David Thompson: Firefighter, husband, dad, and now, MBA grad
Despite all of life’s ups and downs, with the support of the people around him, David Thompson has accomplished a great deal. He wears a lot of hats, including husband, dad, firefighter, and business owner.
He can now add Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate after finishing the MBA program at the MBA program at the Athabasca University Faculty of Business (AU-FB).
Getting to the MBA
Thompson currently works as a firefighter for the City of Guelph, Ont. He has been in this role since 2011, and before that, he worked as a volunteer firefighter for seven years while working full time as Chief Building Official for his local municipality.
His educational background included a construction engineering technologist (CET) diploma, and he followed this up with his CET designation in 2002. But his desire to continue learning was still there, and it was his now-wife, Heather Thompson, who introduced him to AU-FB’s MBA program.
“When we met, she had just graduated from the program in 2013,” he said. “She had lots of positive things to say about the program and the delivery, so she was really the one who introduced me to it in late 2013.”
Because of AU-FB’s entrance requirements for the MBA, Thompson was able to use his CET designation and previous work experience to enter the program.
“I had always wanted to do an MBA somewhere, but I didn’t think it was possible until I found AU,” he said. “It was all because of my wife. She understood the program, the time commitments, and how it all worked.”
Life doesn’t slow down just because you started your MBA
Thompson started the program in 2016, but that didn’t mean his life slowed down. He faced navigating the difficulties of co-parenting and battles for custody of his two children from a previous relationship. There were also the daily challenges and risks that come with being a full-time firefighter working on the front lines of his community.
He and his wife also added a daughter in December 2017, and then twin boys in November 2018. He said one of the major highlights was delivering his daughter—with his first-responder background, plus the training and guidance of a midwife, it was an incredible experience.
During his MBA journey, Thompson and his wife also started several businesses. From construction, consulting, and real estate, Thompson used each MBA course as a foundation upon which he grew each new business.
“Each course I took was very purposeful,” he said. “When I took my finance course, I was working with the bank to secure financing for my new business, so it was fun to put what I was learning in theory and put it right into practice.”
Despite the many ups and downs of life throughout his coursework, he was never alone. The management at the City of Guelph, fire department leadership, and his fellow firefighters were tremendously supportive throughout his program.
Thompson also relied on his wife and in-laws, since his family isn’t very close. He recognized the supportive AU-FB team members, but also how the program was structured, that enabled him to finish it.
“I was working at my own pace and through asynchronous learning. Not only could I continue working as a firefighter, but we could also travel all over the world,” he said. “I did lots of homework on planes and in international destinations.”
Bali, the Maldives, Holland, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Cuba, Mexico, the United States, and Costa Rica were some of the places they traveled to over the course of his full MBA program.
“We don’t really sleep!” Thompson said. “You know, the babies haven’t slept for a couple of years, so there’s that!”
His favourite course was one of the MBA’s in-residence electives, International Business: Understanding and Managing Risks. It was a thoughtful and interesting course that allowed him to meet some of his fellow classmates in person in Washington, D.C.
“The things that we were exposed to… I never thought in a million years that I would be in the rooms that this course brought us into,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about that course in particular.”
Having such a diverse and qualified group of students entering the program enriched the experience for Thompson. There were people from different organizations in countries around the world. This set up enabled them to bring their unique perspectives and depth of knowledge. His classmates were also very understanding and supportive throughout.
“I can’t say enough positive things about the MBA program,” he said. “I’m very grateful that I found it and was accepted to the program. It’s been great accomplishing my dreams when I didn’t think it was possible.”
What’s next for Thompson?
“We are diversifying our businesses. We just purchased an office building, and are looking to move,” Thompson said. “We’ll almost have a business for each kid! It’s been good and very, very busy. We will keep moving forward.”