Director of Transaction Management
Banking Industry in Toronto, Ontario
An alumnus of Ryerson University’s applied geography program, John Lopes has taken a hands-on approach to building his impressive career in the banking sector. Before he even completed his undergraduate degree, Lopes’ strong work ethic converted a summer internship at Prizsm Brandz into a part-time position as a Market Analyst. He has since worked in data collection, research, market analysis, and real estate for a leading national grocer and bank. Lopes now oversees all Canadian real estate transactions for a major banking institution, including both the retail and corporate office portfolios.
1. What resources offered by your university helped you find a job after graduation?
I credit the third-year internship offered by Ryerson as one of the main reasons for where I am today. The fact that I was able to have that four-month experience, and stay on part-time afterwards, really gave me a bit of an advantage moving forward. The internship enabled me to get my first position in the banking sector and my first full-time job in the grocery industry.
2. What skills do you wish you learned during your education that would help you in the job market today?
When I was younger, I didn’t realize how important people skills were. Having the right skill set for a job is table stakes, but having people skills can set you apart from the rest of the field. Can I work with you for 5 days a week? That’s often what people are thinking when they are hiring someone. Be nice to everyone and network as much as you can because you never know how that could help you down the line. I’ve never been in an interview where the person interviewing me didn’t know me or know someone who knew me quite well.
3. Can you describe the relevance of your university classes in the real-world setting?
The GIS programs are extremely important. Statistics and demographics courses have definitely helped me in my professional career. In some respects, though, the skills for a geographer are no different than what a regular businessperson requires. By that, I mean we also need to develop technical expertise in programs such as PowerPoint and Excel.
4. How do you incorporate geography into your work?
When we think of geography, it is more than just maps and looking at land. It is also about people and their spatial patterns. Thanks to my geography background, I understand how to consider and compare different markets. I look to provide the organization that employs me with a business advantage using geography. How can we have a spatial advantage over our competitors, it could be where we place our doors or our signage. I use these competencies on a daily basis, my understanding of geography is essential to what I do.
5. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
Get out there and just ask anyone in the industry for some time to learn from them, how did they progress in their field? What was their path? What risks did they take? The second most important thing is to take any job that is somewhat related to their field. Get your feet wet and if you are a hard worker, you can move your way up. Always show interest to learn and take on new challenges. The most basic tasks can sometimes lead to the most interesting opportunities. When I took a six-month contract as my first position out of school many of my colleagues were surprised because they thought we were so superior to that. Work for it and all the rewards you want will come to you, but you will first have to put in the work for those rewards.