Job Search Woes and the Thomson Reuters Grind

The Struggle

Searching for employment is a full time job and can either go exceptionally well or miserably poor. I have experienced both of these scenarios.

There were peaks where I’d get a few initial phone screens and moved on to the next round, and then there were valleys where I’d go a week or two without getting an interview. The latter is where your determination and work ethic is tested.

I struggled, failed, felt unmotivated, anxious, nervous and scared that I would not find the right fit where my skills would flourish. I began to think, “What is wrong with me? What am I not doing right?”

I wanted to give up, but I thought to myself, “What is the alternative?”

I came across a posting for a program at Thomson Reuters that seemed like the perfect fit for a guy with my experience in financial services, and the aptitude to pursue a career in Account Management.

Five days after applying I received an email saying I have been selected to conduct an online situational assessment about how I would react in certain scenarios.

I thought it was fairly straightforward and answered the questions with utmost integrity.

A week went by and I received another email stating I had moved on to the next stage in the process which would be a phone call.

The phone call consisted of 12 questions where I had 30 seconds to think of an answer, and 1 minute to give a response. There was no rebuttal or follow up and it was probably the most awkward interview I have ever had. From Thomson Reuters’ point of view, I believe they were trying to assess how I would react in certain situations with various levels of comfortability due to the nature of the position. I thought my responses were solid although there was no way to prepare and it was hard to assess the success of my answers because after every response the interviewer would say, “Ok, next question.”

A week goes by and I receive an email from the program manager saying I moved on to the final stage of the interview (now I’m giddy).

I immediately replied and started to prepare.

For the final round, Thomson Reuters wanted candidates to prepare two presentations. The first was a show-and-tell pitch where you bring in a personal item and show how it describes your personality and what you can contribute to the firm. The second was an innovation challenge where I had to come up with a new idea or initiative for the firm.

My brain was instantly in overdrive and I went to work on brainstorming ideas.

For the show-and-tell pitch, I assumed other candidates would bring items such as their great-grandfather's WWI medal or an award for high achievement in sports.

I knew I did not have these, but I wanted to demonstrate my creativity, drive and work ethic.

Will Smith — Pursuit of Happyness

I remembered how Will Smith’s character Chris Gardner from the ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ solved a Rubik’s cube to get an interview at a well-established firm.

I thought this would be uber cool if I could pull it off, and would make me memorable.

For the innovation challenge, I did not want to pitch a plain vanilla idea, or something that would seem risk-averse. I am interested in artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and how they will shape the future and economy. I believe they will change how we communicate and function and it could possibly disrupt the entire services industry.

My idea was futuristic, brave and extremely different. I owe it to my admiration of Elon Musk and his ability to think 30 years into the future and turn the norm upside down and reinvent entire processes.

I thought of a virtual reality headset that creates a reality of financial data and applications in conjunction with Thomson Reuters’ Eikon and Elektron platforms. I coined it, Electra VR.

My Innovation Pitch

You may be thinking, how is this a risky initiative? Financial services is an industry that has a flat curve for innovation and where the bulk of its workers would be against new technology because, “if it’s not broken, why fix it?”

The Grind

I had 7 days to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube and create this presentation, as well as prepare for the interview, apply to other jobs and be productive. It was a crazy week.

I told some of my friends and family that I was going to solve this Rubik’s cube in front of my interviewers and I got mixed feedback. Some said it would be awesome if I could do it and others doubted my ability and said, “What if you screw up or can’t solve it?”

I’ve learned not to let pessimistic individuals captain your ship. You are the only one who knows your limits and what you are capable of. I set a goal of solving this cube.

I searched several algorithms on Youtube and chose one that had the most views (most views = it works). I broke down the process into three layers and started twisting and turning the cube and failing several hundred times. I got annoyed at myself and at the child who was teaching me on Youtube, but I thought back to my main goal, and kept grinding.

Within a few days I could solve the cube in about 5 minutes. I was ecstatic. However, I knew 5 minutes was a long time to sit there and show an interviewer my new found skill.

