Name: Tal Dehtiar
Career/Title: Founder & President, Oliberté Limited (Footwear)
Education: BA, Media, Information and Technoculture (University of Western Ontario); MBA (McMaster)
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I loved sports, so probably a baseball player or hockey player.
What was the first thing that you were ever paid to do?
Richmond Hill Liberal Newspaper delivery boy.
What was your favourite subject in high school?
Was it also your best subject?
Did you continue to study it in post-secondary school?
Which post-secondary school did you attend?
BA, Media Information and Technoculture – University of Western Ontario (2.5 years)
Exchange – Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (0.5 years)
MBA – DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University (2.5 years)
Did you ever change (or consider changing) programs?
I originally was accepted into Western and other schools of Kinesiology, but quickly changed to the MIT program (i.e. Communications) – more my thing. I was accepted to NYU in New York, but for a lot of reasons, mainly financial, I couldn’t pursue it and took the year off to travel around Latin America (not before writing my GMAT exam). I was accepted into McMaster for the MBA with a specialty in Health Service Management, but after a year in, I preferred to take a more general MBA.
When you think about your college/university experience, is there a particular memory that comes to mind?
Whether it was my BA or MBA, it was a chance to try things without worry that the world would end if I made a mistake. I was never the best student in terms of marks. Funny, the one moment that still stands out for me is when, during my MBA, my marks really hadn’t been great and though I was originally supposed to go on exchange to France, I was denied in the end. The reason given by the school was that, given my poor performance, I may not be the best to represent the school at an international level. It’s kind of funny now when I look back, given that everything I have done is international. I totally respect the decision at the time, because school is about academics, but it’s just funny the way things work out.
What was your favourite part about your post-secondary experience? Least favourite?
Favourite: My exchange to Singapore.
Least Favourite: Having to work late nights washing dishes at a restaurant and then studying the rest of the night for finals.
When you graduated, did you receive a job right away?
When I finished my BA, I didn’t make my family too proud mowing lawns at $7/hour – but I knew it was temporary as I was leaving for Latin America to travel around for a year with a friend.
When I finished my MBA, I had already launched MBAs Without Borders, but it was in its infancy. I took the first few months to travel and hitchhiked around Eastern and Southern Africa, and then began working in Sales for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals as I worked on MBAs Without Borders on the side (until 2007).
Did you pursue another degree?
After the BA and MBA, for me that was enough. I think academics are key and instrumental in my path, but the only degree I love pursuing now is the daily challenge of work and life balance.
Was your first job out of school related to your degree?
Co-Founder, MBAs Without Borders
Sales Rep, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals
Which of your skills do you find to be the most helpful in your line of work?
Trusting in people.
What is one skill that you wish you possessed?
Ability to freeze time.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing similar opportunities?
We live in the greatest country in the world with all the advantages to us. My parents came to this country with no knowledge of business, no contacts, and barely any English. They were able, in their late-30s-early-40s after moving 2 countries and with 2 kids, to start from nothing. If they could do it, you can. You will have student debt, loans, bills to pay, but so what? You and the richest people in the world have one thing in common: you’re just as rich and just as poor when you’re 6 feet under, so you might as well give a few things a try.
What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
1st: Having a large and healthy family.
2nd: Bringing Oliberté to the point where we can help create 1,000,000 jobs in Africa through footwear and/or manufacturing in general.
If you could go back to the end of high school and do things over again, would you change anything?
Academics: I’d stay away from teachers that shouldn’t be teaching, and more fully engage with the ones that should.
Socially: I would have started traveling earlier with friends. I first left for the jungles of Belize on my own at 17 and still wish it was younger. That experience is what really showed me what I should be doing.
Employment: I’d get a real job, even basic – maybe the best learning experience possible in terms of time management and life during that time.
What do you wish you had known in high school before you pursued your education/career?
The time you spend stressing over tests and marks isn’t as important as knowing what kind of person you want to be.