For a Bank going through a digital transformation, technology literacy is just as important as financial literacy. Located in downtown Toronto (and broadcasted to employees globally), Scotiabank’s Digital Discovery Zone (DDZ) houses events with the sole purpose of piquing Scotiabankers’ curiosity around technology so they can think differently, work more effectively, and engage with the tech community right from the comfort of their own workspace. We sat down to chat with John Nixon, the Manager, Digital Learning Programs at the DDZ to learn more about the importance of the event space and the programming, as well as hear about his career journey.
Jordan: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself how you came to manage the programming for the DDZ?
John: For sure! After completing my undergrad in English Literature at Carleton University and a postgrad in Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College I jumped into the arts and entertainment world. My first job out of school was working in publicity at a major book publisher where I would write press releases, pitch books to reviewers, organize book launches, and coordinate media appearances for authors, From there I moved into an event programming role for a Toronto-based media agency. My role was to curate panels and keynotes for the Banff World Media Festival (speakers included network executives, producers, agents, distributors, and celebrities) and the Canadian Innovation Exchange (speakers included funders, founders, and high-level practitioners in the tech industry). I spent a handful of years building these events, managing them onsite, and engaging deeply in the tech and entertainment industries. Ultimately this led to my role here at Scotiabank where I am utilizing my event programming and networking skills to curate inspiring and educational technology events for Scotiabankers.
Jordan: How would you describe an “average” day?
John: No two days are alike. I believe I have one of the more unique roles at Scotiabank. To program events I need to engage with partners both internally and externally as our speaker roster is comprised of tech leaders at the Bank, as well as the broader innovation community within Canada. I spend a lot of time researching industry trends and meeting with tech companies (big and small) in hopes of finding thought leaders to book for our events program. I also curate our social pages internally to promote industry knowledge through up-to-date news stories, longform journalistic pieces, and videos from the web. Lastly, on event days, I emcee the sessions and ensure the experience is productive and rewarding for both our speakers and our audience of Scotiabankers.
Jordan: Sounds like you have a lot of variety in your job. So, tell me why the Digital Discovery Zone (DDZ) is so important to Scotiabank and its employees?
John: As part of the Global Learning & Development team, my goal is to support raising the Digital IQ of our colleagues globally. I believe that what our program promotes and sparks more than anything is curiosity. Events aren’t specifically focused on just FinTech or banking, so we can cover a wide variety of topics across the tech ecosystem. This gives our teams the opportunity to engage with the tech community on a weekly basis in an intimate way that they wouldn’t be able to without leaving the office (and spending a lot of money) to attend industry conferences. The world is evolving rapidly and we try to highlight the technological changes taking place both in our work and personal lives. By engaging in our events, our colleagues are taking a proactive approach by becoming more aware of the world around them and learning how to prepare themselves for the future. On top of that, these events are a great gateway for tech startups to get connected to different businesses at Scotiabank and can potentially translate into major partnerships that will optimize our organization for our colleagues and customers.
Jordan: After employees attend one of these events, what’s been some of the feedback?
John: Our internal following is growing every day through platforms such as Workplace, ScotiabankLive, and our mailing list. We’re consistently seeing many new faces at each and every event on top of the dedicated group of individuals that we see in attendance week after week. The feedback that I hear most often, both from our audience and our speakers is, “It’s so cool that Scotiabank offers such a unique opportunity like this.” I definitely feel a lot of pride in having the ability to curate content that opens people’s minds and gets them thinking about the world in ways that they didn’t previously.
Jordan: It’s really amazing when people embrace your work and rally around it. Can you give me some examples of the type of events you’ve run at the DDZ?
John: Our events tend to be of the 101 variety, where speakers give a great overview of their area of expertise using specific use cases from their business and industry. We’ve hosted sessions on everything from AI, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, chatbots, the merging of man and machine, and much more. Each topic stems from perspectives across the tech, finance, and entertainment spaces. Some of our most impressive speakers have been both Scotiabankers and employees from the likes of Google, Microsoft, University of Toronto, Wattpad, Shopify, IBM, Ivey, Snapchat, and more tech leaders from across Canada and abroad. We’re also dedicated to our global employee-base and we webcast every single event and provide real-time closed-captioning in both Spanish and English in the hopes of being more accessible.
Jordan: After hearing all of this, I don’t think I really need to ask, but what do you love about working at Scotiabank?
John: For me, it’s the people. Coming from the arts and entertainment world I was hesitant to move into financial services. I had visions of sterile, no fun, big business, but I’ve actually seen the opposite. The diversity of backgrounds and experiences in everyone I’ve met here at Scotia is so varied that I have had fun conversations no matter which group I’m meeting with. The opportunity to engage with so many different, curious people in the DDZ is an especially unique opportunity since the people I meet with the most are those who are most open to new experiences and new ideas. I’m consistently amazed by how much fun it can be to work at a bank.
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