What did I do next? Kept grinding and improving my efficiency with the cube and bringing down my time. The fastest time I completed the cube was 00:01:50. This was by far harder than preparing for my Innovation pitch!

The Main Stage

Fast forward a few days and it’s June 6th, the day I interview with Thomson Reuters. I would be at their office from 8:00 am — 4:00 pm, not knowing what to expect.

Being the punctual person that I am, I got to the interview 30 minutes early and was the first candidate to arrive. I enjoy meeting new people so I began to chat up the other candidates. Thomson Reuters (TR) chose a group of well rounded individuals from diversified backgrounds (not only business grads).

We were led into a boardroom with TR employees who would be assessing us. My heart began racing. There were at least 10 people in suits staring right at us, and I began to think, “What if I screw up the Rubik’s cube in front of all these people?!”

Whenever I get nervous or scared, I take a deep breath and exhale slowly for 5 seconds. It has been a proven method to calm down your heart rate in times of anxiety.

The presentations began and finally it was my turn. I knew it was game time and this was the main stage. I started off with a big smile and told everyone that I would be solving this Rubik’s cube. I began to tell a story about when I was little, I got one of these cubes and threw it away because I could not solve it and I was more interested in my Nintendo 64. Everyone laughed and I felt at ease.

Twisting, turning, sweating, heart racing, the emotions were sprinting through me. I continued to talk about how I learned the cube a week earlier and the struggle and determination that it took to complete it. I made it clear that this was the work ethic that I would bring to Thomson Reuters. I made a few glances at the crowd and every single person was glaring at the cube looking at the progress I was achieving. The pressure was intense and my heart skipped several beats. I came down to the final two algorithms and knew I was almost at the finish line. Maybe it was the excitement, anxiety or nervousness, but I screwed up the last move and was not sure what to do. I quickly buckled down, looked at the cube, made two final moves and finished it!

I showed everyone the cube and they cheered. I told them that my best time was just under two minutes and I had completed the cube in 00:02:20. Not bad with 20 strangers glaring at you.

Closing Remarks

To close this blog, I’d like to briefly discuss some of the other activities and pitches of the day and provide feedback to Thomson Reuters.

There was a multitude of group activities where I had to work with other candidates and create a story from pictures and demonstrate how Thomson Reuters resolves the issue, the second was strategic facility planning for Thomson Reuters support hubs across North America. The third was a hypothetical scenario where myself and three others are shipwrecked and need to prioritize 15 items to salvage and discuss our reasoning.

In all of these group assignments, the key takeaway I learned was how important it is to listen and understand.

As a group, everyone has different ideas and perspectives and it is imperative to give each one a try. There were countless times that other people came up with ideas that I did not think of and I built on their idea and tried playing devil’s advocate to create a more thorough concept.

In life we will always work in teams and there has been no great leader or successful person who has done it alone. I strongly believe in the quote, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so we listen more than we speak.”

For such a large organization, the entire process took exactly 1 month from when I applied to the final day of interviews. I have been in situations where this process is dragged on and sometimes you never hear back from the company. Also, to coordinate calendars with team members from the New York office and get everyone in the room at the same time sounds like a logistical nightmare, kudos!

After speaking with many people that work at TR, I have witnessed the investment it has made in their careers and this is a testament to TR’s belief in their employees.

The interview process was unconventional which I admired because conventional is boring! TR wanted to get to know the real candidates, not ‘interview-rehearsed’ people that will sound uber excited because they want a job. Your interview method demonstrated our true colours and brought us out of our comfort zone.

I left the office feeling empowered that I had the opportunity as 1 of 9 final candidates from a pool of over 1,400 applicants (0.60%). I want the position and I believe I put 110% effort before the interview and 110% effort during.

As I wait for the final decision, I’d like to acknowledge the Thomson Reuters team for their investment in getting to know potential candidates for the firm and the time they took out of their schedule. Thank you!