Grad takes experiences from both classes and extracurriculars into his career
By the time he graduated from Lang, Austin Armstrong (Lang BComm ’18) had secured a job in Scotiabank’s wealth management division. He credits the learning and leadership development he got at Lang with helping find success at the bank, where he’s now moved into a position as Senior Manager for Regional Support.
Attracted to Guelph’s co-op program and also the fact that the university was close to home, Armstrong threw himself into academics at first, enjoying international economics and finance courses. “There was a lot of time spent in the classroom and working with peers. In the program, we all worked really well together,” he says, adding that he keeps in touch with many friends from both classes and extracurriculars.
“I developed a really great network. Many of us have ended up in banking, which has been fun, because I can bounce ideas off other people and reach out to them and see what they're doing over at their bank.”
By fourth year, Armstrong had started to become involved in extracurriculars, a move he credits with helping develop career skills from management to problem-solving. His role as a peer helper for the University’s co-op office saw him coaching fellow students on resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles and helping them to obtain co-op jobs. He then became a senior peer helper, managing the team. A new role as vice-president of Internal Affairs on the Lang Students’ Association added leadership experience to the mix. “I got to work with the entire team and oversee a lot of our directors and managers. We built a close family of business students, and a really great network.”
He also found valuable skills through participating on the finance team in the JDCC Guelph business case competition. “When I approach problems, I think back to those cases: and what would I focus on? What are the key points that I would want to target? It was a great real-world application.” In his fifth year, he sampled another facet of business when he helped launch a start-up through Lang’s John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise. Armstrong conducted market research for the start-up, called Lendr which helped connect student business owners who needed tools (say a summer lawn-mowing business) with retailers willing to rent them.
Wanting to sample many workplaces, Armstrong also sought many different co-ops, as a finance associate at a fashion distribution company, an accounting associate with manufacturing company Linamar, a market research position at a pharmaceutical company, and a position in data analytics at Statistics Canada.
Just before his third placement, Armstrong fit in a month-long exchange at the Linkoping International School, where he took a course in HR leadership. “Not only are you living in a different country with a completely different culture that you're trying to understand, but you're living and in classes and doing group work with people from for Argentina, Mexico, France,” he says, adding that the experience stood out especially because it was his first time living significantly far from home.
“That was a thrill. In a different country on your own, it pushes your boundaries, and it forces you to do more and to be more outgoing,” he says, adding that the group still keeps in touch over WhatsApp. His second exchange was through the Ontario government, a French immersion program in France where Armstrong says he had the same experience meeting students from universities across Ontario.
Today, Armstrong draws on all of these learning experiences in his work at Scotiabank. Three years into working in the wealth group, he achieved a position as a senior manager, where he manages several direct reports and focuses on sales strategy and campaigns. He recently moved to another manager position on the retail bank side, where he works with district vice-presidents in Toronto to support how the bank manages its branches and operations.
Armstrong looks back fondly and says he uses what he learned in university on a daily basis, both mindset and skills. “Lang students have a knack for getting things done, I call it grit or grind. And that's helped me through my career. Another thing is strategy. Like my experience in the Lang Students’ Association and being a mentor. That experience is something that comes into play when I’m throwing ideas out there in the workplace, trying to come up with ideas help customers or improve a client experience.”