Friday, February 1, 2019
Torys partner Cornell Wright at the podium to open the 2019 JD/MBA networking event

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo / Photos by Dhoui Chang

A frigid polar vortex in January couldn’t keep 90 alumni and students from the U of T Faculty of Law and Rotman School of Management attending the 2019 JD/MBA annual networking event, with guest speaker Dan Debow, Class of 2000, and hosted generously by Torys LLP.

On the 33rd floor of the TD Tower, and as the sun set over Toronto, current students in the combined program mingled and met JD/MBA alumni from across the years and heard from Dean Ed Iacobucci and Dean Tiff Macklem, after introductions by Torys partner, Cornell Wright, LLB/MBA 2000 and associate Emily Debono, JD/MBA 2015.

Guest speaker Dan Debow at the podium.

Serial entrepreneur Dan Debow, former SVP at Salesforce.com, co-founder of Rypple, Workbrain and Helpful.com, where he was CEO, is now VP of corporate development at Shopify, which recently purchased Helpful.com.

He spoke engagingly about his deep appreciation for his time at the University of Toronto studying at two top professional faculties.

“This program changed my life,” said Debow. “I did not know where I was going to go, and I didn’t know what opportunities existed for me in the world.” Debow said it was events such as the annual JD/MBA gathering that opened him up to myriad people in the legal and business worlds. “I took advantage of them; that’s where I met Rob Prichard and Brent Belzberg for the first time…This is the most elite program for recruiting. I am tremendously indebted, and that’s why I’ll keep giving back.”

Group shot of Dean Ed Iacobucci, Cornell Wright, Dan Debow, Emily Debono and Tiff Macklem

Dean Ed Iacobucci, Cornell Wright, Dan Debow, Emily Debono and Dean Tiff Macklem

He had some advice for those in attendance who were still in school, and left four takeaways for his listeners:

“Be mindful while you’re at the school.” Debow encouraged the JD/MBA students to appreciate their time in school. “I was very aware of how wonderful this program was, learning at a pace I never had before. The world truly is your oyster right now.

“Really hold onto your friends that you make at school. These people will go on to do amazing things and you’ll do them too with them.” Debow said keeping in touch could be as easy as dropping a note once a month to stay in touch, and called it a worthwhile investment. “You’d be amazed how in truth, you can pick up the phone and call someone who was in this program and they will give you the time to talk.”

“Do business with people you’re in school with.” Debow recalled his business partners, with whom he co-founded several companies were people he met at U of T, during his degree, and after, when volunteering to speak at events.

“Give back.” Giving back, explained Debow, “is not giving back—it’s taking. It makes you happier.” He said teaching classes at U of T is the highlight of his week, every week, and of all year. “It’s a chance to go back to that amazing mindful experience, what it was like to be at school.”

He added: “I would encourage you to give back in many ways: take the call, volunteer, be a mentor for someone, and yes, you should also write a cheque. That habit will keep you connected a little bit in your heart to this place, which is special, and it will only pay off. That’s what’s going to make this one of the best investments you ever made in you life. It certainly has for me.”

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