Bell Mobility, a division of BCE Inc., runs an initiative called the Professional Management Program ("PMP"). The initiative is run by Henry Mar, a Senior Director with Bell Mobility, out of offices in Mississauga. Henry Mar is a graduate of Harvard University and a telecommunications veteran with past stints at Industry Canada and other BCE Inc. divisions. The activities that have been going on within the PMP are disturbing to say the least. Essentially, Bell Mobility is getting thousands of hours of free labour per year from a small army of unpaid interns under the direct control of Henry Mar. These interns are over-worked and treated unfairly. Recently I spoke with a former PMP intern who agreed to give an interview about their experience within the program. To protect them and their future career interests the interview was conducted anonymously. The interview appears below and check out this slick video justifying the PMP.
Q: The Professional Management Program ("PMP") is an internship program run by Bell Mobility's Market Analysis and Intelligence department. Can explain what the program is exactly?
|Henry Mar, Senior Director at Bell Mobility|
A: Bell’s Professional Management Program is an internship program set up ostensibly so that students and recent graduates can get real-world experience in an office environment, working for one of Canada's biggest telecommunications companies. It acts as a microcosm of a real office, with different departments and roles within it, so it takes graphic designers, videographers, marketers, analytics, human resources and communications graduates as applicants, all working for the program.
Q: What sort of representations and promises are made to interns who sign up for the PMP?
A: Most of the promises interns were given all involved experience in a real office environment, doing real office work to gain real office experience. They're told that the PMP was designed, at least in part, to assist its interns in making the transition to a real career from school, based on the assumption that colleges and universities left huge gaps that needed to be filled before someone was ready for such a move.
Q: What sort of work were the interns given? Was it educational?
A: Much of the work given was the exact opposite. A lot of time was spent promoting the PMP in completely internal fashion, developing internal advertising campaigns - posters that would be stuck up around the office, etc. - as well as planning theme events, setting up and tearing down party rooms. There were some projects that have benefitted my career indirectly, but a lot of what we were given was decidedly out of anyone's expectations. That being said, long hours are common, with a rigorously - enforced 9 AM start time at the office and some interns being asked to stay past 7, 8, 9 PM on an almost daily basis.
|Bell Canada's CEO George Cope.|
Q: Given that Bell Canada is a corporation that's immensely profitable, why do you think it's running a program that exploits recent graduates and foreign trained professionals? How does it exploit interns in the PMP program?
A: Obviously, most of the interns are completely unpaid. Once someone's stuck with the program for a certain amount of time, or they make too much noise about leaving due to a lack of income, some are given the opportunity to go into a 'management' position, essentially supervising the fresher interns. They're still underpaid, though--given the extended work hours they're still expected to be present for over and above regular employees, they're costed out to around $10 an hour - and those managers, called AMP's, are even more overworked than the regular interns.
The interns' days are usually filled with busywork - presentations on topics wholly unrelated to Bell and telecoms, with attendant slideshows and videos - occasionally punctuated by focus group sessions. By using the interns for more than just analytics and information-entering drudgery, the Marketing And Intelligence department is getting a lot of very valuable information for no investment.
Q: I've had a number of people write to me complaining about the PMP. It sounds like there is a lot of psychological and emotional manipulation of interns by managers. Is this the case? If so, can you give a couple examples?
A: Yes, the director and his team of 'management' interns engage in a very strange, draining psychological war on their own staff. They're very obvious about monitoring your activity at the PMP, requiring interns to punch a virtual timeclock and tally their hours for the day. This wouldn't be a problem, but because the program is structured in such a stressful, high-pressure environment, people begin to 'race to 400'- 400 being the number of hours you need to put in to 'graduate' from the PMP.
The director will routinely come into each department simply to tear apart any work they've done in the last while. When much of your work is party planning, or sourcing rubber spiders for a Halloween party or comparing prices on spray paint for a Christmas display, being told, quite seriously, that you're doing a terrible job and are lazy, entitled Gen Y employee feels bewildering. The interns are asked to put their all into the program, frequently for goals that, in retrospect, seem ridiculous.
If you're found lacking in any area - punctuality, quality of work, or otherwise - you may be called into a meeting and taken to task by AMP's, who themselves have no real training in management - they're just regular PMP interns who've been around for longer. This raises the question of how one can be expected to receive constructive criticism, or even a rebuke about behavior, from someone who knows no methods for delivering such and is only themselves experienced in the high-pressure, toxic office environment at the Bell PMP? Lacking any real instruction on how to manage staff, the meetings led by these interns can be understandably counterproductive, to say the least.
Q: The PMP sounds like a renegade department within Bell Canada that doesn't receive a lot of oversight. If you had something to say to Bell's human resources staff about the PMP what would it be?
A: I think, sooner or later, someone in upper management is going to take a hard look at the PMP, and at that point, I would expect several people to lose their jobs. Personally, I wouldn't accept even a properly-compensated position at Bell at this point, after the psychological games and pressure I was witness to and subjected to at the PMP. My entire perception--and those of many of my peers - has been shaped by my experience there, and I'm not inclined to forgive Bell.
Q: Would you like to share anything else about the PMP with my readers that I might have missed?
A: This program really seems to attract some of the best and brightest around--many have gone on to get high-profile, well-compensated, real jobs, just like the PMP promised to assist them with. However, I remain unconvinced that any of that was due to the PMP. Instead, I think that the kind of people who are willing to put themselves through the kind of experiences I saw, are the kind of people who will naturally get ahead - ambitious, confident, and eager to be challenged. The 'graduates' of the PMP are probably good people to watch out for, but not because they were duped into taking a raw deal from a rogue department of a multinational corporation; instead, it's because they were willing to take even as obvious a scam as that in order to get even the little bit of experience they did get. These interns are just starved for opportunity, taking whatever they can.