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Young employees at Pfizer Canada contribute to its purpose through volunteer and team-building activities.Supplied

Lara Stefanatos spent three summers as a student intern with Pfizer Canada before joining the pharmaceutical company full time in 2020. From the start, she was impressed by how serious Pfizer was about integrating young people into the organization.

“One thing that struck me even in my first summer is that people were asking for my opinion,” says Stefanatos, now a brand manager with Pfizer. “The fact that they value a young person’s perspective is really great – it’s not the experience you always have as a student.”

Stefanatos was also impressed by how quickly she and her fellow interns became immersed in the day-to-day operations of the company.

“You are really integrated into the team,” she says. “They treated us like full-time employees. You were invited to all the team meetings and functions. We interacted regularly with leadership and got exposure to many parts of the business.”

Stefanatos is currently a member of Pfizer’s diversity and inclusion community of practice group, which champions diversity initiatives within the company. In that role, she advocates that, along with gender, race and sexual orientation, young people should be considered part of what makes an organization truly diverse.

“It’s not always easy being the youngest person in the room, and recognizing that is super important,” Stefanatos says. “Younger people bring a diverse viewpoint. Our ways of working and ideas are not as established as longer-term employees. We can often see different ways to leverage a new technology or trend.”

Pfizer Canada president Najah Sampson, who began her own career with the global company more than 20 years ago as a student intern, couldn’t agree more.

“I think our younger colleagues today are probably smarter than any generation before them,” Sampson says. “They have access to so much information and they’ve also honed their social skills. I was quaking in my boots the first time I presented to leadership when I was an intern. These young people aren’t fazed at all.”

Sampson cites the example of a recent intern who thought the company could do a better job of understanding intersectionality when promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We said we were definitely interested, but we had no workshops on intersectionality. It turned out she was actually trained in this area and asked if she could give it a try. We agreed, starting with workshops for our leadership team. We soon opened it up and so this person, who had only been here a matter of weeks, ended up presenting to hundreds of people.”

Pfizer also puts a strong emphasis on growing careers, though not necessarily in a linear fashion.

“We believe in zig-zags,” Sampson says. “One of our innovations is what we call ‘growth gigs,’ which are a kind of secondment except you don’t leave your existing position. Instead, you are able to give 20 or 30 per cent of your time to try out a different job role.”

At any given time, up to 15 per cent of Pfizer Canada’s work force is engaged in growth gigs.

“It’s a great way for people to dip their toe in the water and to stretch and grow,” Sampson says.

Pfizer’s marketing rotation program is another innovation, which allows early-career employees to rotate through full-time, six-month stints in various parts of the business.

While these programs are open to all, they can have particular appeal to young employees.

“A lot of young people worry about getting bored or stuck in one job,” Stefanatos says. “These initiatives facilitate movement and continuous growth.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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