Carleigh Johnston | Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies

Carleigh Johnston

U of Guelph alumna Carleigh Johnston coaching the Gryphons Women's Rugby Team

Still a Gryphon! Carleigh is the Team Manager for the mighty Women's Rugby team.

MBA 2022 | MSc Animal Biosciences 2017


Business Administration, MBA Sustainable Commerce and Animal Biosciences, MSc Animal Nutrition

Current Position 

Program Manager, Strategic Initiatives at Communitech 

What has been the highlight of your career thus far? 

In my role as Liaison Manager, I had the privilege of supervising full-time and part-time student staff. Contributing to their personal growth and skill development through goal setting, mentoring, and empowerment was the most rewarding part of my role. Watching student staff complete their degree and start their careers using transferable skills from the Liaison Program was one of my greatest experiences as a leader. 

Why did you choose to complete your graduate studies at the University of Guelph? 

Choosing UofG was a natural choice for me. For my first graduate degree, a Master of Science in Animal Nutrition, I knew the University of Guelph is a recognized leader in Animal Science and Nutrition, and after my undergraduate degree, I made valuable relationships with faculty through independent research courses that introduced me to research and inspired me to pursue graduate studies. By the time I began my MBA at the Lange School of Business and Economics, I was already a UofG “lifer” and jumped at the opportunity to complement my science background with a commerce degree that uniquely focused on sustainability. 

How did your experience at the University of Guelph prepare you for your career? 

I owe a great deal of my career preparedness to my experience at the University of Guelph. The learning experiences I had were very real-world in both of my graduate degrees. In my MSc, I focused on forage management on dairy farms in Southern Ontario where I had the opportunity to sample from commercial farms and work with producers on a real problem impacting the sustainability and efficiency of our food system. My professors treated me like a colleague providing me the agency to be curious and build confidence in my own discoveries. 

I completed my MBA in Sustainable Commerce through the height of the pandemic from May 2020 to May 2022. Beyond gaining a formal education in the expected courses such as financial management, operations, human resources, etc. I learned to be creative and collaborative through adversity. I also left the degree with a belief and understanding of how to balance social, economic, and environmental priorities in the business world which is imperative in every 21st-century workplace. 

What was your most memorable experience at UofG? 

My most memorable experience at UofG is with the Varsity Women’s Rugby Team (so memorable I am still involved with the team today). It’s tough to pick just one moment, but being a part of a varsity team as an athlete is one of the most impactful experiences of my life. My degrees certainly helped me develop knowledge and practical skills, but being an athlete taught me about teamwork, leadership, and adversity. The work ethic and mindset learned on the field carry over into my professional life, and there have been many parallels between coaching and leadership practice that I use every day in my career. Previously as an Assistant Coach and now as the Team Manager, I get to help support that experience for current athletes. (The OUA and CIS (now USport) medals during my time as a player were pretty awesome too).

How did your time at Guelph and your work now 'Improve Life'? 

I currently work at Communitech which is an incubator hub that supports Canadian tech founders at every stage of their journey, providing accelerated opportunities to access talent, capital, sales, and community. I am a Program Manager on the Strategic Initiatives team responsible for Fast Track Cities. Fast Track Cities is currently focusing on bringing transportation innovation solutions from tech start-ups to solve challenges facing communities and industry. Many of these solutions include electric and autonomous vehicles, micro-mobility (i.e., e-scooters), and safety promoting new tech. Bringing together the stakeholders needed to reduce emissions, and traffic congestion, and eliminate unnecessary transportation-related injury and death significantly ‘Improves Life’, and I am proud to have a role that supports that change. 

What career advice do you have for new graduates starting their careers in a similar area? 

Don’t let imposture syndrome get the best of you! One of the greatest assets of completing a graduate degree is having a strong ability to learn. As new graduates applying and interviewing you may have moments of uncertainty about jumping into your career, never forget you are an expert learner and that is a desirable quality. I didn’t come from a farming background and “learned” my way into agriculture, and now I am “learning” my way into tech! You’ll find transferable skills from your degree in your career, even if your path doesn’t look like a straight line. 

Advice for future grad students... 

Graduate school is an incredibly enriching experience. Focusing on what interests you most brings a whole new level of richness to your learning. In addition to your courses there are also opportunities to refine presenting skills, attend conferences, and work as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses which blends education and work experience together to prepare you for a fulfilling career.