Wednesday, April 1, 2009
By Kevin Moe
As a member of the diamond trade industry, Laura Baillargeon knows a lot about gems and how to quickly size up their worth. So she immediately saw the value in selecting the Carlson Executive MBA Program (CEMBA). Her time in the program also led her on the path to become president of the Greater New York Professional chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA).
“I chose the Carlson School because it is highly ranked and has international accreditation with global recognition,” she says. “The international aspects were important to me because the diamond trade is largely an international one.”
Indeed, only a few Middle Eastern, European, and South African countries were historically involved in the diamond trade. Now, however, Canada, China, India, Russia, and the former Soviet Bloc states have emerged as players. In the United States, New York City is the center for diamond activity.
That’s where Baillargeon works these days, as director of trading operations for an international diamond company. Her duties include oversight of e-commerce and various other trading networks. “We generally deal with diamonds coming directly from mines or from dealers and suppliers receiving directly from the mines,” she says. “Part of what I do is work with the cutting factories, between the importers and the street dealers. I am several steps removed from the jewelry store window.”
After reviewing the CEMBA curriculum, Baillargeon knew it was the program for her. “It included the right balance of hard skill courses such as managerial accounting and financial management, and soft skill courses such as organizational behavior, ethics, and leadership,” she says, adding that the finance portion was important because proper valuations and risk management often determine the winners and losers in the diamond trade.
Still, Baillargeon’s fondest program memories center around the friendships she established. “CEMBA is a demanding program, and if you are going to do it, you need to be very good at time management,” she says. “My relationship with the classmates in my study groups helped me persevere during taxing periods that would pop up with work in New York and school in Minnesota.”
The two-year program culminated with an international residency in Chile and Argentina. “The study groups [had to] research business practices of a company in each of those countries,” she says. “It was rewarding to present our findings to our respective companies. And the two weeks abroad further cemented personal friendships, so I walked away with a wealth of practical business knowledge and good friends I still keep in touch with. The CEMBA program was an invaluable experience.”
Her time in CEMBA also led Baillargeon to become involved with NAWMBA. As president of the organization’s Greater New York Professional chapter, her current focus is to recruit top women in the area to her executive board to help build a leading chapter. “My vision for this chapter is to offer something for every member, ranging from educational seminars to guest speakers from leaders in the business community and government,” she says. “I still have a lot of work ahead of me in the upcoming year and I look forward to every minute of it.”