Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Co-operative Education
SFU VentureLabs

Amy sitting on a sofa, with the SFU VentureLabs logo behind her

After 12 months of Co-op terms at 3 very different companies, I am closing out this major piece of my undergrad. I started out at a crown corporation, moved on to a rapidly growing tech startup and now I am currently wrapping up with SFU VentureLabs, which is the university’s business accelerator for new tech and science-based ventures. While VentureLabs is not a startup or even a small company itself, we work directly with small & medium sized enterprises, and help them grow effectively. All of these placements combined have given me a great foundation and transferable skills, but I also learned equally valuable things about different work environments. I encourage anyone still in Co-op to not overlook the very real benefits of smaller organizations.

A picture of the SFU VentureLabs logo on a glass wall

When you first enter the Co-op program, it’s easy to be drawn in by all the big names and Fortune 500 companies that you want to spend the next 4-8 months with. These are brands we recognize, and we can easily fall into the thinking that those are inherently “better” opportunities. There are undoubtedly some unique benefits to large organizations, but I will argue the same for smaller organizations and startups based on 3 key points as follows:

1. Work Closer with Executives

  • A smaller company usually means a smaller and more closely-knit team. In my second co-op, I was at a local tech company that recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary but still very much embodied some startup attitudes and practices. We were a team of 20 or so people spread across Canada, Europe and Australia, and I got to work closely with them all. I sat a few desks away from the CEO and was in an open office with a phenomenal team of experts in their own domain that I would observe and work with on a daily basis
  • This proximity to mentors, whether physical or virtual, is something that you don’t get to the same degree at larger companies. At a large company, there will be much more separation between you as a student and the executives. It is an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to build these relationships in these settings. It is also fascinating to watch people at this level do what they do best, and ask questions along the way.

2. Opportunity to Make an Impact

  • There are stages to Co-op in my eyes. Early on, it's all about learning new skills and being a sponge to soak up as much knowledge as possible from these placements. Later on, however, the emphasis is on putting what you have learned previously into practice and seeking Co-op terms that will allow you to a.) keep learning always, but also b.) produce something. Put your skills on display, take ownership over projects and make an impact.
  • One of the most rewarding things I will take away from my Co-op terms is presenting my work to clients and having them actually take it and implement it into their business. At larger organizations, students may not always get the access or direct interaction with clients because there are so many other moving pieces and people to handle that. We will often get to contribute ideas and work on pieces for clients, but to actually meet with clients, understand their needs and then produce something they can directly use is extremely valuable and encouraging.

3. Room to Think Outside the Box

  • One of the best things about earlier stage companies or startups is that they are malleable. Their processes and products may not be set in stone. This means that there is room for more lateral thinking and new innovations. I found that there was a very energizing culture of forward thinking and that people are really open to creative solutions. I was encouraged to think outside the box and put my own flare on my work. In larger, more established organizations, processes are also more established and it can be harder to break the mold and have that creative freedom to try new things. Working at a smaller organization also means employees typically wear multiple hats and can develop a wide skill set from having to find creative solutions for a range of tasks.

Co-operative Education
SFU VentureLabs

Posts by Author

A phone on the home screen where the apps for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be seen
Tips for Effective Social Media Marketing

When promoting events and news on social media on behalf of a club, service, or business, the main goal is to get as many eyes as possible on the content. One of my tasks in my 8-month Co-op position was to post updates on their social media accounts, which includes job postings, upcoming events, and special announcements. Over these months, I was able to find useful strategies and tools to help me manage these profiles effectively and efficiently.

Co-op students standing outside around a sign that says "SFU"
Event Planning 101: 3 Tips for Planning an Event even Gen-Z’s will Enjoy

Coming into this Co-op position as an Outreach, Promotion, and Engagement Coordinator for SFU’s School of Communication, I was not expecting to gain any sort of event planning experience. Creating an event for our incoming students for Fall 2023, was a brand-new concept that flourished this semester.

Abu standing next to a screen that says "Limitless"
Why Pursue a Career in Sales

This article is my take on why somebody would pursue a career in sales. I have never done sales in my life, and I like to take on new challenges. Therefore, it allows me to elaborate on the skills I have learned throughout my journey.

You Might Like These... Prospective, Professional Development, Career Exploration

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

Working on campus
The 10 Minute Commute – Resources and Useful Information for Working on Campus

Have you ever thought about working in a place that you are familiar with?  Perhaps a Tim Horton’s close by? For many students the idea of working at SFU might be a great option, if you prefer a 10 minute jaunt to work after class or an opportunity to learn more about how a university operates.

You Might Like These... Career Exploration

Portrait of Patricia
Alumni Spotlight: Patricia Zhou, IABC’s Director of Student Services and Communiqué Blog Founder

Patricia Zhou had vaguely heard of IABC during her first two years at SFU, but little did she know how BC’s chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators would end up having such an on-going influence on her career.

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

Picture of puzzle pieces
Is the Job a Good Fit For You?

Can you tell whether a job will be one that helps you wake up happy or one you would eventually dream of quitting? There are actually some telltale signs that can help you understand the job and company culture to give you a better idea of the fit.