Avi Pollock, Innovation and Strategic Planning

Head, Innovation & Strategic Planning, RBC

“My job is creative – telling the story of tech in a meaningful way. To succeed at technology problem-solving and sales pitches to executives, you have to treat them as creative exercises!”

Avi's CareerMash

As someone who bridges technology, business, and creative skills, Avi's role is very highly interactive. Avi must understand the general design of new technology, and make the case to senior executives that investments in these technologies are in company’s (and the customer's) benefit. It's a unique role that creatively combines technology, business, and communications expertise. Avi must put creative tech thoughts into action.

Most of the time, Avi has the luxury of thinking for a living: developing roadmaps and plans to support and implement new technologies in cloud computing, mobile applications for banking, and the use of social media in business strategy. Staying current on tech trends is essential, since reports and presentations on the innovative potential of social media and new technologies in banking are time-sensitive.

A day in the life

Avi's job is to create a steady stream of realistic, customer-driven concepts. He's responsible for gathering and generating ideas, determining what customers value, and testing and piloting new technologies for implementation at RBC.

Why this job rocks

  • Make something out of nothing: Sometimes it’s not clear how new technologies can apply to business needs. So while this job can be ambiguous, that means Avi gets to be creative and implement ideas about new tech into real action.
  • Opportunity: With no end in sight to new technology innovations, a career in strategic planning is a good bet for always having work, and plenty of chances to move on up.
  • Interaction: Avi is frequently out of the office, speaking and presenting to executives and the public on innovation, mobile strategy, social networking, media, and the latest innovations in payment and user authentication. He's a visionary that puts creative tech thoughts into action.

Roadmap

Avi shows that a career in technology is possible, with little to no formal training in the nuts and bolts – in fact, he is entirely self-taught in tech. After a BA in political science from the University of Western Ontario, Avi went on to complete a joint MBA/LLB (law degree) from York University’s Schulich School of Business & Osgoode Hall Law School.

Putting his business and law credentials to work with his newfound interest in tech, Avi started a tech company in the 90s internet boom, and grew it to $30 million/year in sales before selling in 2000. He then moved on, working for a several tech companies and consulted for tech start-ups before joining RBC global technology & operations division.

Speedbumps

Avi's job is to make practical recommendations on how to use individual technologies to meet the needs of RBC and its customers. He advises recent grads to "get beyond the theoretical, academic mindset of university and think practically". Some new grads have a hard time adapting to this aspect of corporate life, so keep that in mind when making the transition.

Tips for Success

  • Keep learning: Thoughtful and curious people do well in this role. Stay on top of what's happening in the world!
  • Keep you options open: Whether you're a techie or a business person at heart, do your best to understand both worlds – today's hot jobs in the financial industry combine both skill sets!
  • Be creative: How do you tell a tech story that hasn't happened yet? Working on being a good communicator will help you bridge the worlds of business and technology into a story that can be digested by anyone.
  • Get your hands dirty: “People learn by doing. So keep playing with new technologies and gadgets – experience it, and learn from it”.