Co-op has been one of the best decisions I made during my university career. It has allowed me to develop skills, explore career options and network with potential employers.
Trying to secure my first co-op was an extremely daunting task. I remember my first year in university when I heard of the mandatory MSE co-op terms and the range of opportunities that it brings I read a lot of success stories and was looking forward to my second year when I would start ‘seeking’ for a position. I was eager to apply what I had learnt to a professional work setting and develop my skill set.
In my second year, I submitted a few applications, however, I was unable to secure a co-op placement. I tried ‘seeking’ again in third year to no avail. At this point, I was quite worried and was seriously considering submitting an appeal to the MSE department to exempt me from the co-op program even though it is a degree requirement as I was also going through some personal issues that affected my student life. I felt the opposite of excited - finding a placement actually became more of a pain than I had anticipated.
Nevertheless, I continued seeking for my first co-op, but this time, I also explored self-directed coop opportunities as advised by my co-op coordinator - and landed my first placement at FLIR Integrated Imaging Solutions!
I want to express my sincere gratitude to my co-op coordinator Stephanie DeRapp who supported me throughout the application process. I remember talking to her about some of the issues I was facing and how I wanted to graduate without engaging in any of the mandatory co-op terms; I still recall how we had an extensive conversation about how I was a resilient, strong woman in engineering and how she was positive that I would land a placement if I tried a little harder - these words kept resonating in my head and helped boost my confidence. I began to visualize myself as I wanted to be, and started to think positively about myself.
The experience from my first co-op was quite remarkable considering that I had no previous industry experience but still got the opportunity to work with one of the world's largest commercial company specializing in the design and production of thermal imaging cameras, components and imaging sensors which enhance everyday life.
Prior to the end of my first co-op, I started seeking for my next placement and successfully secured a manufacturing engineering specialist position at CWS Industries, a subsidiary of Paladin Attachments. This was huge for me because I was put in charge with minimal supervision to troubleshoot the manufacturing processes in two heavy attachment manufacturing zones. I worked on various projects ranging from creation of layout structures, time-motion study, Process analysis using TimerPro, Green road Implementation, PFMEA, lean manufacturing and continuous improvement implementation amongst others which increased my wealth of knowledge.
For my fourth, and arguably most exciting work term, I decided to seek an extra co-op term placement but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had enrolled in part time classes just in case it didn’t work out. To my greatest surprise, I was able to secure a job at Seaspan ULC. This was a life-changing experience for me considering that I had applied to the same company back in 2017 and couldn’t even get a first interview. I have always been very enthusiastic about Seaspan’s products and services so this was an important development for me. This time I was interviewed for two different job openings and secured a position as liaison engineering Intern. I worked on three Canadian coast guard vessels between Victoria Shipyards and Vancouver Shipyards. This is one of the largest procurement projects since WWII, embarked on by the government of Canada through the National Ship Building Strategy (NSS). Seaspan has been chosen to build the state-of-art Non-Combat Vessels as part of this program.
In the course of my job, I actively worked with Operations, Engineering and Maintenance teams to provide cost-effective solutions to design challenges. I worked on resolutions pertaining to the design of mechanical systems, including: sourcing and verification of mechanical components, ventilation systems, and mechanical layout of components. I also maintained a broad general knowledge of mechanical, piping, instrumentation and electrical disciplines to be able to effectively perform tasks. I worked within navisworks, Ship Constructor, AutoCAD, and ARAS product life cycle management tool to accomplish tasks and ensure customer requirements are met. The amount of personal development, networks and connections made; and the opportunity to explore different career paths through this experience has been truly invaluable.
Each of these co-op placements had allowed me to develop unique skills: I was able to test-drive my career and studies; apply skills learned in the classroom to the workplace; and develop and perfect my professional skills. I learned more than I ever expected. The opportunities, experience and networking I now have are unbelievable for students. As I reflect back on all I have learned, I realize what an excellent experience it was. While I learnt a lot in the classroom, the hands-on approach has proven to be invaluable. I reflect on the amount of growth I’ve experienced; and my enhanced ability to confidently contribute to the workplace – and I could not have been more grateful for what co-op gave me.
It has served as a beneficial ending to my formal education. In my opinion, the best way to learn is by doing. I am truly grateful for this opportunity.
I consider Mechatronic Systems Engineering an ideal fit because it has allowed me to explore various engineering disciplines and their industry application. I recommend that future students think outside the box in terms of their first few co-op terms. I've learned that stretching a little outside of your comfort zone and taking a small leap of faith can broaden your horizons and provide a rewarding experience. The job search can be tough, but you have made the right decision entering the co-op program, and it will pay off in the long run if you stay motivated and focused.
“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way” -Les Brown