A tale of two cities. And making BMO my home.

by Carson Dillon, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Acquisition

The path to career satisfaction is rarely a straight line. Sometimes to get where you want to go, you need to take a couple detours along the way. While, yes, building a career is a journey, finding where you belong is the ultimate prize, and well worth any bumps you encounter along the way.

Like many other East Coasters, my journey started in Halifax as a Dalhousie grad. As part of my MBA program at Dalhousie, I did an eight-month residency at BMO in Toronto. Now, admittedly, initially I did wonder, “Hmm, is a corporate bank job what I want?” But the Dal administration assured us, “Don’t write off the banks; you really need to pay attention to what they have to offer.” Today, I know of countless people who’ve said, “I never thought I’d work at a bank…and here I am at a bank!”

Trust me when I say, a bank is nothing like what you’d expect – at least BMO isn’t. During my internship, I noticed that the culture at BMO was progressive and accommodating; they gave me opportunities at every turn. I found myself working on projects with three or four different teams by the end of my eight-month internship; I’d go into a meeting working with one person and leave working with another. The sheer level of freedom to explore who I was and what I wanted to do was incredible.

Just as incredible was the level of trust. The attitude at BMO was, “We hired you. We trust you and want to see what you can do. And rather than tell you what to do, we want you to show us what you think we should do.” That was immediately a bit scary – but also extremely gratifying.

So, what happens when you love your job – and your life partner back home?

I returned to BMO after graduation, and within three quick years, I’d firmly established myself there and found my groove as a Marketing Manager. I had friends and fulfilling work. But, before I left for Toronto my girlfriend (now fiancé) and I established an agreement: “You do law school in Halifax, and, while you’re busy with that, I’ll take this opportunity with BMO in Toronto,” then I’d return to Halifax and we’d set up our life together. And that’s what we did. I left BMO for a role with another organization back home. I didn’t regret the move, but I do regret one thing: knowing what I know now, I would have been open with my leaders in Toronto and, instead of leaving BMO, I would have told them, “Here’s my situation, here’s what I want to do, can we work together on this?” Within a few months, even though I was back in Halifax, I missed my home. I missed BMO. The culture, the energy, the people, the vibe. My job was fine. It was…safe. But it wasn’t right. It wasn’t me.

Yes, I was back home – but I didn’t feel “at home.” So, I reached out.

After about eight months, I reconnected with some of my old BMO contacts. After a few meetings, suddenly there I was, back at BMO, this time in Halifax…and in an entirely unfamiliar role – not comfortably in marketing, but in sales in Business Banking. But here’s where I flash back to my initial internship experience: the mutual trust was still there. I trusted that going back was the right move for me; BMO trusted me to bring my A-game, regardless of my role. Which I did. (Really, it’s all they ever ask.) After a year in this new role, where I was given everything I needed to succeed, I approached the marketing group to see if there was a role for me.

There was. The problem was, the role I wanted to take on – Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Acquisition, Everyday Banking – was based in Toronto. But that turned out to be no problem at all.

I’m still here working and living in Halifax – flying to Toronto for about one week every month. BMO could have asked me to move back to Toronto. They didn’t. They could have said, “We don’t have space for you in the Halifax office if you’re leaving Business Banking, you can work from home,” but I knew that I’d never achieve 100% of my impact and productivity unless I was in the trenches. BMO agreed. Today, I’ve got a desk and an office in both cities, friends here and there, and I feel absolutely at home whether I’m in Halifax or Toronto. I truly have the best of both worlds. And BMO made that happen for me.

So, my advice? As cliché as it sounds, be open and honest about what it is you want to do and where you want to go – don’t be afraid to share it. I’m fortunate that things worked out the way they did, but I could have made it much easier for myself if I’d spoken up when my instincts told me to. Looking back, I didn’t need to leave BMO when I moved back east. And though I did, BMO welcomed me back. They came through for me. That’s what makes BMO special: they honestly care about you, the person, and if you do your part, show up and work hard, anything is possible at BMO.