Full-Time MBA students team up with Toronto Police to take on the city’s most pressing issues
September 6, 2019
Jane Zhang (MBA ’19) enrolled in business school because she wanted to make a difference.
“I wasn’t after the typical job,” explains Zhang, who had been employed for years as an engineer before enrolling in the Full-Time MBA program at Rotman.
“I’ve always been drawn to high-impact projects that require innovative thinking and taking risks. I couldn’t wait to work on real issues.”
She didn’t have to wait long. Zhang spent her final semester of business school as an innovation and analytics intern with the Toronto Police Service (TPS). While there, she tackled high-profile policing initiatives: from reducing cyber crime (a project that involved running design sprints and building partnerships with financial institutions) to promoting community awareness of human trafficking issues (which required organizing speakers and reaching out to residents about a TPS-hosted conference on the topic).
There was no typical day for Zhang, who was often out in field with officers, compiling slide decks for strategy meetings, working on analytics projects or coordinating design sprints.
“It turned out to be the perfect internship for me,” says Zhang. “Not only was each day different and interesting in its own way, but I knew I was doing important work that really mattered to the city.”
Zhang is one of about a dozen Full-Time MBA students who has completed this unique internship with the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The program, which launched in 2014, pushes students to put their business knowledge and strategic thinking skills to use on some of the most pressing issues affecting the city. Working with some of the highest levels of the TPS, previous interns have taken on projects related to preventing financial services crimes and fraud, improving community policing engagements and enhancing strategic operations within the organization, among other topics.
“I knew I was doing important work that really mattered to the city.”
—Jane Zhang, MBA ’19
“The partnership with Rotman provides the Toronto Police Service with professionals who are interesting in applying their skills to improve public safety in Toronto,” explains Ian Williams, manager of analytics and innovation at TPS. “The students coming out of Rotman bring strategy, analytics and innovation expertise to support incredibly important work, and we look forward to continuing to provide these opportunities moving forward.”
In many cases, this internship sets students up for exciting career paths. Zhang recently started a management role with BMO’s procurement centre of excellence, and other former interns have successfully pursued careers in analytics and innovation, among other fields. Ultimately, interns learn a lot about how to incorporate innovative thinking into their work and approach complex projects.
Gaining hands-on experience working on very unique projects
While taking on such high-profile initiatives might seem very intimidating, many interns, like Sugandha Subramanian (MBA ’19), instantly felt reassured by the supportive culture at TPS.
“With an internship like this, it can be difficult to know where to begin. It was a relief to see that I could speak up and ask questions,” recalls Subramanian, an experienced CPA and finance professional.
For her MBA internship, she was eager to step outside her comfort zone and work on different types of business problems.
Among a few of the projects she worked on during her stint at TPS, Subramanian focused on strengthening partnerships with local universities and colleges and on developing an internal analytics strategy for the organization.
Right away, she saw how her ideas could have impact. Early on, one of the pitch decks she helped develop for TPS’s new innovation program — which was eventually presented to and approved by the chief of police’s office — sparked important changes within the organization. After the deck was presented, one of the organization’s business units was rebranded as the business analytics and innovation unit, and TPS was able to better communicate their objectives and secure partnerships and grants to further their innovation priorities.
“It was refreshing to be in strategy meetings that weren’t driven by concerns over profits and revenue.”
—Sugandha Subramanian, MBA ’19
In addition to learning a great deal, Subramanian, who earned a spot in TD’s competitive Graduate Leadership Program, also credits this unique internship for helping her stand out in interviews.
“This internship became one of my most meaningful learning experiences at Rotman,” she explains. “I was part of something exciting and building something new.”
Beyond that, it was rewarding to apply her management knowledge in a public service setting, and the importance of thinking bigger picture.
“It was refreshing to be in strategy meetings that weren’t driven by concerns over profits and revenue,” says Subramanian. “We were engaging in relevant conversations about improving initiatives for the city. At the same time, we kept a strong focus on innovation and proper analytics management. It was a perfect blend of priorities.”
A lasting impression
While a few former interns might have completed their TPS internships years ago, some alumni still remember and reflect on the lessons they learned, even now. In many cases, the experience served as great preparation for the career paths they embarked on.
Grace Yu (MBA ’16) was one of the first Rotman MBA students to participate in the internship, and she still recalls the work she did exploring technology and smart policing ideas with the TPS.
The internship had Yu working with various stakeholders and analyzing all aspects of the organization to identify pain points and possible process improvements. She sat in on dispatch meetings with frontline officers, learned about the organization’s information security processes and shadowed the data management unit.
The insights she and a fellow intern put forward on improving internal communication processes — particularly around ways the TPS could deliver accurate and comprehensive updates to officers on patrol — were eventually incorporated into the strategic planning process.
“The whole experience was humbling,” recalls Yu. “We had the chance to do work of real consequence that could directly contribute to people in the city feeling safer and more secure.”
“I learned the importance of being diligent in studying a problem I’m trying to solve while keeping an open mind to finding new solutions.”
—Grace Yu, MBA ’16
In many ways, the TPS internships positioned Yu well for her current work as a senior manager of analytics at RBC. Since graduating from Rotman, Yu has steadily progressed in the finance industry — first landing a senior analyst role at CIBC and eventually moving onto management roles at RBC. Her work often requires her to quickly construct analytical framework for challenging business problems under tight deadlines.
“Though I work in a completely different industry, many of the skills I acquired through that internship are transferable,” says Yu. “I learned the importance of being diligent in studying a problem I’m trying to solve while keeping an open mind to finding new solutions.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »