When I was younger, I had no interest in working in a bank. Although I was a little envious of my friends whose parents were able to get them well-paying summer and part time jobs, my perception of banking was all numbers and money. And while I was good at math and had no aversion to money, it’s not a career I thought I would enjoy.
Fast forward a few years, and after getting my undergraduate degree, traveling Europe and working a few retail and office jobs, I decided to go back to school to become an advertising copywriter. Ironically, my first full time job in advertising involved writing ads for financial institutions, and ended when my biggest client was acquired by another big 5 FI.
As I shopped myself and my portfolio around to other advertising agencies, I also needed to eat, pay rent and avoid sticking my girlfriend with every tab. A friend’s sister who worked at a temp agency quickly got me a placement for a few hours a week at RBC, doing expenses in the national office KBI group. Two things struck me instantly: the people and the culture. It was nothing like I expected. After coming from an industry where the motto is work hard and play hard 24/7, it was refreshing to see that people worked hard, but also had balance, shared values and a collective focus on a greater good beyond the client’s next ad campaign. I was also surprised to learn that with tens of thousands of employees, a bank was essentially a microcosm of society and that any job you can do outside of a bank you can probably do inside in some form or other.
Shortly thereafter, I was offered two administrative jobs within what was then the national Business Banking team. Both were appealing, but one was full-time and the other was contract. So, liking the idea of a pension and health/dental plan, I took the full time offer. While I wasn’t on the front line, it was a great opportunity to learn about how our business worked. I also had the opportunity to interact with people whose responsibilities overlapped with things I knew a little bit about – writing, advertising and graphic design.
From there, I began building my RBC career, my RBC network, and my personal brand. Within a year and a half, I had segued to a communications role in the national office Sales Effectiveness team, where I gained experience, learned more about the bank and worked my way up the ladder for the next eight years. From there, a once-in-a-lifetime role came up which parlayed nicely with my resume – managing RBC’s local marketing of the Olympic Torch Relay. Five years and three marketing roles later, another opportunity arose that involved both communications and marketing. Even better, it involved working with a number of RBCers I had previously worked with and come to respect greatly. Another five years later, I’m still sitting in that chair and loving it.
While this sounds like a narrow career path within RBC, it’s actually broader than many of my peers’. Over the years I’ve expanded my skill set to include media relations, issues management, speech writing, event management, project management, information architecture, media buying and a host of other related skills.
More importantly, along the way I’ve learned soft skills that are applicable in any role. While I’ve never had a formal mentor, I’ve made a point to listen to and learn from many smart people I’ve been privileged to work with – some of whom have also been in specialized roles you wouldn’t traditionally expect to find at a bank. I’m also lucky to have had managers who’ve given me enough rope to make mistakes and learn from them, but not enough to hang myself. Managers who have given me air cover when I’ve asked for it and when they’ve known I’m in over my head. And managers who’ve challenged me to excel in my current role while also constantly thinking about what my next one should be.
In the advertising industry, people burn out before they’re 40 and change companies as often as they change their shirts. At RBC, I’m 17 years in and I still feel like a newbie compared to many of my colleagues. I guess my decision to try working for a bank has paid off. I love my job, the girlfriend I avoided sticking with the bill became my wife, and I hope to have many more exciting challenges at RBC before I eventually retire.
Whoever said you can’t have your cake and eat it too never worked for RBC!