His name might indicate otherwise, but today Jason Halfyard has come full-circle.
He just received his MBA from Athabasca University.
Halfyard’s roots start in small-town central Alberta — Didsbury, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, within the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.
In between receiving business administration and communications diplomas from Lethbridge College, he slowly worked his way up to a busy life, both personally and professionally, based in Calgary.
Halfyard is a manager with the City of Calgary. He’s been there since 2005—starting as a business strategist. He started his MBA at AU in 2008.
Next, he upped it a notch to assistant to the GM and, at his academic halfway mark, became manager, Accommodation and Asset Planning in the City’s Corporate Properties and Buildings Operations division.
He believes he wouldn’t have achieved such City Hall cred without his MBA armour.
“Typically the City is backed on higher education so the more senior you want to become you have to progress with your educational requirements,” Halfyard explains.
And while his accomplishments on the job and at school are merit-worthy, it’s the fact he did them simultaneous to helping raise small children, now ages six and four, as a single dad.
But there were times, Halfyard concedes, he wasn’t sure he’d mark the end of the journey. Doing one’s MBA while also juggling dad and suit duties might make many question finishing.
“It doesn’t seem like a journey when you’re going through it because of all the life pulls and things that are coming at you,” he says.
But today he’s happy, proud and relieved to get to the finish line. Moreover, he’s grateful to those who encouraged him along the way.
“It’s a very rewarding journey at the end of it,” says Halfyard.
“You just need to have the tenacity and the support from people around you to keep going at it. I was very fortunate to have [those] people—whether those just [checking in] or those saying ‘c’mon, you’ve got to get it done’—it was quite an array of support.”
Support also came from his teachers, particularly Faculty of Business Dean Deborah Hurst and Academic Leadership Coach Tim Nerenz. Halfyard did two residential courses among others under Hurst’s lead.
“She’s a good mentor, a good prof and a good friend,” he says.
He equally appreciated Nerenz’ expertise bringing mergers and acquisitions to life on one week-long residential class trip to San Diego with 30 of his classmates.
Says Halfyard: “Tim’s very engaging and eloquent in his delivery. He [delivers] course content really calmly yet energetically. He’s friendly, no-B.S., and very enthusiastic.”
Residential courses typically involve learning about a subject matter and then doing case studies and site tours which, Halfyard says, aid in the understanding of the content.
“Residentials are a lot of fun. They’re a good way to network and build some connections over your education career, and a really good way to stay in touch with people.
But they’re also a good way to lead the workplace and immerse yourself in the subjects rather than doing it off the side of your desk,” he says.
“Typically, you engage in a site tour or a presentation that really brings in the theory with the application of real life. We did a naval shipyard tour. It had been built up with many years of mergers and acquisitions along the way. It’s unbelievable how big these ships are,” Halfyard marvels.
He adds such types of learning opportunities, like the one in San Diego, enable students to interface and network with teammates while fully integrating and applying the course content on-site, a satisfying cap to the subject they’ve been studying for weeks leading up to the trip.
Halfyard says his AU education harmonized with his demanding job managing a high-profile City of Calgary portfolio that has grown to approximately $3.4 billion dollars in assets.
For those considering doing their MBA at Athabasca University, he says prospects ought to prepare to work hard but consider the timing.
“Definitely weigh out your life readiness in terms of where you’re at. You certainly need to juggle and make sure you’re balanced and that you have a support system so that you’re able to enable your successful completion. But it is a rewarding pursuit at the end of the day.”
Nurturing networking and having fun is also key.
“Networking is huge. I still keep in touch with quite a few of [my teammates],” he says.
Feeling relieved to finally be finished, Halfyard admits he considered foregoing convocation. He’s still in the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming, early, post-grad stages of having a weekend to think about things other than operational asset management.
But his colleagues felt differently.
“A lot of my classmates actually pushed me and convinced me to go to convocation. It is awesome. It was good to have them internally supporting me.”
He says he’ll consider doing his Doctorate in Business Administration later on when his kids are older and he has more time to commit to research and applications.
For now, Halfyard wants to enjoy a more balanced life.
“I’m going to take the time to enjoy my family. AU is a great program; it’s a great place to be. It’s been a wonderful experience. I’m glad it’s over.”