Now that I’m starting my second term I thought that it would be a good time to share some of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned from my first coop term at Loblaw Digital.
1. Grades Don’t Matter
Coming into Waterloo I used to think that grades were going to be the deciding factor for the kinds of jobs that you can get. I remember thinking about the ridiculously high 94% admissions average in engineering and I thought I wouldn’t achieve high enough grades in university compared to the other students to get the coop job that I want.
Lucky for me, coop employers typically don’t care too much about how high your GPA is. Turns out employers want to hire people who have experience in the field of work, have a passion to learn more about that field and are genuinely interested in the work.
Yes, I realize some of you are thinking, yeah no shit. But you have to cut me some slack, I was on my first coop term and I had no idea what to expect.
2. The Key to a Great Interview is Practice
Looking back at my interview process with Waterloo Works I had a very irregular experience for what typical first year student have. I applied to a total of 120 jobs, had 18 interviews, 2 rank zeros, and 5 rank ones. (A rank one being a job offer and a rank zero being a rejection).
The 2 rank zeros I’ve received were from my first two interviews and of those 5 rank 1s, all of them were exclusively from the last of my interviews. It’s pretty clear that the more interviews I had, the better I got at them.
No matter what you read online about how to preform the best interview handshake or mimic the interviewers body language. There is no silver bullet that will make you amazing at interviews. The only thing that will help you rock your interview is to go through a lot of them and become comfortable with yourself so you can show them the genuine version of yourself.
3. Grow Professionally
Wherever you work, you will be surrounded by people who have had years of experience in their profession. Why not ask them a questions and borrow some knowledge from them?
On my coop term I was surrounded by some of the most talented Marketers, Analysts, and Software Developers in Canada. You better believe that I took every opportunity to ask my coworkers and employees at the organization questions about their work.
A lesson that has stuck with me was from one of the Marketing Specialists who taught me how to market myself. What have you gone through and how can you communicate all that experience to another person in a short amount of time? Telling the story of self: where you were, are, and going is an important skill that will help you connect with others quickly, especially in an interview.
4. Dedicate Yourself to Learning
Working at a large organization I took every chance to learn something new. I was hired to automate tasks and I decided to learn more about Google Cloud Platform and how to become a better software developer.
I wanted to be able to architect solutions and develop processes. So I asked the other developers around the company for tips, attended the Google provided learning sessions offered from Loblaw Digital and took an introductory course to Machine Learning on Google Cloud Platform through Coursera.
On a coop term my goal was to learn as much as I possibly could. This meant spending my train rides to and from work watching Coursera videos and studying on my weekends for fun.
5. Eat Lunch with your Coworkers & Other Coops
You probably thought this was a weird thing but hear me out there is a method to my madness.
On a coop term you want to feel like you belong at the company and that you have a place there. Eating lunch with you coworkers lets you learn more about them and get closer with them. Also if there are other coops at the same company, they’re going through the exact same thing as you. Make some friends!
Another important thing about eating lunch together is that you can learn from others. On my term I was doing some React front end work and this was my first time working in React. Lucky for me I sat with some front end developers and I would just ask general questions to them, and I would get simple coherent answers. This saved me potential hours of Googling and let me learn some of their best practices in development.
6. Create Your Own Leadership Opportunities
Being a leader on a coop term means taking on responsibility or starting your own initiatives.
On my term I wanted to have an organization wide tree planting event. I took on the challenge, pitched it to the VPs and lead the planting event which was a success! If you want to do something make a plan, pitch it and then go for it.
Don’t be afraid to take on challenges that you haven’t done before. You’ve got this!
Sujeethan Vigneswaran is a second year Environmental Engineering student at the University of Waterloo. His interests are in software development and clean technology. He is currently on his second coop term at DRVN Intelligence as a Big Data Developer and sits on the Board of Directors for an environmental NGO called Friends of the Rouge Watershed. His work in the environment has led him to being named one of the Top 25 Under 25 Environmentalists in Canada by the Starfish Canada.