Beer o’clock at Molson Coors for Olena

Olena Tovstiuk (MBA 2014) likes beer, but she’s a very sober woman. The Senior Strategy Analyst with Molson Coors, the world’s seventh largest brewer, is working hard in her Toronto office to help her new employer prosper in a fast-changing market.
“I think Canada is the second-most profitable beer industry in the world, maybe after Australia,” Olena says, “and there's a lot of interest among brewers to enter the market because of that profitability. But beer is declining, although not all segments.

She says the beer market has five main segments – premium, value, domestic, import and craft – but her company, created in 2005, when one of Canada’s largest beer makers, Molson, merged with major US brewer, Coors, is over-developed in the largest but fastest-declining premium segment.

“It's an interesting strategic question as to how to support our biggest brand in the premium segment but also make sure we have a stake in the other growing segments.

“It's about evaluating whether there are craft breweries that we should be acquiring or adjacencies we should be going into, like cider, to make sure that we continue to grow.”

A taste for strategy

Olena discovered her taste for strategy at MBS. She had a background in public sector management, consulting with KPMG in Canada and Australia, but felt an MBA would help her move into industry.

“I didn't know what function I was best suited for, but through the course and talking to students, I soon realised that I was really interested in strategy.”

As part of her studies, the MBS Careers team found a challenging strategy problem for Olena to work on at SEEK Learning, which partners with Australian higher education providers to offer degrees and other programs online – a potential growth area for the company, whose parent runs Australia’s biggest job site.
“I'm sure that without the SEEK experience, I wouldn't have my current job,” Olena says.

Learning from SEEK

SEEK Learning wanted Olena to investigate the implications for Australia of the trend toward massive open online courses (MOOCS) in the US.

She found the local market was a little different, but the key drivers were much the same – high student debt levels, a shortage of graduates with the skills for future jobs and a gap between finishing studies and finding a career.

Olena says exploiting these drivers isn’t easy for universities and online providers.

“There's a lot of buzz about MOOCS, but I found they're not actually going to revolutionise completely the provision of higher education. A lot of university's are sceptical about partnering with MOOCS because they don't want to erode their brand. They also don't have the resources to put all their material online.

“But I also found was that there were a lot of online providers, labelled as ‘schools as a service’, who partner with universities to help make their content user friendly, and those companies are very successful.”

Olena says SEEK has found that working with established providers to offer the flexibility to complete a course online while working is proving very attractive.

“A lot of their enrolments are women, studying part time, who want to get back into the workforce but are taking care of family and studying in their off times.

For SEEK Learning, having someone with Olena’s analytical talents help them develop their market strategy was very valuable.

‘Fantastic contribution’“

“Olena made a fantastic contribution to the team,” her former manager Olga Rudenko says. “She was given a standalone piece of work that she delivered to the highest executives in the company, and the quality of her work was exceptional.”
Olena’s SEEK experience, while studying at MBS, convinced her that strategy was where she wanted to be.
“I like strategy because you're looking at what's going on in the external environment and thinking about what impact that has on a company. I also like it because you think about a company holistically, and you're able to influence the direction that a company takes in the future. That really appeals to me.”

Why MBS?

It was a year-long program, internationally recognised, and I liked the structure. It was kind of front-end heavy and, on the back-end, students have the opportunity to do an internship to gain some work experience or go on an exchange.
I also really liked the fact that there was a business-in-Asia component, where we all go to China as a cohort.
And when I was working in Australia, I wanted to stay, so that's another reason I thought Melbourne would be a good place to do an MBA.

My cohort

Our cohort was very cohesive. We were all quite close, and we all did things together as a group.  
I think the fact that most of us were international really helped with that, because when you're international and move to a new city, you kind of want to do things together as a group. So, there's sure to be some life-long friends from that, and now I have people to visit from all over the world.


Most valuable MBS add-ons

I found that the personality test, which they do at the beginning of the course, really helps with self-awareness and how you come across to other people. And the workshops to help with resume building were particularly helpful.

To find out how a Melbourne Business School full-time MBA can boost your career prospects, please visit our full-time MBA page.