"My biggest piece of advice would just be to try a bunch of different positions and pay attention to what you do and don't like. Co-op is a really good opportunity to jump from industry to industry and find out what size of company, what style of team, and what field suits you best. It's a bit harder to change careers once you graduate so internships are the time to test things out and figure out what direction you want to head once you're out of university."
Why did you choose to enroll in co-op?
I think the opportunity to "test drive" a lot of different options was really appealing. I had a pretty tough time narrowing down my interests after first year, so co-op seemed like a great way to try different positions in different industries to find the best fit for me once I graduate.
Which positions did you work during co-op?
I've had three work terms so far:
- Software Developer at Blue Willow Systems: a medical device start-up in Vancouver that built wearable devices for use in assisted living homes. I helped develop the web and mobile applications, as well as some python algorithms for indoor location tracking.
- Quantitative Analyst at Castleton Commodities: a commodities trading company in Calgary. My role involved data exploration and training predictive models on large datasets to help predict the price of natural gas.
- Applied Technologies Intern at Specialized Bicycle Components: I helped several teams with a variety of projects from data acquisition, to electronics design for some in-house tools, to big data studies focusing on the factors that affect human performance for high-level cyclists.
Can you share your favourite experience(s) while in co-op?
I think my favorite experience was in my co-op term in February. I was living in a house with all of the other Specialized Bicycles Components interns, and we piled all six of us (and six bikes) into one car and drove to Yosemite Valley for the day. The weather was amazing but it was a little cold so the park was pretty empty, and we got to bike around the valley with no cars on the road!
What things did you wish you knew at the beginning—before you started co-op?
One thing that I've learned recently is how important company culture is. For my first couple of co-ops, I really prioritized the technical aspect and didn't put much thought into what the company was doing as a whole. With my most recent internship, I have a lot more in common with the people at work and we all regularly go biking, skiing or climbing together or head to trivia at the local bar as a team. It makes work a lot more enjoyable when you're friends with everyone else at the office.
Would you recommend co-op in another city? Why?
Absolutely! I think any time you get outside of your comfort zone by going somewhere new it's a good thing. Every time I've moved cities—like coming to UBC, going on exchange, or taking an internship in another city—I've had a huge amount of personal growth. Getting out of your normal routine is a great way to force yourself to make new friends and have some really amazing experiences.
How do you feel co-op has helped your career?
I think it's given me a lot of confidence, having put what I learned in class into practice and solving more open-ended problems. I think it also really works your communication skills and teamwork in a way that you don't get from course work.
What advice would you offer to future co-op students?
My biggest piece of advice would just be to try a bunch of different positions and pay attention to what you do and don't like. Co-op is a really good opportunity to jump from industry to industry and find out what size of company, what style of team, and what field suits you best. It's a bit harder to change careers once you graduate so internships are the time to test things out and figure out what direction you want to head once you're out of university.
What are you looking forward to after graduation?
Hopefully I'll have found a company, or at least a field, that I'm really excited about by the time I graduate. Once I'm in the right spot, I'm really excited to buckle down and contribute to some longer-term projects. It's always a little tough having to wrap things up after 4-6 months when you're just starting to settle into the company's culture and workflow.
Published: December 2020