the immense value that an MBA education could provide.

Now the Director of Innovation and Insights at global commercial real estate services firm Avison Young, Holloway has spearheaded many local initiatives. He was also instrumental in shaping the landscape of esports in Vancouver as the Director of Operations for the Vancouver Titans and Seattle Surge esports teams under the Aquilini Group.

“I became a firefighter very early into my twenties,” said Holloway. “I spent five and a half years with the Delta Fire Department and loved every second of it. The real-life experiences that first responders go through are truly remarkable and I’ll be forever grateful for my time there.”

Holloway decided he wanted to go into the private sector and became a commercial real estate advisor. Very quickly, he was given an opportunity at one of the fastest-growing real estate development companies, the Onni group, where he focused on their commercial real estate portfolio within the U.S.

Then, an opportunity came up to work for the Aquilini Group—most notably known for being the owners of the Vancouver Canucks and for their master-planned communities involving local Indigenous groups. As it happened, in Holloway’s first few weeks of joining the company, they began to invest in professional video game leagues, also known as esports. Very quickly, this became Holloway’s focus and he immersed himself in this progressive new form of content creation and sports and entertainment.

His experiences at Onni and Aquilini Group showed Holloway that while nothing can replace real-world work and life experience, he could benefit from more institutional education. He contacted SFU and inquired about joining the Graduate Diploma of Business Administration (GDBA) program, but the call didn’t last long as he learned his lack of an undergraduate degree would preclude him from the program.

However, Holloway didn’t give up there. For the next few months, he kept calling twice a day until he managed to speak to an admissions officer at SFU Beedie who saw his potential and advocated for his acceptance into the MBA program. Through many interviews and on probationary acceptance, Holloway embarked on his MBA journey.

The transformative experience at SFU Beedie proved to be the turning point in Holloway’s personal and professional development.

“I can’t speak enough on how the program helped shape my professional and personal development,” said Holloway. “It’s given me a framework on how to approach everyday decisions, understand the difference between perception versus perspective, and provided me with the knowledge to create more informed solutions to complex problems.”

The MBA coursework also instilled in him essential skills such as time management, effective problem-solving techniques, and risk assessment—all crucial attributes for success in the business world.

Holloway highlights two standout projects that left an indelible impact on his professional journey. In his favourite class, Negotiations, led by SFU Beedie professor Mitra Kiamanesh, Holloway immersed himself in real-life simulations, navigating complex negotiation scenarios.

Another memorable project was a business strategy analysis of Tesla, undertaken in his final semester. Constrained by a four-page limit, Holloway was compelled to distill comprehensive research and analysis into a concise yet impactful document.

Holloway immediately applied the hands-on approach and practical insights garnered from these courses into his day-to-day work life. These experiences mirrored the challenges he faces in his professional life, where concise communication and strategic thinking are paramount.

While extracurricular activities were limited due to the pandemic, Holloway represented his cohort as the class representative in the Graduate Business Student Association (GBSA), which allowed him to engage with peers from various graduate programs and foster a supportive network of like-minded individuals.

Asked where he’ll be in the next five to 10 years, Holloway said: “I can’t call it.”

“All I can say is that the future will be underpinned by taking risks, immersing myself within a community or culture of people, and feeding my relentless curiosity towards becoming the best version of myself,” said Holloway. “And I know that I’ll cherish every adventure along the way!”