Posted on 23/11/2016 by
It was only after the plane had landed that I started to feel nervous. Jetlagged, I arrived early in the morning at Heathrow to crowds and movement. I felt as a small child at British customs, asking politely: “May I come in?” After getting through, I met the driver who was supposed to take me deeper into London. Once through loading my things into the car in the parking garage, I opened what I thought to be the passenger door, only to find a steering wheel.
What was I doing here? I had been asked to join the Alumni Program at MThree consulting. The program focused on finding placements in the finance industry for recent university graduates, and then giving them the skills necessary to succeed in their roles. The class I was placed in were to be production support analysts, which are essentially the first line of response in a bank’s IT department. We would be keeping watch over the general heath of the bank’s IT systems, until we were able to specialize into different systems/applications/asset classes.
Why did I choose to join the program? I studied mathematics in school, and I always saw myself grounding my knowledge in real world applications rather than staying in academia. One very obvious area in which to do so is in the areas of economics and finance, but I knew I would need much more than just mathematical aptitude to succeed here. It wasn't just a question of a career trajectory either: money plays an important role in our lives and I felt embarrassingly uninformed about its workings. I found myself in the position of having graduated from university, but not yet being finished with learning. The alumni program offered a chance to cover some of the things I had missed in school in a classroom setting, and to further learn through practice at an investment bank, which was no small opportunity.
The alumni program also afforded me a chance to travel overseas to London for a month, and as someone who had never left North America before this was a large factor in my decision. I grew up in a small town of six thousand on the shores of Lake Huron in Ontario, and until this point the largest trip I'd taken was to Vancouver, when I was seven years old. I moved to Montreal when I was seventeen but attending university and meeting so many international students in my first year left me acutely aware that I had seen precious little of the world. The promise of training overseas came at just the right time for me. It would be work certainly, but it was also a chance to see something more.
Finally, I felt the alumni program offered me brighter career prospects. Not to say that I was working a dead end job before joining, but I was not in a role which allowed me to utilize many of the skills which I’d spent four years building. I have a great passion for problem solving which is what originally lead me to my field of study, and taking on a technical role at a bank would provide this in spades. I was told I was chosen for a placement at Morgan Stanley, and after four rounds of interviews I was given the go-ahead by MThree. It was not a hard decision to make.
Transitioning was easy. With no passport and little more than a week before leaving, MThree provided me with the paperwork necessary to expedite the process of getting a new one. While this was happening on one side of the Atlantic, on the other they dealt with my flight bookings, my accommodations, and even my transport from Heathrow airport. Before I left I also got a call from the head of my department at Morgan Stanley, asking how things were progressing and offering support if needed… a comforting touch.
I was to be spending my month at an Airbnb on the Isle of Dogs. To the north lies Canary Wharf, the location of London's financial district and where I would be training. The training consisted of four weeks of classroom sessions covering various topics we would need in our positions. The first week focused on financial and IT knowledge and provided me with a taste of the knowledge I had been craving. The rest were largely technical and dealt with using Linux systems and databases. I had some computer science experience from school but neither of these were a large focus, and I learned quite a bit from these sessions. Our instructor was always available to answer any questions we may have had and he was good at presenting the topics in an accessible manner so this introduction was not nearly as painful as one may have expected.
London is a beautiful city. Many parts of it have been spared the influence of modernism which is present in so many Canadian cities and rather than glass facades here you find buildings which present intricate stone faces. The streets of London are like a web woven on both sides of the Thames into which are nestled open plazas, green space, and even some instances of the grid archetype common in most North American cities. I have a terrible sense of direction, so my tourist program consisted mainly of finding good areas in which to get lost. Museums are good for this, and during my time there I had the pleasure of seeing many of my favorite works of art in person. I saw the city from heights at Tower Bridge, and looked at the Crown Jewels. I watched Roman Polanski's Chinatown, in Chinatown. I took walks by the river at night. I went the reconstructed Globe theater, and then to the Tate Modern. I had many meals at Nando's with my classmates.
I write this now in Montreal, excited to have started my job at Morgan Stanley. The others from the program who are already on site tell me it's challenging, but worth it. While I certainly enjoyed my trip it's good be to back among friends, old and new.
by Colby Simpson