I interned in Vancouver at a Caterpillar heavy machinery dealership called Finning International. I took two rotations, the first being with the Corporate Reporting group working to refine their capital expenditure governance and documentation. For the second half I worked within the Strategy & Business Development team on research into mining software and solutions and the impact of electrification on heavy machinery.
I found the perspective I gained from working in a different business culture allowed me to really reflect on my overall approach to work. Vancouver has a very flexible take on working hours and dress, which I found extremely refreshing.
Learning to work well with such a large array of different people has been insightful. The Vancouver professional environment is much less homogeneous than I’d anticipated and I found that learning to build relationships with a variety of people was really helpful for me. In my first rotation I rewrote the corporate capital expenditure guidance and procedure, which is to be rolled out across all territories.
The biggest skill I’ve learnt is being comfortable enough to ask people for help. I’ve benefited enormously from the generosity of others, and this has often only come about because I was confident and able to ask and accept the possibility of rejection. This has morphed into a wider competence in striking deals with people that I’ve already noticed has markedly improved. Secondly it’s been amazing to meet such a wide variety of people and learn about a new world.
I returned to Scotland with a much deeper appreciation of work, knowing that there are alternative means to those I’d always accepted. I also have a serious decision to make about whether I want to return to work here after my degree, as I’ve built up such great connections and loved the active lifestyle.
The Saltire programme is unique because of the ambition of each project. In my second week I was able to speak one-on-one with the CEO, which I later found out was a privilege that hardly any employees here ever get. It is in part an ambassadorial mission and one that provides you with a label that is both intriguing and admirable. I found that this then allowed me to enquire and learn about things in ways that may not otherwise have been open to me, thanks to the reciprocal curiosity that my role afforded.
My advice for new scholars abroad is to embrace and harness it as an opportunity to meet new people, strike up new friendships and do things differently without the responsibility for others that you otherwise always have. I’ve built strong connections to people that, under other circumstances, I would never have done. I started up new hobbies but more importantly I struck up conversations with people in all environments.
If not for my Saltire internship I’d never have this perspective on North America and ambitions to move away.