Over 29 million Canadians depend on Interac solutions every day to move their money safely and securely. We’re a small but mighty team of 350+ employees and each of us plays a critical role in ensuring we deliver our best for Canadians.
The Interac Up Close series gives you an inside look into what working at Interac is like and this week, we’re featuring three of our summer interns. Riley, Stephanie, and Amy support our Innovation Labs & New Ventures team and work cross–collaboratively with others across the organization to explore new emerging technologies that we can use to enhance the Canadian digital economy.
We sat down with them to learn more about their experience at Interac, what they learned along the way and their goals for the future. Here’s what they had to say.
What are your names and jobs?
Amy: My name is Amy Zhang and I currently work on the Interac Innovation Lab team at Communitech as a co-op developer.
Stephanie: I’m Stephanie Porfiris and I work as an intern on the Strategy and Emerging Solutions Delivery team.
Riley: My name is Riley Ambrose, and I am also an intern on the Strategy and Emerging Solutions Delivery team. This is actually my second summer working for Interac!
What are you studying at school?
Stephanie: I’ll be starting my first year at Rotman Commerce, the University of Toronto’s business school in September. I won’t have to declare a specialty this year, but as of right now I’m leaning towards a focus in management.
Riley: I am going into my second year at Trent University Durham where I’m majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Philosophy. This is the third major and minor combination I’ve done so far, and it may not be the last!
Amy: After this work term, I’ll be returning for my final year at Guelph University where I’m completing a Bachelor of Computing. I’m hoping to major in Computer Science and minor in Business.
What inspired you to want to work at Interac?
Riley: I’ve wanted to work at Interac in some capacity since before high school. My grandfather had done work for Interac in the past, so I’ve been exposed to what the company is all about since I was 13. In grade 9, I came to the Interac office as part of the “take-your-kid-to-work day” program and I became even more fascinated with the company and the culture. Now I’m here, in my second internship with the company! It’s amazing how things unfold.
Stephanie: Interac is a unique company that operates with the agility of a start-up but has the scope and reach of a traditional corporation. This combination was attractive to me because it offers a variety of potential career opportunities down the line.
Amy: Interac is a household name for me, and the job title was everything I was looking for in a final co-op experience. I was drawn to the idea of being able to create and work on new solutions and be part of change and innovation. It’s also a step slightly out of a pure programming role which I appreciate.
What does a typical day for an intern look like at Interac?
Amy: Depending on the projects the team is working on, my day is composed of a couple of meetings, research, development, occasional working sessions, or presentations/design tasks. We get a lot of space to work on our deliverables which is awesome. The team also encourages us to ask for support if we ever need it and it’s a good balance of letting us make our own discoveries while having the safety net of the lab’s support to back us up.
Stephanie: I spend some time getting organized, divvying up my day between meetings and tasks, and then hop online for a quick team sync. We brief each other on our plans for the day, ask for feedback and clarification, and then split up and start working through our timetables.
Riley: A typical day for me starts off with a team meeting at 9 AM. After that, our days can range from having a lot of meetings with managers or other people in the company to having almost no meetings and just buckling down to complete a project.
What is something you learned about FinTech during your internship at Interac?
Amy: During my internship, I’ve learned that FinTech is much more than just moving money around. Advances in FinTech can really change the way we interact in other aspects of our lives! It’s not just a new banking app or a new way to transfer money, but it can mean lowering barriers and increasing ease-of-access to financial services. The world of FinTech has a lot to offer and my internship has really broadened my lens of the possibilities that are out there.
Riley: One thing I’ve learned a ton about is Consumer Directed Finance and the various problems that the industry faces when dealing with such concepts. Another big thing I’ve learned a lot about is the relationship between FinTech companies like Interac and the big banks.
Stephanie: As a former TKS student, I’ve been exposed to emerging technologies for a few years, but I was still surprised by how far some of Interac’s initiatives have progressed. I assumed payments innovation solutions were still in the research and development phase, but many have either already been executed or are pending release soon. We’re closer to the future promised in science fiction than we think!
What is something you learned about yourself during your internship?
Riley: I learned a lot about how I operate in this remote-working world. However, the biggest thing I learned about myself is how far I have come as a professional and a person since last summer. I came into last summer’s internship feeling like a ‘hot-shot’ intern who was going to take over the world, but I was met with the harsh reality that I had so much room to grow. After a lot of growth during that internship, and a lot of growth during my first year of university as well, I have discovered that I have a lot more confidence in my abilities as a contributor and as a leader, and it isn’t based solely on academic achievements and my ego.
Stephanie: Working from home has thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans, so I knew I had to start from scratch and build a routine that works for me. I needed a way to differentiate work from play, even if both activities were sharing a physical space.
Creating a set of rules to implement during “work time” – including distancing myself from my phone, limiting interruptions from my family, and dressing like I was going into the office every day – has been incredibly valuable and taught me a lot about my productivity styles and preferences.
Amy: One thing that I’ve learned from this experience is that the team I work with and company culture is something I really value. I started my work term in January, so during this internship, I’ve gone from working in person with the lab team in Kitchener to working remotely from home. My team has made this transition much less stressful for me and it’s been so important for me personally to have their support. Despite not being able to see the team in person every day, they make sure to check in with us students and keep us on track.
What have you enjoyed the most about your experience at Interac?
Stephanie: Although we are working from home, the camaraderie among my team members is palpable. We actively spend time learning and joking about each other’s lives and are intentional about creating a strong, welcoming team culture.
Amy: My favourite thing about being an intern at Interac has been learning new skills while exploring new topics. I entered this position expecting to develop, maybe do some research on the side. At the tail end of 8 months, I’ve now brainstormed, ran design thinking sessions, collaborated with multiple departments, learned design skills and accompanying software skills, and all on top of the research and development I expected to do. Every day feels like a new challenge, and I feel like Interac has really nurtured that growth.
Riley: By far, the part of this experience I enjoyed most was meeting and working with fantastic people. My fellow interns, our managers, the lab team, and literally everyone else that I have had the opportunity to meet this summer have been absolute gems.
What is your dream job?
Amy: I’d like to combine my technical and communication skills, and work on things that matter. I love the collaboration that comes from working with a team and I’d like to leverage the technical skills that I’ve picked up along the way to create awesome products that help people address issues in their lives.
Riley: My dream job is to be a Member of Provincial Parliament, otherwise known as an MPP. Over the course of my life, I’ve wanted to be many things, but my passion has always been politics.
Stephanie: I am incredibly interested in marketing, branding, and storytelling, and I am planning to direct my attention to those disciplines at Rotman Commerce. My dream job would involve living abroad and working as a marketer at a fast-moving, innovative company selling a product or service I personally believe in.
What advice would you give to other students who may be considering an internship?
Riley: Definitely do it! This is one of the best ways I can think of to jump-start your career! I learned so much from my managers and the TKS interns I worked with, and I will likely utilize all those learnings in my career.
Amy: An internship is a chance to learn and grow, and it’s all really what you make of it. Make sure you’re taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to you and keep an open mind! This is your chance to try new things, learn new skills, and make new connections. It’ll be scary, but ultimately very rewarding to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Also, it’s okay to fail sometimes. Failure is a learning experience, and it’s important to learn from any mistakes you make.
Stephanie: Don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills. Being a remarkable communicator, public speaker, and deck-builder will serve you well – especially in an entry-level role.