When I imagined working at a large bank, I used to picture cubicles, formal attire, stacks of documents, bureaucracy, and limited freedom. As an autonomous person, you might think that banks aren’t for you.
Before you rule banks out, however, let me tell you about my experience as a UX/UI Designer Co-op at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
This experience burst every misconception I had about working at a large bank. The work environment was highly collaborative. I was not given a lot of documents, but sticky notes of all colours and sizes to brainstorm ideas. I wore sweaters and sports shoes, and my manager rocked pink and red suits. Most importantly, my team empowered me to take initiative and make an impact.
If any of this has piqued your interest, read on to find out my work responsibilities, team culture, and a few tips on landing a UX/UI Designer co-op position at the largest bank in Canada.
1. A blend of strategy and creativity in day-to-day responsibilities
I worked in a team called Xperience First (X1). Our team’s mandate was to develop design thinking practices across Wealth Management Technology at RBC. If you have never heard of design thinking, it’s a problem-solving methodology that focuses on understanding people’s needs and conducting quick, iterative experimentation.
While the job title (UX/UI Designer) seemed to indicate that most of my time was spent pushing pixels on some Adobe software, I found myself applying a lot more of my business and communication skills. Some of the tasks that kept me busy were:
- Writing user research and testing protocols
- Synthesizing and communicating insights from research
- Strategizing optimal service experiences given business and technology constraints
- Creating wireframes and prototypes (okay fine, this one does deal with pixels)
- Facilitating design workshops
The responsibilities changed dynamically from one project to another. Even within a project, the requirements changed frequently which kept the work challenging and interesting.
2. Various opportunities outside of day-to-day work
One of the great things about the RBC co-op program is the opportunities for enriching your experience beyond your job duties.
For study nerds like myself, there is an RBC Learning platform that allows you to learn new skills. There’s also an intense, eight-week skill development program called ADaPT. For experiential learners, there is a hackathon where you will be assigned to a group of co-op students with a mix of business, technology, and design backgrounds to solve a problem.
For social butterflies, there are more than enough opportunities to expand your network, build relationships, and have fun. There are monthly social events for co-op students, 10K Coffee platforms to connect with other RBC employees, and fireside chats with senior managers, just to name a few.
3. A collaborative, fun and inclusive culture
In a large corporation like RBC, every leader will have their own flair in creating their team culture. However, most groups I had a chance to work with (or speak to) share a collaborative culture. For instance, as designers, my team worked closely with business owners, SMEs (subject matter experts), project managers, and developers. Within the team, we routinely asked each other for feedback and shared our learnings and knowledge.
Our team also had a lot of team activities, from team meals, ping pong, to attending events together. We played pranks on people’s birthdays. We even won a Halloween contest for our Harry Potter costumes.
4. Tips to land a UX/UI Designer Co-op at RBC
My team hired three co-op students this term and several others previously, each with a different educational background and skill set. Perhaps one thing we have in common is a willingness to take initiative, as shown through side projects. Some of us freelanced as UX/UI Designers, others started a side business, or launched an app.
My hiring manager gave the following tips for aspiring UX/UI Designers:
- Have a portfolio (preferably a website) that shows your design process from the why, to the how and what
- Design your resume as an experience. All details from the visual hierarchy, typography, to information architecture should demonstrate your storytelling skills
- When employers scan your resume, they will look for keywords of your UX tools or methodologies (e.g. generative research, agile etc.) and the impact of your work
- Don’t be afraid to tell your own story. For instance, your resume can be an ecosystem map or user journey of yourself
- Learn how to use design systems/frameworks. Large companies such as RBC rely on design systems to create consistency and to reduce development time.
There are certainly areas in RBC where you will find more of the traditional banking environment. The purpose of my story isn’t to give you a fixed expectation about RBC co-op, but to be open to the opportunity to working there. A co-op at RBC can provide you with learning opportunities that are only available because of its large scale. You never know if you may find a team with a start-up spirit within RBC, so give it a try if the opportunity comes.
Taylor Nguyen is a 5th-year Business student who writes about self-development, job search, and student experience. She has worked on strategy and design for TELUS Health and RBC and freelanced for multiple SMB clients. As a nonfiction nerd, her writing is based on both personal experience and knowledge from research. You can connect with her on her Portfolio or LinkedIn.