I was trading emails back and forth with someone at the office today, discussing my choice of co-op jobs. It was during that exchange that I realized I was really unhappy with the position I held last semester at Bell Mobility. At the time, I was caught up in it and only now, after about 5 months, have I really thought about the experience.
I was rather surprised when I was offered the position of Strategy and Planning Analyst. I had grand visions of proposing changes at Bell Mobility. They ranged anywhere from being an innovator in the field to splitting Mobility from the rest of Bell Canada to increase autonomy and shareholder value. Of course I hardly mentioned any of these ideas at all (especially not the latter one). After all, I was merely a co-op and what would Michael Sabia (CEO) be doing, listening to a co-op when there were 20,000 other employees with ideas as well.
I was fairly content with doing ‘strategy and planning’. I was one of the first University of Waterloo co-op student that department had hired and I had the feeling that they weren’t quite certain what to do with me. In the end, I was tasked with creating a technical document on the current state of the wireless industry and future projections. It seemed to me like a make-work project; I figured the Product Managers would know their services inside out. What information was I supposed to provide them? I, along with the other co-op working with me, met with our supervisor and other managers several times to get an idea of what we could put in it that wouldn’t be a complete rehash of existing knowledge. No one really gave us a clear picture, but we set to work anyways.
It involved a hell of a lot of learning. I became quite enamored with wireless technologies and of all the things at Bell Mobility, that has stuck with me the most. I spent countless hours reading research paper after research paper, analyst opinion after analyst opinion. I helped put together a nearly 100 page research paper on the state of the wireless industry in Canada and various technologies that were in the field or had the potential to enter the field. I incorporated roadmaps, ideas for implementation, and possible new services. I poured a lot of effort into that job.
In a way, I guess I should thank my Dad. He told me many times not to get my hopes up about enacting changes in the company. Companies like Bell Canada are lumbering machines – it’s very difficult to change course. You might be able to nudge it a little, but if you try to turn it too quickly, it’ll flip. And you don’t want to flip because you might never get back upright again. But I still held an idealistic view in the back of my mind.
I finished the project without much time to spare. That’s the thing with research, you have to set a cutoff point. Otherwise you’ll go forever. I doubt a single person there read the report. I’m not even sure if anyone other than my manager even glanced at it. I lacked any sense of accomplishment, despite passing in a substantial report. The information provided was completely factual and I thought the ideas presented had potential, but the probability that it would get shoved under a stack of papers was quite high. That was the sort of job I didn’t want to do ever again.
And here we are with at least three different private equity groups circling Bell Canada. They’re going to undergo some major changes one way or another. If they do get privatized, you can be sure they’ll chop off a lot of excess fat. If they don’t, the stock price is going to plunge and shareholders are going to be up in arms for some change.
Maybe someone will even find my report when they go through the papers…