After an MBA in Europe, from Copenhagen Business School, Pamela Tiller launched a career in sustainability in North America, her home. She is currently running a government-backed sustainable urban development project for the Danish Trade Council, in Toronto.
Her journey to get there began when she was just 22, after graduating from Ryerson University, Toronto, with a degree in urban and regional planning—a far cry from her childhood spent in “the middle of nowhere” in Nova Scotia, she says.
Pamela began working for a niche consulting firm, covering the automotive sector, an industry she was familiar with from the days her father owned a car dealership. She had questioned it beforehand though, she says, having spent four years on her degree being drilled on the maleficence of cars.
“I thought, 'I’m going to try and change something',” she remembers. “I really wanted to show my clients that they should be focusing on operational sustainability, and not just when the next electric vehicle was coming out, because millennials like me would be demanding that more.
“I kept being told there was no business case for that, and there was an uphill battle as a young lady working in that sector, trying to promote green building.”
She was convinced there was a business case there, but felt she lacked the business tools necessary to communicate this. She realized she had a nascent set of leadership and management skills, skills that would be harnessed by an MBA—something that as a woman, she explains, helps to remove some of the barriers blocking executive positions.
Finding Copenhagen Business School
When she first began looking for an MBA degree, Pamela kept being told about the importance of finding the right MBA program for you. Weren’t they all the same? she thought.
She recalls attending an MBA fair, and sitting in on a panel about women in business. Here she was, sat in a room of about 80 women, and there was one sole man in the room, on the panel, serendipitously from Copenhagen Business School.
His name was Andrew, Pamela recalls, and he oversaw recruiting at the time. “I remember thinking, ‘who is this guy talking about Copenhagen?’” she says.
“I remember talking to Andrew and finding out about corporate social responsibility, and sustainability.”
She also found out about the small class size at Copenhagen Business School, the strong female representation in the class, and she remembers thinking why not; why not study an MBA in the “best city in the world for people, from an urban planner perspective.”
Launching a career in sustainability in North America
Pamela was ready to move back to Canada not long after graduating, when she was offered a job by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark, as an expert on the intersection between North American and Danish urban planning—her current role is as a senior trade advisor.
The story of how she was offered the job, she explains, is a “little bit of network, a little bit of Copenhagen, and a little bit of the MBA”.
Pamela had applied to a junior position a few months before but had been told she was too senior for the role. Then, her now predecessor for her current role called her one day, explaining that she was leaving and thought Pamela was perfect for the role.
She met the head of trade a few weeks later in the city, someone whose kids go to school with her old boss’s children. At the same time, her old boss had also just sent her a job offer, and she jokes about the two men, standing on the touchline of their kids’ soccer match, arguing over who should get to hire her.
The Danish Trade Council prevailed, and right now Pamela is managing a project called Nordic City Solutions, one of five initiatives that has the backing of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland’s Prime Ministers. She leads the rolling out of Scandinavian solutions to urban planning challenges.
The Copenhagen Business School MBA experience
“The Scandinavian sense of value is unique, it’s about the connective we,” says Pamela. “They are stewards of our earth and society. If you are going to be doing an MBA in Denmark […] you need to have a sense of that value.”
As an expat, Pamela says learning about business in Denmark, and the Danish philosophy, means that MBA students can go back to their home countries as seeds for change.
“If you sprinkle a little bit of this Danish philosophy in different business locations around the world, I think that’s really nice.
“At 4:30pm in Denmark somebody hits the fun switch […] that could be having dinner with your family, going to jump in the harbor, or having a night out with your friends.
“It’s this enjoyment of life I don’t think you’ll get anywhere else, and that I will never stop appreciating.”