5Q: Bachelor of Commerce, honours in economics student Nathan Robichaud
9/23/2020 12:17:05 PM

NathanRobichaud_5Qweb1. Tell me about what you are doing in your summer internship?

I work with Dr. Lauren Beck (Modern Languages, Literatures, and Culture associate professor) as a Business Development Intern. My team and I are helping her launch a business providing services related to diversity and inclusion, which is based on her field of research. She is the Canada Research Chair on Intercultural Encounter.

My job varies from week to week. For example, this week I am working on incorporating and registering our organization as a federally recognized business. Some weeks, I am reading the literature behind the work we are doing so we have sources to back up our work. Other weeks, I am reaching out to the connections I have in various fields to see how we should develop digital services for large web providers who may find value in our services.

There is quite a lot of literature behind what practices in corporate settings are effective in reinforcing diversity and inclusion. And as a company becomes diverse and more inclusive, productivity tends to increase. All the research we have been doing is honing in on the practices that are proven to not only be effective in employee satisfaction, but also in company productivity. So, there is motivation on both sides there.

You have one side, ‘do you want a diverse and inclusive staff?’ and the other side ‘do you want to make more money at the end of the day?’. The literature shows that these need not be mutually exclusive – an increase in one lends itself to an increase in the other.

There has been a lot more work that has come out and been funded given the recent global civil rights climate. It is especially relevant, now more than ever. It was a call to action that needed to happen.

2. What do you hope to take away from this experience?

I do want to further my knowledge of everything we work on. However, one thing that I didn’t expect to get out of this internship is a new-found appreciation for the work that is being done to ensure that as we move into the big data age – that big data is fair and represents all populations equally. Currently there is racial and gender bias in many of the data sets that control our wellbeing as a society, from big banks to insurance providers. It was something I was really unaware of coming into my job and it is something that will stick with me into the future. This is an issue that requires a significant amount of work and represents a huge opportunity for improvement. It flies under the radar and it was not something that I was expecting.

3. How has the pandemic affected your internship?

I work from home. I am really lucky that my job allows me to do that; a lot of people can’t. A lot of people lost jobs. It has let me spend my summer with my family and my dogs here in Yarmouth, NS. It has been a learning curve, but I feel it is good experience because I think in the future work from home will be the standard in a lot more industries. So, I am glad I have the skill set that accompanies that.

4. What has been your favourite part of your internship experience so far?

I knew I would be learning about tools and best practices for business development, that was why I was hired and that was the skill set that I wanted to build on. But, I have been really fortunate that I have learned so much about the systemic socioeconomic barriers faced by minorities and marginalized communities every day. This is relevant now more than ever. This is work that has to be done and should have be done long ago. It has also been an exercise in personal growth reading the literature and the stories of this oppression faced by groups of people in the world today, and as a result realizing the place of privilege which your opinion comes from in the first place. The change has to start personally and that is something that has happened to me that I am really grateful for this summer. That has been my favourite part. And, I am part of an initiative trying to break down some of these barriers and I am really grateful for that.

5. What extracurriculars are you involved in on and off campus?

I love to be part of a community and Mount Allison is so great for that. I do SMILE (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience, which matches Mount Allison students with a "buddy" between the ages of three and 21, who has a disability).  I play lacrosse for the Mounties and I do Right to Play. I am on the executive for the case competition society and the commerce society. This year I was an analyst in our investment fund. I am also working with some friends from the University of Waterloo on a sports nutrition and fitness technology startup.

Bonus question: What is one piece of advice you would give to your first-year self?

First-year is not the be-all, end-all of your university experience. I would say that you are at university to find what makes you tick and chances are you are not going to get it right on the first try. If you are having a hard time, don’t beat yourself up, you just have not found what motivates you yet. That was the case with me.