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Canadian Tire is committed to developing the next generation of leaders. New graduate programs at Canadian Tire are a fantastic opportunity—they are focused on identifying top graduating and alumni talent and setting participants up for success throughout their careers.

Geoffrey Smith is a project manager with the Next Generation Talent program. Here’s his take on what it means to pursue a new graduate opportunity at Canadian Tire.

1. How did you get the job?

I went to Ryerson University and they had a career event called Business Technology Management Talent Mash. Canadian Tire was a presenter. At the time, I was working on my thesis on incubators and accelerators. That’s when I learned about the CTI—the Canadian Tire innovation lab—in Kitchener.

Typically you don’t think of Canadian Tire as a company that’s heavily into IT, so it was kind of an eye opener for me. I learned about this program for new graduates at Canadian Tire and I was very interested. I applied and thankfully things worked out!

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

During my first rotation, I was a business analyst. As a business analyst, I worked in project delivery. That means I got to work on many different projects. One of those was the Loyalty Project—that was really interesting.

We were working to convert Canadian Tire money into digital currency. We worked in agile project management where we try to move really quickly. Working on the Loyalty Project quickly transitioned into working on the mobile application; that was really great for me because I love seeing customer-facing technology. Working on the mobile app led me to where I am now, in my second rotation.

Now, I’m the project manager for Canadian Tire’s retail application. Before I was digging into the details of the project and asking tough questions; now, I’m guiding the project in the right direction, managing the budget, resourcing, and working with our vendor.

We work a lot with the sustaining group who is responsible for our full desktop website, the kiosk, and in-store projects. They help to sustain a lot of the tech we have and it’s really important we work closely with them to ensure everything is running seamlessly. Also, we work really closely with vendor management to keep up-to-date with all the third parties we leverage to help us. In addition to that, we work with our web design team; the in-store innovations team, the list goes on.

3. What do you enjoy most about your role?

I mentioned I work on the mobile application. It’s amazing to be able to say I had a hand in the development of that technology. To be able to influence how customers engage with our digital channels is really exciting!

4. Talk about one of your greatest achievements in your role here

After the Loyalty Project went live, I continued in my business analyst role and moved onto a different area of project delivery. I started working on the digital showcase store in Edmonton. That was pretty important and really interesting. We set out to make one store more digitally-savvy, with tablet screens all over to improve customer experience. One of the things I was working on was product selectors.

If you’re a mother or a father with a child who’s playing hockey for the first time and you don’t know what to get them, we created a selector to help pick all the equipment! I think that was really cool—I really drove that one. It was just one piece of the large puzzle, but putting that feature into the store was definitely an achievement. I saw it in action too; the team was flown to Edmonton to visit the Showcase Store when it opened to do some of the testing.

5. Talk about your greatest challenge

It was the initial learning curve. This was my first introduction to working in an agile project environment, learning new things like writing user stories and participating in daily stand ups. The biggest thing for me has been picking up the agile principles as well as learning this organization and its systems.

6. How do you feel you’ve contributed to the business during your time in this program? How do you think you’ll continue to contribute?

With the mobile application, it’s set up as a yearly project, so it doesn’t really have an end. We have the application out there now. Next, we’re looking at improvements—optimizing or even re-designing the page to improve customer experience. Recently, we implemented mobile commerce, so customers can actually make purchases on the go.

Things change so quickly that enhancements you just did may be out of date a few months down the road. For instance, right now, we’re planning for iOs 9 and Android M. It’s really just about keeping all our projects current and ensuring we’re continually following the principles of responsive design and optimized user experience.

7. What are you working on right now?

There’s a meeting with the website re-design team. We’ll be going over some web design changes and how they’ll impact us.

8. What lessons from your time at Canadian Tire will you carry through your career?

I was always interested in IT but more in gadgets and gizmos, not necessarily the backend features that make them work. Now, I definitely have a better understanding of the infrastructure that powers an organization like Canadian Tire and how the various systems interact with each other.

Also, coming into the company, you know it’s big but you don’t really have a concept of what that means. Learning how big an organization can be was really valuable. Beyond that, the learning and development opportunities available, both external and internal, are incredible.

9. What advice do you have for a new graduate applying for a program at Canadian Tire?

When you think about a career in IT you may not think about Canadian Tire and that would be a mistake. The company is living in the digital space and we are moving very quickly on some really exciting projects from both an employee and a customer facing perspective.