I first met Hartley McCallum working on campus at the Ryerson Student Learning Centre during my third year of university. We instantly bonded due to our similar programs and living situations as we happened to live in the same building. Hartley is a well-rounded fourth year Retail Management (B.Comm) student, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with her to talk about how the last four years went – enjoy!
How would you describe the Retail Management program?
“No matter what your passion is in business, you will find something that you like in the Retail Management program. People often think that retail is just clothing or fashion, but it can really be anything. For me, I am interested in sports retail, and working in that realm. The program immerses students in the innovations and best practices of retailers at a corporate level. This includes category management, logistics, buying, merchandising, marketing, digital design, store design and much more. Whether prospective students are interested in fashion or in sports, there is something for them in the Retail Management program!”
Why did you choose the Retail Management program?
“I chose the Retail Management program because of the endless opportunities that the industry has to offer. Coming out of high school, I wasn’t too sure about what I wanted to do, and I wanted to follow a path that offered me a wide variety of job opportunities after graduation. There are so many different companies in the world that offer the retail management perspective. The program is similar to the Business Management program, but the Retail Management program has a smaller community of students, and this allows for more one on one support with professors.”
Are you happy with your choice?
“Yes, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first moved to Toronto, but I found that I was very happy with my choice. I was doing well in my courses as I enjoyed the content, and thus it came easy to me. Not only is the program immersive and engaging, but the professors are industry professionals who are passionate, knowledgeable, and supportive. We have a lot of partners as a lot of the professors worked in the industry. With that, they know people that they can bring in to class and we do case studies with real companies about real issues. It’s not just learning from a textbook, it’s more applying our skills and getting feedback from industry professionals. It’s a safe space, as they take pride in supporting the leaders of tomorrow.”
Outside of class what are you involved with on-campus at Ryerson?
“Before I started my undergrad, I came to Toronto to check out Ryerson’s campus and I participated in my first case competition with the Retail Management program, as they offered one for high school students. The energy at the case competition solidified why I wanted to come to Ryerson, and throughout my undergrad, I have been involved in several case competitions events, as well as networking events with student associations such as the Ryerson Sports and Business Student Association. I also participated in a case competition put on by MLSE. I didn’t know anyone going into the case competitions, but everyone who signs up for those types of events want to be there, and they are really sweet to everyone. Growing up, I was really shy, so participating in these events was in part proving to myself that I can do it and that great things come out of putting yourself out there.
Beyond case competitions, in my third year, I also worked on campus as a Student Learning Centre (SLC) Specialist at the SLC. I wanted to be more involved with the school through that job because outside of school most of my time was spent working in retail positions at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. I found with on-campus jobs, the supervisors care a lot more about student mental health and maintaining a work-life balance. The SLC team is very sweet and a lot of the supervisors are past or current Ryerson students, so I connected well with the community there. The job also allowed for the opportunity to do various business-related tasks as a part of various committees on the team. For example, specialists were able to help with the winter holiday marketplace called Shop the SLC.”
What are some highlights of your time at university?
“One highlight is taking the time to connect with my professors, as they now know me on a first-name basis. I have one professor who I’ve had four different classes with, and I’ve gotten to know her well. Also, the friendships I’ve made have been a big highlight and support from the program. I’ve been really lucky to get a scholarship every year from the Retail Management program. The program offers the most amount of scholarships out of all Ryerson programs. These past four years, I’ve been grinding the whole time, so it’s all kind of been a blur. It goes by so fast, and I encourage incoming students to try to live in the moment.”
How would you describe Ryerson to someone who was thinking of coming here?
“One thing that stands out to me is that Ryerson has an immersive community that is interconnected with the city, and it is not just a separate campus. This made it easy for me to meet industry professionals and I find that I’m not just sitting in class reading from a textbook, which I love. The university also has supportive staff and community that is offered in and out of the classroom.
The school is welcoming to anyone and everyone. In my first year, I lived in the Pitman Hall residence, and I met so many different kinds of people from all over the world with different backgrounds, values, and beliefs. Ryerson has become a safe space where anyone can be themselves. My roommate in first-year wrote a paper about how when she was on campus she felt more comfortable expressing herself through fashion compared to her home city. Students get to be comfortable here and be their true selves.”
Does the Retail Program require an internship?
“To graduate, students in the Retail Management program must do an internship during the summer between their third and fourth year. In the winter semester before the summer in my third year, we had a course that helped us network, and they pulled employers into class, helping us get on track to finding an internship. This was super helpful as it’s very competitive finding an internship, as there are hundreds of students trying to find one at once. This class had a speed networking event one week, and I networked with Enterprise Holdings Rent a Car recruiters, and I ended up landing an internship there for the summer.”
How was your internship experience?
“My internship was between May and August, and I was one of the 12 interns hired across the GTA as an Enterprise Management Trainee Intern. Each intern was assigned a different branch depending on where they lived, and so I was assigned to one of the business’ busiest branches in downtown Toronto. There was a very steep learning curve as it’s a big business, and I was dealing with multi-million dollar assets. It was a logistics, operations management, and customer service focused
internship. I got to see the backend of the job including finance, marketing, and seeing how we could grow the business. I convinced new companies to rent cars from us for business purposes and brought in over $15,000 in new business. I still work at the company part-time, and I’m still trying to grow the business.”
What’s a common misconception of the Retail Management program?
“The most common misconception is that people assume that the program is meant for people who want to be a store-level manager. This is so far from the truth, as store-level managers don’t need degrees! The first thing I learned in this program is that virtually any business is considered as being a retailer. Retail is essentially selling either a product or service. Students in the Retail Management program learn everything from operations and marketing, finance and logistics which can be applied at the corporate level. At the end of the day, students in this program graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce, which means it gets you much further than store manager. For example, some alumni from our program have gone on to work for Adidas as a digital marketer, Aritzia as a buyer (they choose what merchandise the store carries across Canada), and other people are working in finance or starting their own business.”
Do you have any minors? Why did you decide to minor in these topics?
“I grew up in British Columbia, and I have always been passionate about the outdoors. When I was starting my second year, I started a minor in Environmental and Urban Sustainability. It did add a bit more pressure on myself, but I’m excited about it. Although the world of business and retail is an exciting and innovative industry to be in, it still has some work to be done regarding the environment, and I want to be aware of it. This minor has shown me the basics of applying sustainable practices from a biology and geography point of view, which I have been able to connect with what I have been learning in my major. I have learned about waste management, how to make businesses more sustainable, and innovative ways to find alternatives for business practices. I hope to work for a retailer that supports positive change towards environmental issues and doesn’t add to the stress of the earth.
What’s next for you after graduation?
“I finished as the top intern in the GTA based on sales, customer service and marketing at my internship at Enterprise last summer as I wanted to invest in myself, impress people and push myself and see how far it could go. I got a job offer to work in the Enterprise Management Trainee program after graduation which I am excited for. For the first six months, I will continue to do the same thing as the internship, and I’ll be eligible to take a skills test to get promoted to Assistant Manager and then Manager and work my way up the business.
I still want to keep my options open for the future, as my true passion is sports marketing. I’m interested in partnerships, activations, and experiential marketing. Further down the road, I plan to get involved in this area and I plan to stay in Toronto for the wide variety of opportunities it offers. I think it’s important to not have tunnel vision, as I don’t know which options will come my way, but I’ll take it as it happens.”