Stepping out of my comfort zone

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
by Sophie F., SAF

Digital transformation is changing the business world, with companies leveraging technology to transform their traditional business models, and CEOs seeking innovation to maximize their business value. A question I found myself wondering was how does this apply to me, as an undergraduate student? What role can I play? Or even before that—how can I develop myself professionally so that I will be ready for opportunities when they present themselves?

From my experience studying at the School of Accounting and Finance, I have found the answer to the latter part of my question. In order to be ready to take on new challenges and opportunities I must develop myself as a professional. This means stepping out of my comfort zone, building and maintaining a strong support system and sharpening my technical and durable skills.

Stepping out of my comfort zone began when I was deciding which university to attend. It was a relatively easy decision for me, given that the University of Waterloo had the largest co-op program in North America, but moving out of province from Alberta was nerve-wracking. However, it turned out to be a lot easier than I expected, and this was because of how tight-knit the SAF community is. There were a ton of resources and opportunities to make meaningful friendships like through group projects, AFSA, or just hanging out in the SLC. These opportunities not only developed my durable skills (teamwork, leadership, and communication), but they also surrounded me with inspiring and passionate individuals that I could learn from.

Co-op work terms and fellowship projects were where I had exposure to real-life business problems and worked with industry professionals. My co-op placement at PwC, was where I witnessed the ideas, processes, and current challenges that companies are facing. At PwC I developed problem-solving, client-management, and interpersonal skills. Fellowship projects with Professor Nancy Vanden Bosch, Professor Steve Balaban and Professor Tracy Hilpert taught me to be detail-oriented while having a global-minded perspective—being able to look at the big picture and the implications on stakeholders.

All these experiences and mentorships prepared me for the RCIG x VIA Rail Innovation Forum competition, where our team recently placed in the Top 4. Winning could not have occurred without the collaboration of my three inspiring teammates, and the personal growth from previous undergraduate opportunities. At the competition, our team provided an innovative and strategic solution to our client Via Rail, who wanted to transform and improve a segment of their service offering. We not only came up with a project proposal, but also understood what value we could provide to Via Rail, and ultimately to the public.

Looking back over the last few years, I am surprised by how much I’ve grown and matured from working with such dedicated and inspiring mentors (professors), who have given me so much trust and autonomy. In order to be a well-rounded individual and professional, you have to step out of your comfort zone and realize what matters the most.