D is for Donuts — Physics at Tim Hortons

One of the questions people have asked me most often in the past year (almost to the day, actually) is how I ended up working at Tim Hortons Corporate after studying Physics at university. And I’ll be honest: I’ve wondered that myself. It seems like such a drastic shift, but when you take a step back and look at the journey as a whole, rather than as a trajectory towards a life of academia, it makes a little more sense.

To give you a little bit of background, as I headed into my fourth year at Queen’s in Physics, I was already pretty certain that a career in astrophysics wasn’t for me. For more details on that, pop on over to my “Why I Studied Physics” post. So of course, as all of my friends prepared their grad school applications, I started panicking a little bit. I did some soul-searching, I went to career guidance sessions, I even retook the Career Cruising questionnaire from high school. No dice. Oh, sure, I found some leads, but nothing I was really passionate about.

My biggest problem with the job application process, especially for new grads, is the expectation that you convey your passion for the company and the work as you apply for the position. And a lot of the time, that means stretching the truth a little bit. Am I really passionate about this internship, or that entry-level posting? Probably not. But my cover letter has to make it look like I am, right? I’m a decent professional-style writer, but I hate being insincere. So rather than spamming the world of industry with my résumé, I applied at a couple of places and kept looking for something that would actually make me excited.

I stumbled across the posting for the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program on TalentEgg. In fact, I think I was actually scrolling though every single posting for new grads on the site at that time, since I simply couldn’t choose the job categories to which I should narrow my search. There were four things about the description that stood out to me:

  1. It was a business new grad program that wasn’t limited to only Commerce students. I had only found a couple of programs that were openly recruiting Science majors.
  2. The assignment was open-ended by design, allowing you to try out multiple departments without having to commit to a single role when applying. In fact, students who were only trained and willing to work in a single field weren’t encouraged to apply. All I knew at this point was that I was thinking about trying out the business world, but how was I supposed to choose between Marketing, Finance, and all of those other fields, when I didn’t even know what half of them were?
  3. There was a huge focus on meritocracy. Now, a lot of people hear that word and immediately think “cutthroat competition”. But my interpretation was, “Awesome! It’s just like school! But you get paid!” So that’s how that happened.
  4. It was Tim Hortons. If you’ve read my top ten Tims products post, you’ll know that I’m slightly obsessed. Tim Hortons was a staple of my childhood, my favourite hangout in high school, and my source of pure joy in university. And while I have absolutely zero desire to work in food service, I could see myself working for a brand that I loved and making it better, in one way or another.

Plus the opportunity for free Tims. There’s that.

So I applied on line, thinking, Who knows?

When it came time for the interview process, I was pretty dissuaded by my competition. Most of the other candidates were business majors with business work experience and business…suave, you know what I mean? Not to mention that while every other candidate was dressed in full black or navy suits, I was wearing a flowery blouse and tan dress pants, and I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb (even though I probably didn’t).

But lo and behold, here I am today, still working for Tim Hortons as a graduate of the Leadership Development Program. And I’m in the Restaurant Technology department, which is a pretty good fit, if I do say so myself. Am I enjoying my work now? For sure! What’s next for my career? As I said before: Who knows?

So that’s how I got to where I am today: by pure indecision. And a love for Tim Hortons.

What unexpected turns have you taken in your career?


Why I Studied Physics

When people find out I studied Physics at university, the first question I usually get is something along the lines of “…Why?!”

(The question is usually preceded by a statement like “Wow, I was terrible at physics in high school,” at which I just smile and commiserate.)

Up until about third year, I used to give a canned answer – something about transferable skills, problem solving, mysteries of the universe… Blah, blah, blah. For a while, I think I may have actually believed it. But now that I’m neither studying nor pursuing a career in Physics, it begs the question: honestly, why did I do it?

Reason #1: Physics was my best subject in high school.

With no clue what I wanted to do with my life at seventeen, I looked to my report card for guidance. And actually, my top mark was a tie. My choices were Physics or English. Which brings me to my next point…

Reason #2: It looks good.

I’d spent 13 years in school trying to get top marks and excel academically, and I wasn’t about to stop there! I felt that saying that I’d majored in Physics would look good to relatives, peers, and potential employers. This was especially in comparison to English, which was my other best option at the time. I’d grown up hearing that Arts degrees wouldn’t get me as far in life, so I wasn’t about to take the chance.

If I were to spin this reason in a more positive way, I’d say it was more about the transferable skills from taking on a difficult set of courses. But that wouldn’t be true. When I was choosing a major in Grade 12, it was all about whether I would look smart, not about if I would actually be smart.

Reason #3: Interest?

I’ve had a mild interest in Astronomy since I was a kid, fueled mostly by my dad’s interest in the subject. Contact was my favourite movie, and I even got my own telescope! (Well, okay, I got it for free. But that’s a topic for another time.) I figured if I immersed myself in the subject, I would become more passionate about it. Turns out that wasn’t quite the case, because most of my interest boiled down to Reason #2: it looked good for me, the self-professed Queen of the Nerds, to be into Astronomy. I still do have that mild interest, but not enough interest to keep me coming back day in and day out.

In examining the reasons I chose my major, it’s no surprise I didn’t end up going on to an MSc, PhD, and/or career. I’m not ruling those things out forever, mind you. And I don’t regret studying physics, because it did help me gain those skills, meet new people, and get a better idea of who I am. For now, though, I’m still on the hunt for my real passions.

How did you pick your major? Is it still the love of your academic life?