Originally posted by Scott A.E. Smith.
Happy New Year! With fall exams complete and the Class of 2013 now away on their Corporate Residencies, the dalmba.ca blog is back full-time for 2012!
For this week’s blog, we sit down for a Q&A with Dex Gittens—a student in the Class of 2012 who worked at RBC Recruitment and Learning in Toronto for his Corporate Residency. Enjoy!
How did you end up in the Corporate Residency MBA program?
In grade 12, I didn’t know where I wanted to go for university. Our [high-school’s] counsellor had all of the grade 12s cycle through his office. He looked at my transcript, looked at me, and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to do something business-related. He said, “Okay, business-related… have you considered Western?” I looked into it and based on my own research (plus what he said), I applied and I got in. So I went to Western.
At Western, I did economics and management and some finance, and fell in love with economics. In third and fourth year, I started to really think about what I was going to do after graduation. My mom is an accountant, but I wasn’t sure if that was my calling, so I started looking at MBAs and schools where I could potentially go. In the end, I was torn between a couple but I chose Dal because I didn’t feel like just a number when I was applying, I guess you could say. And so I came here. So far it’s been awesome.
Where did you work for your Corporate Residency and what was it like?
I worked for RBC Recruitment and Learning in Toronto. The person who recruited me actually turned out to be my boss for the eight months. Of all the interviews I had, he made me feel the most comfortable. I knew it was the best fit for me. On top of that, I had always wanted to work for RBC. So when I got the role, it was something of a dream come true for me. My manager was so excited about having me on-board and telling me about what I’d be doing, and that got me really excited about it as well.
Come January, I ended up working on a number of projects and my manager was there coaching me throughout, encouraging me to do more, to take on more—to push myself. I got to work in different areas of the bank, because Recruitment kind of covers all of them, so I was able to learn a lot about all of these different business functions. I also had to deal with a lot of change from day to day—in one department, things would move in third gear and in another they would move in fifth gear. I got to work for different managers as well, and this was one of the most helpful aspects of the whole experience.
What did you take away from your Corporate Residency? How did it contribute to your personal and professional development?
What makes RBC as great as they are is that they invest a lot in their people. Part of that is weekly mentorship, which I had with my managers. What I learned quickly was that in order to add value to your team, you have to speak up. You can’t just sit and take notes and not say anything. In meetings, I would have these thoughts, like “why are we doing it this way?”, and I would have other questions, but I wouldn’t raise them. Then, after the meeting, in a ‘safer’ environment, I would pose the questions to my team. The people I was working closely with would then ask me why I didn’t say anything during the meeting. I would say something like, “I thought everyone else was thinking the same thing.” To that, one of my mentors encouraged me by responding: “Well, I didn’t think of it, so you should have said it!” That was an ongoing challenge for me, having the confidence to speak up. It was a struggle on my own, but the mentoring that RBC provided helped me get past it. Once I did, things sort of opened up for me—a lot of opportunities started coming my way. Soon enough, I was learning about change management and stakeholder engagement and even leading or co-leading certain initiatives.
Everything I was learning was really validated when [Program Director] Dr. Scott Comber and [Corporate Residency Manager] Ally Howard came to see me in early March. They passed on the glowing things that were being said about me and this really affirmed my confidence in speaking up going forward.
What do you want to do after graduation later this year, and more long-term in the future?
Near the end of my residency, I started thinking ahead to what next steps would look like. Coming back to Halifax, I knew I would have to maintain the strong relationships I had built during my 8 months in Toronto—which might lead to a potential job down the line. The best way to do so, I thought, was to work part-time for the bank while I was back in school. I brought the idea to my managers and worked with them to perfect my résumé and cover letter to their standards—each of which took two months (or about 50 iterations)! On one of my last days at the bank, it was sent to some higher-up people in Toronto and then on to RBC’s offices in Halifax. So [beginning this month], I’ll be working part-time for RBC here in Halifax, which keeps me connected to the bank—which is great. After graduation, working for RBC is what I’m pushing for right now, and I’m currently interviewing for a number of opportunities there.
More long-term, I think Commercial Banking is what I want to do. The reason for that—which is one thing I learned while I was at the bank—is the importance of having what’s called a broad base of skills in order to be successful. This is what I’m developing through my MBA, and especially through the Corporate Residency component, and in working part-time for the bank. I’m trying to set myself up for success.
How have you developed since you started the Corporate Residency MBA? What has it done for you?
The Corporate Residency MBA has broadened my perspective, which is what an MBA is supposed to do. In undergrad, I wasn’t sure what a business degree meant, but now I have a good idea. You’re supposed to be good at a variety of things, and I’ve definitely gotten that so far. In your first year, you have mandatory courses, but in your second it’s more about taking classes that are suited for you. I’ve tried my best to push myself outside my comfort zone and take classes and get myself involved in things that I might not have before.
Reflecting on who I am now versus who I was then, it’s more or less a confidence thing. If you’re confident in your ability to do things and what you bring to the table with a team, that’s all that matters. The biggest thing for me has been with presentations. I used to be terrified of them and now I’m doing case competitions. I can deal with stress and a busy schedule better than I could before. In addition to the case competitions, I’m serving on the MBA Society and generally just taking on way too much—but managing it. I’m working with different people in more diverse groups, rather than the same people all the time, and learning different ways of solving problems—because I know now that this is how the real world works.