Amy McTavish is a senior student at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business in Victoria, British Columbia, majoring in commerce. She began her journey with the Commerce Students’ Society as a Director of Communications before assuming her most recent role as Vice-President of Finance. Amy remains active in on-campus co-curriculars, and is currently part of her university’s Applied Portfolio Management Program (APMP) as a Portfolio Manager focusing on ESG integration. In her professional life, Amy aims to start her career with BCI as an analyst in Public Markets ESG. She held prior student roles with the Rose Agency, Fidelity Investments and RBC.
A former delegate at a number of CABS conferences, Amy is an excellent example of someone who has made the most out of her time as an undergraduate student. Our team is thankful to have scheduled a meeting with Amy to learn about her experiences in greater detail; below are some highlights of our discussion.
Is there anything in particular that led you to choosing finance as your major?
In the summer after her first year of studies, Amy held a role with RBC as a bank teller, but this wasn’t because of any prior interest in finance. Like many first-year students, Amy hadn’t yet figured out what her career path might be; getting a teller job felt appropriate as she held prior customer service roles before. ‘I was a barista at Starbucks before and always found myself successfully selling items to people on top of what they had ordered – dealing with people constantly felt natural.’ Getting this experience in retail banking did nonetheless set her on a path to determine her next steps. ‘I figured, now with some experience in financial services, maybe I could build on this in some sense and continue looking for related opportunities.’ Choosing to focus on completing a major in finance started out as a logical decision, but would soon turn into a passion that would lead her to discover a number of opportunities in the years that followed.
In what year did you join your BSA? How did you progress through the organization?
Amy joined the Commerce Students’ Society in her sophomore year; she had volunteered for a few of their on-campus activities, which helped her become more familiar with other students in the organization. After completing her first year as a Director of Communications, Amy saw the potential to explore her interest in finance by applying for the Vice-President of Finance at the CSS. She attributes her acceptance to the role to her persistence. ‘I had a plan in mind for what I wanted to accomplish in the role and basically kept telling the upcoming President what those steps were.’ After participating in a panel interview, it wouldn’t be long before Amy would find herself selected to join as an executive. ‘The interview felt more like a formality; I felt like [the interviewers] could right away sense my passion to explore the role.’ To her, this opportunity was a chance to gain experience in handling the responsibilities that come with managing a significant amount of money, all while contributing to the success of the entire organization at large.
Can you elaborate on the ‘plan of attack’ you envisioned ahead of being accepted for the role?
Amy shares that, prior to her joining as the Vice-President of Finance, the Commerce Students’ Society hadn’t yet made any big changes with regards to their accounting practices. She had a plan to introduce the use of accounting software. ‘I had no experience in using accounting software before, but It sounded like something I could implement that would have an obvious benefit.’ Amy mentions that she hoped this would help other members of the CSS get a better understanding of how the club can operate efficiently from a financial perspective. ‘[The handling of] money can be confusing, even stressful.’ A large number of cash transactions, be it inflows or outflows, go through the organization weekly; Amy hoped that by advancing the accounting practices of the club would increase both efficiency and transparency.
Aside from building upon your existing accounting practices, were there any other big challenges that came with the role?
‘I only had one director, so I felt at times that the responsibility [of managing club finances effectively] was on me.’ Being someone that puts a great deal of care into every opportunity she accepts, Amy says there’s an accompanying pressure to perform to the high expectations she holds for herself. As someone who had an acting executive role, a full class schedule and other on-campus and professional commitments, Amy stresses the importance of being self-aware; to her, this is a combination of proper time management coupled with the ability to make decisions that prioritize mental health.
Any recommendations for new students that are considering being a part of a BSA?
Amy recognizes the independence that a student-led organization offers as being a notable value-add for any student. ‘There is next to no faculty intervention; students fully run this club and figure things out themselves.’ She says that belonging to the CSS helped her learn more about herself, her capabilities, and how to handle less-than-deal scenarios that easily appear in any professional context. ‘You’ll likely make mistakes, or conflict with someone or something, but you learn to come up with a solution. In all, this is real experience.’ Seeing the outcomes of everyone’s efforts throughout the year can be incredibly satisfying.
As an executive, what about the conferences at CABS did you appreciate the most?
Out of the many opportunities that CABS offers its members, Amy is grateful for the time spent collaborating with similar executives from other member universities. Getting a chance to discuss portfolio strategy led to many open discussions surrounding successes or ongoing challenges. ‘It was nice to also talk to people outside of your BSA. The conversations were pretty frank about the good and the bad, which put me at ease as I then felt I wasn’t alone in my journey.’
In attending a few CABS conferences, Amy felt she built immediate personal connections to other students from across the country. ‘There’s a real sense of community here, you form close ties even though days earlier you didn’t know each other.’ Participating in the annual Roundtable conference, a meeting of students from member BSA’s that spans the course of three to four days, is an in-depth experience, one that Amy says brings out a willingness to connect with others that share the same level of ambition. ‘You’re not doing any of this for money, it’s all because you’re here to improve yourself and get experience working with other personalities.’ She mentions that to this day she stays in touch with some of her former delegates.
Amy published an article on LinkedIn titled ‘The Truth About Success’; we asked her about her own personal journey to discover her definition of success
Amy prefaces her reply by saying that it wasn’t long ago where she felt the afflictions of burn-out. ‘I had all these great opportunities come my way, from my job at BCI to continuing with the CSS to being accepted into the Portfolio Management program, but I found myself struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, loss of energy and the inability to sleep at the same time. I was overwhelmed.’ To better grasp the source of her struggles, Amy sought to identify where her values lied. ‘I basically realized that the only value that I saw in myself was what I could achieve in my career. I neglected to place an equal importance on other aspects of my life, like my personal interests or spending time with friends and family, all because I was working towards a career.’ Coming up with a new definition for her own personal success is what put her more at ease. Success became less about career progress, titles or recognition, and more about balance. ‘There’s sort of a perpetuated ‘hustle culture’ in business school; it seems like the minute you get free time, there’s an expectation to ask yourself, ‘What else can I do to be productive?’, which I don’t think is sustainable for your well-being. Success for me is to enjoy life: go after your career, but also go for a walk, hang out with your friends and find yourself a hobby.’ Her article is something she hopes others can see. ‘I think there are so many people that would benefit from seeing success as a journey, not an immediate destination.’