Multitude of career paths, 1 employer

I’ve held 28 roles in 32 years at TD – and I have plenty of people to thank
By Monique Bateman (Guest Commentary)
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/14/2013

If you asked a recent university graduate or millennial if they could see themselves working at the same company for 30 years, you might see a few raised eyebrows.

The digital generation, we are told, is accustomed to constant stimulation and continuous learning — new tasks, new goals, new leaders, new challenges.

I’d like to offer an opposing view: Working for the same employer is not the same as doing the same job.

I can tell you this because I have spent more than 30 years working at TD Bank Group. And what has kept me engaged and stimulated in my career is — you guessed it — constant stimulation, continuous learning, new tasks, new goals, new leaders and new challenges.

So for those who might discount the idea of working for a large financial institution because they think it might not be exciting enough, I would encourage them to explore the possibilities.

Lateral moves offer range of opportunities

In 32 years at TD, I’ve held 28 roles, which is part of the company’s corporate culture of encouraging internal growth.

In those 28 roles, I have made a number of lateral moves instead of going after the next promotion as a way to grow the depth and breadth of my knowledge, work with many different leaders and, hopefully, be a role model for others.

I’ve not only had the opportunity to work in many different roles in the branch network but also in HR, HR shared services, finance, technology, operations and a host of other areas that I didn’t know existed when I first joined TD.

The most rewarding part is I have met great colleagues and made some good friends along the way.

Today, I’m senior vice-president of the Prairie region at TD Canada Trust, which includes more than 200 branches, and I’m leading about 4,000 employees throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

My first job at TD was as a teller in Winnipeg. I was thinking I needed to get some experience and then find a “real” career, but it didn’t take me long to realize there were significant growth opportunities right where I was.

I recall meeting with the HR team to identify opportunities to fast-track my career. I was impressed that my employer genuinely cared about my progress and wanted me to succeed. I knew I was at the right company. Having great people around you for support is integral to success — at work and in life.

Aboriginal background made a difference

As part of growing up in a large family — I have eight siblings — in a Métis community in rural Manitoba, I really didn’t think of being different until I started working.

Although I didn’t avoid talking about my background, I didn’t openly discuss it in the early days of my career. Why I took that approach, I really don’t know, but I now make it a personal mission to share my story to help others feel more comfortable sharing their heritage.

In fact, I now chair TD’s Aboriginal Employee Sub-Committee where we aim to promote and enhance an inclusive environment for Aboriginal employees, customers and clients.

On our internal social networking tool — called Connections — we have established the TD Aboriginal Employees Circle to share stories and develop initiatives for recruitment and retention.

When I was growing up, we were poor and didn’t have much in the way of luxuries. What we did have was lots of encouragement that we could make a difference in the world, and an understanding that education was critical — graduating was not optional, it was a must.

But it wasn’t always easy. Thinking back, my life could have been very different if it hadn’t been for the people who helped me get back on the right path.

Mentors played significant role

My mentors and role models always had the ability to see things in me that I wasn’t always able to see in myself.

My Grade 6 teacher, Ms. Francis, was my first mentor and professional role model. She recognized I was a quick learner. As a result, she was always pushing me to not settle — and to challenge myself.

I’ve kept her words in my mind throughout my life and, to this day, I’m still in contact with her.

I’ve had many mentors at TD as well. Early in my career, I was having doubts about whether HR was for me and whether working for the bank was for me.

My boss back then said, “Give me six months and I’ll show you why you belong here.”

A few years ago, another senior executive had a tremendous impact on me and my career.

She believed in me and she encouraged me to find new ways to stay engaged with the company, which is especially important if you have been at an organization for a long time.

This executive also knew of my appetite for continuous learning and supported me while attending a strategic leadership program at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont.

These days, I try to inspire others across the organization, particularly women and Aboriginal Peoples.

We try to figure out how they can be the best they can be for themselves, for our customers and for our communities. It’s a fun, collaborative, creative, fast-paced and engaging environment.

As you look out on the horizon that is your future, there will always be opportunities — if you’re able to see them. There may be diverse, challenging and potentially satisfying career paths in places you might not expect.

My path is not what most would consider a typical description of a bank job. And that’s the point.

Monique Bateman, based in Calgary, is senior vice-president of the Prairie region at TD Canada Trust.

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