In their own words, students share how BSRM has impacted their academic and professional lives.
Graduated BCom from McGill Desautels Faculty of Management in Spring 2020 – Information Systems and Retail Management
Currently Global Product Marketing Analyst, Equinix in San Francisco, Ca
I chose to pursue a retail management concentration during its first introduction to the BCom program in 2018 because of the exceptional professors of practice and brand-new course curriculum that brought current day trends, innovations, and business challenges into the classroom discussion. Without a strong emphasis on traditional textbook-based learning, our cases were extremely relevant to the present day struggles of retailers, forcing our small cohort of students to strive for the most unique solutioning when solving cases and approaching problems. Naturally, I constantly began observing the way our shopping patterns evolved especially among my generation and asking questions about why certain retailers failed to adapt. When it came to lectures, we were greeted by guest speakers every week including the CEO of Aldo and Lightspeed, never seen before in other classes, and presented with opportunities to directly consult companies such as MissFresh and Maison Birks. The constant focus on innovation enabled me to think outside the box, approaching omni-channel retail with experiential brick-and-mortar strategies and strong eCommerce campaigns in mind. Most notably, I had the chance to also leverage learnings from international companies thriving in foreign retail markets when writing up reports on Alibaba, Xiaomi, and Burger King's exceptional marketing strategy in a time of retail revolution.
Research / Career
In my final semester, I was able to couple my passions in technology and retail innovation to pursue an independent research study supervised by Professor Yoo and understand how macro trends in grocery delivery and innovation could be transferred to a localized solution here in Montreal. Through the research opportunity, I was able to personally interview and learn from industry leaders across companies such as Loblaw Digital, Postmates, Voila by Sobey's, as well as the head of the Food and Retail Lab at MIT. Shortly after, I leveraged these research insights to directly apply my learnings in the field, gaining a rare opportunity to work at Jupiter.co for the summer, a YCS19 start up striving to automate groceries in the Bay Area. At Jupiter, I was able to launch four growth channel experiments with the Stanford founding team and watch the day-to-day operations of a seed stage start-up in action. Looking back, it all started when I took a leap of faith to pursue an unconventional path in retail at McGill.
Retail Innovation Challenge
Just prior to my May 2020 graduation, COVID-19 hit North America in a way that would be detrimental to the retail industry and small independent businesses. I found it to be both a rewarding experience and direct way of giving back to my community to participate in the Bensadoun Retail Innovation Challenge as a case writer and judge. Working hand-in-hand with a staff member of the Retail Lab and a master’s student, I was able to develop the story around Foodchain's challenges as a small business entering the pandemic, and evaluate solutions pitched by students across Canada. I'm extremely grateful I had the opportunity to work on the case, in hopes that it can bring inspiration to the Foodchain team during its toughest battle in a global pandemic.
Currently in last year, BCom student at McGill Desautels Faculty of Management– Accounting and Retail Management
My experience with the Bensadoun School of Retail Management (BSRM) has exceeded all my expectations and positively impacted my personal and professional growth. In pursuing a Retail Management Concentration, I have been granted the opportunity to learn from industry experts and talented guest lecturers such as executives from Amazon and Google. Further, I was fortunate to have the privilege of working with the BSRM this past summer in developing the school’s Retail Innovation Challenge assisting local retail SMEs in the food sector in partnership with Lightspeed and Canada Post.
Working with such a dedicated and talented team at the BSRM such as Charles de Brabant, Executive Director of BSRM, has been the most gratifying experience of my academic career. Not only were the learning opportunities invaluable and continue to be of relevance in my daily life but working with company representatives allowed me to gain insight into the retail industry in unprecedented times. This experience has left me a more astute and well oriented individual.
I cannot recommend the BSRM more strongly. Regardless of degree of study, the opportunity to learn from such talent is unlike anywhere else. Further, the creative innovation and development that the BSRM is committed to is one-of-a-kind in the study of retail management – as evidenced by the new Retail Innovation Lab.
The retail industry is developing at a pace like no other in the wake of COVID-19 and the opportunity to learn has never been more relevant – BSRM gave me the opportunity to do so, and it has been of the utmost value. Upon graduation in the Spring, I will forever remember the experience I had with BSRM as the most defining moment of my academic experience at McGill University.
Last semester BCom McGill Desautels Faculty of Management - Finance, Marketing & Italian Studies
Currently a part-time Financial Services Representative at CIBC
Throughout my stay at McGill, the two retail courses I took were by far the most compelling and interesting. Normally, attending 8:30 morning lectures is always a tough task; however, I would always look forward to Prof. Lamothe’s classes because they were very engaging and also different from traditional lecture-based courses. The element that made them different was the fact that the courses involved more hands-on work and real-life case situations. Her classes invited creativity and solving modern real-world retailing issues. Working on cases made the courses really fun while also giving a glimpse of what is to come in the real world when working in retail management and having to apply yourself with team members.
Another really good element of Prof. Lamothe’s retail courses were the quality of guest speakers she was able to bring in to interact with us. We truly learned a lot from really successful people who have had quite the success in the retail marketing sector with big companies such as Dollarama, Birks, and Couche Tard.
