Rocca Morra is a Leadership and Career Coach dedicated to coaching and preparing leaders at all levels for their next career move. Previously, she worked in Human Resources for large organizations: Manulife Financial, Sears Canada; and Head of HR for Warner Bros. Entertainment Canada. Currently working as a Career Coach in a Master’s program at the University of Toronto, and a part-time Career Development Professor at Humber College. Recently, she co-authored “A Workbook for Understanding Gender at Work – Build a Thriving Career”.
One of the outstanding features of the Humber’s BIA program is its Placement program. Hence, we are in a constant search for great Placement partners. One lucky day for me – Nataliya Korchagina, the BIA program coordinator - and our students were in the middle of November 2021 when Michael Pavkovic, Vice-President, Payments and Trade Operations at RBC, told me about RBC’s Early Talent program. It was exciting to hear about RBC’s commitment to supporting students. However, there were two challenges that would potentially prevent Humber from starting a partnership immediately. RBC was almost done with recruiting students for the upcoming Winter 2022 term. In addition, RBC’s placement program is full-time, whereas Humber’s BIA program requires students to complete a part-time placement in Term 4 or a full-time placement in an extended Term 5. Given that the BIA program only had its first cohort of students, there were no students available who would be eligible for a full-time RBC placement opportunity. As a leader committed to developing early talent, Michael said to me, “Nataliya, at RBC, we always look forward to the new insights and innovative ideas that students bring to our organization. Hence, we want to give this partnership with the Humber’s BIA program a chance.” Two weeks after that conversation, four students from the first cohort, Christina, Dwight, Justina, and Manisha, received offers to join RBC’s Payments & Trade Operations team.
Every four months, RBC’s Early Talent program offers immense placement opportunities to students from a variety of post-secondary institutions and backgrounds including technical and non-technical.
The program’s objective is threefold: (1) to ensure students get a meaningful and valuable experience; (2) students receive an opportunity to gain new as well as strengthen existing skills, and (3) students have an opportunity to grow their professional network.
“At RBC, we aim to support students with building new skills and connections that will help them launch their future careers. This opportunity to work with Humber College is an example of how RBC is doing that. It has opened the door for students to receive a meaningful and rewarding experience, get new skills, and grow their network,” said Michael. “We couldn’t be more excited to be welcoming these bright young minds to RBC.”
Nataliya: Manisha, could you please tell me more about your placement experience at RBC?
Manisha: The RBC placement consists of two big elements. The first element is a real-life project that each intern is expected to work on alongside an RBC team. The second element is that all interns are exposed to intense networking, exchanging of resources, and additional training.
My placement experience was great. My manager – Kevin Christiaens, Sr. Manager, Business Performance, - took the time to make sure that we learn throughout the entire duration of our placement. We had monthly “Lunch and Learn” sessions during which he taught us new techniques with regards to SQL, Excel, Excel Macros, and Tableau. We had multiple meetings with RBC Executives as well as skills-sharing sessions at which the whole cohort of students participating in RBC placement would share experiences. We had multiple opportunities to demonstrate our skills by participating in competitions and bi-weekly squad meetings. Interns of the same cohort had lots of opportunities to relax, interact, and play games.
Throughout the placement, I worked on a big real-life project that dealt with SQL stored procedures. This was one of the most complex skills that we had learned in the BIA program, and I was able to essentially apply the knowledge from the beginning until the end. I completed the project and was able to learn a lot. I leveraged this experience during my interviews for full-time positions.
Nataliya: Manisha, how did you get your full-time position?
Manisha: I got two full-time job offers. The first full-time position that I was interviewed for was a position of a Decision Support Analyst with the University of Toronto Health Network. The job required Python, SAS, SQL, and data visualization tools such as Power BI and Tableau. So, it was essentially everything we learned in our program. The interview went well because I heard back from them. Unfortunately, I had to reject their job offer because it was a contract position for one year.
The other offer that I accepted was with RBC. It was not a position at the department where I had done my internship. I applied internally for a position that was more related to data science at the RBC Insurance department. I should say that the interview for this position was intense and very technical. Even the behavioral questions were technical. The interview process was holistic and included everything that we had learned in the BIA program - SQL, Tableau, Python, machine learning algorithm questions, and multiple statistical concepts that we had learned in various courses. They had mentioned there might be a take-home assignment if needed, but it wasn't required. I guess the interview was enough for them to make the decision and give me an offer. Today, I am a Data Analyst supporting RBC Insurance.
Nataliya: Dwight, could you please tell me about your placement experience?
Dwight: My placement experience started in Term 3 with the Career Development Course. To tell the truth, at first, I was a little bit apprehensive about it. Didn’t I know how to write a resume? But I still went in with an open mind to see what this course could offer. Once I started the course, I realized that I could still learn a lot even about resume writing. Just as small as switching the same information around my resume a little bit got me many more calls from potential employers. However, the most important thing that I learned from Rocca Morra – our course professor - was a strategic approach to professional networking including being proactive in approaching different people in my professional circle and purposefully looking for opportunities to demonstrate my initiative, interest, and competencies. I started implementing the lessons immediately. I approached my manager at that time with a suggestion to give me more responsibilities related to my studies, and I was given a chance to work on a project that required my newly acquired skills.
To my great amazement, when I was interviewed for a position at the RBC Placement program provided to us by the BIA program all the behavioral questions during an interview were exactly the questions we had practiced during the mock interviews in class. In addition, when I had a technical interview and an assignment for this Placement position, the questions that I was asked were almost the same as the ones we had had in our technical classes in the program. What I am trying to say is that the relevance of the knowledge and skills that I got in the BIA program to an employer’s expectations and requirements is fascinating. Hence, about 2 hours after the interview finished, I got an email back saying, ‘Hey Dwight, come work with us at RBC.’
As soon as I was offered a placement position, they sent me a very detailed package including all the onboarding information that I needed to know before starting. I also got clear instructions on when and how I will get my laptop, etc. One of the things that impressed me the most at the beginning of the internship was that we got access to a networking website called “10,000 Coffees” where we were able to connect and interact with other interns who were also coming in for Winter 2020. The website automatically matches you and other people based on interests, hobbies, and different things like that. It formed a sense of community and camaraderie even before we started. On the very first day, we had numerous conversations with different managers about what the expectations from the placement were.
Nataliya: The entire RBC team that I have been interacting with lately talks about Dwight Sampson as a star of this placement cohort. What do you think made you stand out?
Dwight: The first thing that helped me the most was coming in very inquisitive. I came in with a clear understanding that everyone I interact with is an expert in their field. Hence, any interaction will allow me to learn from them. So, I kept asking a lot of questions like, ‘Could you please explain this acronym? Can you help me understand this process?...’. I used every opportunity to deep dive into different aspects of my work which later help me avoid getting confused and stuck with anything I was doing.
Another important thing that I believe differentiated me from other people was the lot of overtime I put into working on my project, especially at the initial stage. My manager was leaving his position a few weeks after I started my placement, and I wanted to make sure that I would make the extraction algorithm work perfectly before he left. I also spent a lot of time validating my work with all the people around me.
Finally, I strongly believe in the importance of adding value to the work of people around me. When I would meet different people in my department and beyond, I would try to purposefully look for any opportunity to help them with the projects they were working on. I would listen to what people would be saying about the processes they were involved in and try to come up with ideas that would be beneficial for them.