My Experience as an Intern at Voyago

Sam in front of the Voyago signWritten by: Sam Chan ,third year BMOS (Honours Accounting)

Internship opportunities are something that all post-secondary students strive for, yet it's often a frightening subject. From finding time to apply during the semester, creating cover letters for specific organizations, to competing with sharp and similar-minded individuals, it can get quite overwhelming (I can say this from experience). My name is Sam Chan and I am a third year BMOS, Honours Accounting student at Western University. The Social Science Internship Program (SSIP) is a program created to help students like us land an internship with their help and support. I originally heard about this program through a presentation in one of my classes and instantly knew to make the most out of this wonderful opportunity. In this blog post, I am excited to share my firsthand experiences within the internship program, highlighting my role during this summer and the impactful activities I was engaged in. Additionally, I will provide valuable tips that I believe will be beneficial to others navigating similar opportunities. Join me as I dive into the captivating details of my internship journey, aiming to inspire and provide practical insights along the way.

Western Internship Program Experience

When looking for internships, the Western Connect portal is extremely helpful in that it provides a detailed overview of the positions that are open with key information such as requirements, talent acquisition contacts, location, etc. Nevertheless, it's important to bear in mind that achieving a successful landing is not a walk in the park; it requires dedicated effort and hard work. While the internship team can offer guidance, your ultimate success hinges on the number of applications you create and how often actively pursue these postings. Despite submitting applications to over 60+ postings, I received only 5 responses, 3 of which were rejections. Fortunately, luck was on my side as I managed to secure a position for this summer!

My Internship Experience

This summer, I had the opportunity to work in the transportation industry with one of the biggest mobility companies in Canada, Voyago (formally Voyageur Transportation), a prominent mobility company in Canada, that emerged in London, Ontario in 1979 under the visionary leadership of the Ferguson family. With humble beginnings, they commenced their journey with just one vehicle, providing transportation and delivery services to the local community, airport, and individuals requiring mobility assistance. Over the years, they have been constantly improving their services by operating with major contracts and diversifying their operations into other parts of Ontario. However, in a transformative move in 2019, Voyago underwent a significant transition by being acquired by Transdev, the largest mobility company in the world, headquartered in France. Presently, Voyago's expansive operations span across Ontario and now other provinces, catering to an impressive 50,000 passengers every day with an impressive 100+ vehicle fleet.

The bulk of the company's operations was split into 3 divisions: Schools, Transit, and Health. I was an Operations Intern for the Transit sector of the business, which was one of their largest areas of coverage, as it included public (London Transit Commission - LTC, ICT, etc.) and private (e.g. Google HQ in Kitchener, Universities in Ontario - Western and McMaster, etc.) contacts. This sector was one of the largest that Voyago operated and is in 15+ cities to be managed. They have also been constantly growing through strategic mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and are constantly looking for new business growth opportunities. Keep in mind, I’m only speaking for the Transit sector, as the rest has grown exponentially as well! The best way to describe how my work was divided was that I was in multiple different areas with a common goal: To drive innovation. Their main base was located here in London, so I was able to work directly with the VPs and often meet the president of the company. They showed me not only the internal functions such as how the company manages its different contracts, but how the external operates through ride-along operations and reportings in their patient transfer, shuttles, and paratransit services. These activities allowed the other interns and me to get a better grasp of how the whole company actually works in detail, ultimately concluding how important communication and teamwork are in order for the company to succeed. My department proved to be an amazing source of support, guiding and assisting me at each step.

 Sam with the Voyago team

If I were to put a single word on the work that I was performing, it would be innovation. The responsibilities and work I completed varied greatly from development in marketing initiatives, internal and external operations, marketing/industry extensive research, data analytics through software, and much more. In a way, you get a feel for all the different components in order for a business operation to be successful. A better way to describe my work is that of a project manager. For each task and component, you must be able to incorporate all factors to make the process succeed. Although this may seem complicated, the workplace had a unique feature that allowed me to do well: To work autonomously. They disliked the idea of their employees being micromanaged, as it hinders their overall abilities with limits they can’t control. This gave me the freedom to work on which tasks I wanted to maximize my creativity and output. To truly be able to explain it, I will speak about one of the major projects that I take pride in that I had an amazing time working on and developing: Mustang On Demand (MOD).

Major Project

As this project was directly related to the university I go to, it was so great that I was able to be a part of it! MOD is an express on-demand service that is accessible through the MOD App. It transports Western students from point A to B within the located map outline, all for the cost of $0! This allows students to reduce the number of paid travel services (Uber, Taxi), have a guaranteed safe ride as it's an affiliate with the university, and also rideshare with other students to help decrease overall carbon emissions. With this project, I got the opportunity to create financial planning, collaborate with cross-functional teams + stakeholders (different departments, Via Software, Western University), marketing campaigns, and do extensive marketing and industry research.

Internship Tips

As I look back on my overall experience navigating the internship process, I encountered challenges and acquired valuable lessons that I believe are worth sharing with you. These personal learnings, which required me to rely on my own problem-solving abilities, hold significance and can be of great value to others.

1. Ask Questions

As an intern, I came into the office not understanding or knowing anything about the industry or work. In any learning or professional setting, it is essential to embrace the mindset that no question is a dumb question. In order to make the most of your time as an intern, you should keep an open mind to everything. Not only does this allow you to gain as much knowledge as possible, but your employees and subordinates will remember you as someone who is intrigued by curiosity and learning. However, the main thing is that you need to make sure your work aligns and is correct with staff. Since a lot of my work can be broken down into projects and I was able to work autonomously, it's important to note that regularly checking in with your team is essential to ensure that you are effectively carrying out your work. There have been plenty of times when I thought I was doing something correct, but it turned out to be going in a totally opposite direction. So being able to constantly challenge what's being tasked and ideas you have yourself to figure out all the possible answers is an effective approach to uncovering all possible solutions to ultimately prevent potential future issues.

2. Practice and develop your soft skills

Now that you are in a corporate setting, there is no better time for this than right now! There are many soft skills to work on such as teamwork, communication, and time management to name a few. These skills are very helpful and will help boost you in your career in the future and make you a more effective employee. An important skill I aimed to develop was my interpersonal communication. This can be in the form of information, ideas, and feelings through different communication channels. Some ways I did this was by actively participating in meetings and delivering comprehensive presentations with confidence and clarity. Additionally, I took the initiative to engage in effective communication with my subordinates, which helped strengthen my ability to articulate ideas, convey messages, and effectively be a leader. 

3. Manage yourself

As a student at Western, I believed that I was quite organized with my time and workload. However, as the workload started to come in, it quickly became apparent that I was dealing with an overwhelming number of tasks and projects. To mitigate this, be sure to manage your time accordingly. Some helpful tools I used were Google Calendar and Notion. With Google Calendar, I was able to divide out what was planned for the week, from meetings to events, and what was planned for the day. Notion is a tool I use for school, however, it helped me organize my projects. I was able to divide it from low to high priority and kept me on track with my progress. 

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