The Retail Management courses really made a difference in my academic life because they pushed me to go above and beyond course material in order to learn about topics and find solutions to certain problems that presented themselves during our case presentations. I enjoyed these classes because they invited creativity and really helped me work on my critical thinking. I think that critical thinking is one of the most important skills that I improved on through my retail courses and it is a very important skill to have in the workforce.
What I would tell someone that is interested in registering for the retail concentration is that they should seriously consider it if they are the type of person that enjoys case structured courses and hands-on work. Although I am currently in the finance field, I can one day see myself perhaps switching to the retail sector and it is all thanks to the retail courses I took at McGill. They really inspired me and allowed me to see myself one day enjoying working in such fields. It is really unfortunate that the two retail management classes I attended came at the end of my stay at McGill or else I would have definitely completed a retail concentration!
U4 BCom McGill Desautels Faculty of Management - Retail Management & Computer Science
I always knew that I didn’t want to study a specific discipline within business like marketing, business analytics, or finance, but a mix of all, which is exactly what the retail program is all about. It’s a highly practical concentration that allows me to apply my skillset to different challenges in retail.
If you are currently at a crossroads in terms of choosing a major, I would highly recommend the concentration for three reasons. First, the required courses bring you in total more than 15 guest speakers from different industries and companies like Google, Aldo, Walmart and Lightspeed, so you can network and coffee chat while building business acumen. Second, it is highly collaborative and cross-functional: the projects are tackled in groups in which no matter your discipline or previous specialization (e.g. marketing, finance, OB, operations management), you will certainly bring something unique to the table that perfectly complements your teammates’ strengths. Lastly, you will get to directly advise a company strategically on a real-life retail problem they are facing, which is not only great for resume building, but impactful and meaningful work for a major organization.
All in all, if you are tired of specialization and theory, and want to do something hands-on in the business world — the retail management concentration is a place for you to grow.
Graduated BCom from McGill Desautels Faculty of Management in December 2020 - Marketing & Retail Management
Currently Marketing trainee at L’Oréal Canada for Lancôme’s digital team
I choose the retail concentration because of the professors. I knew retail professionals were coming to teach at McGill as part of this concentration. I was eager to learn from the perspective of a professional like Marie-Josee Lamothe or Anwar White. Their teaching style resembles more of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee, and this is something that I was seeking.
I also chose the retail concentration for the possibility to learn through real-life scenarios and projects. I was at the end of my first year and I was at the point where I had to decide my major and concentration when the school announced the Retail Innovation Lab. I was excited about the opportunity to possibly be able to take a class that would allow me to experiment in the Lab. It seemed like an opportunity for more hands-on and interactive learning which is not something I had experienced before. I also joined the concentration because of classes like Retail Management Projects or Retailing Beyond 2020 which promised the opportunity to work with companies. I wanted to build my network and get a better idea of real working world projects while still being in a controlled learning environment.
My experience incorporated hands-on learning, more than any of my other classes, and there is an “agile” curriculum. Since most of the core retail classes are projects based or case based, we are always learning about something that is highly relevant to the current business/retail context, which is something that cannot be done in a class with a fixed curriculum and a textbook to follow. Knowing that I was learning about something that was going to be directly relevant to the working world (e.g. helping a small food retailer to turn around its strategy during COVID or helping a fashion retailer to launch its first sustainable clothing line), made me much more interested and invested in my studies. Being in a head space where I learned about things at the right place and right moment, because that is what was relevant in the retail market at the exact moment, made me understand and retain my learnings much better.
The most important skills I’ve acquired through the retail concentration is critical thinking. Working on cases and projects rather than with textbooks, where there are no right or wrong answers, showed me that every opinion, ideas and perspectives are always more nuanced than I thought. Since there were no “exam solutions”, I had to learn the importance of always being ready to explain my ideas and back them with strong reasoning. I learned about the importance of always considering the two sides of a medal before making any decisions or forming any opinions. Understanding this not only allows me to make more reasoned decisions when I am faced with a new project or challenge now that I am in the working world, but it also makes me, as a person, a more avid learner. I seek to understand and balance different or conflicted points of view at the same time, and I am more comfortable with it.
Another skill I learned through the retail concentration is agility. The importance of keeping up with the different trends and plan ahead on how I think those trends will affect the market in the near future. Everything happens fast in the retail business and I understood through the projects I did, as part of the concentration, that the only way to keep up is by being willing to continuously test things to fail fast to learn fast.
The retail concentration regroups students from multiple different majors (finance, marketing, sustainability, accounting, etc.). Unlike in my marketing classes, I had the chance to work in multiple multi-disciplinary teams and I learned how to make the best out of my colleagues’ strengths and area of expertise to work towards a common goal despite our different perspectives.
Graduated BCom from McGill Desautels Faculty of Management in December 2018
Currently Marketing Campaign & Creative Manager at Amazon NYC
The retail program at the Bensadoun School of Retail Management (BSRM) taught me exactly what’s needed today to succeed in the world of retail and within my own industry and job. The BSRM is a unique combination of an academic program which is at the edge of today’s retail concepts and business models along with practical tools, experiences, and real-world case studies. At the Bensadoun School, I understood the complexity of the never-ending changing world of retail with its strategic, operational, technological, human components, and the role I can personally play in it and within my role at Amazon.