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Saije Rusimovici

Saije Rusimovici

(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Co-operative Education

I loved everything about working at the DSBIA, from getting to connect with the community to event planning, sharpening my graphic design skills, and creating social media content and campaigns. I learned so much about myself and the digital marketing career I hope to pursue in the future.
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Summer
Year
2023
Skills
Application and Interview Tips
  • Research the organization before applying
  • Become familiar with the Downtown Surrey area 
  • Research the key events put on by the DSBIA, enough so that you can reference them in the interview (Surrey Fest, Long Long Table, Movies Under the Stars) 
  • Let your cover letter reflect a connection to community 
  • Emphasize community engagement work and event planning on your resume
  • Demonstrate a willingness to learn about city planning and development 
Introduction + Preparation

Preparing for co-op took a combination of sifting through all my previous experiences and finding ways to add to my resume. This is not something that can be done in just a few days. The semester before my seeking semester, I started to apply to clubs at SFU. As someone who is chronically anxious, going to interviews is daunting. I interviewed for a Staff Writer job at The Peak, SFU’s independent student newspaper, and for the role of a Creative Coordinator for the SFU Communication Student Union (CMNSU). I was absolutely terrified to go to both interviews, but I made sure to be myself, highlighting the best parts of my experiences and showcasing why I applied.

I was selected for both positions. Throughout the semester, I made sure to be mindful about the content I was creating and the pieces I was writing so that I could add them to my portfolio. Having a few more bullets on my resume and a wider range of samples in my portfolio not only gave me more to show employers but boosted my confidence. I was proud of the work I created and the encouragement I received from my peers.

When I was applying for co-ops, I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. I wanted something based in advertising, marketing, and communications that would also give me some event planning experience. I applied only to the jobs I could visualize myself working in. Having a specific criteria for the kind of job I was looking for allowed me to secure a co-op I really enjoyed and that was suited to my skills and personality. I spent time researching the organizations I applied to, making sure that I would both enjoy and gain good experiences from the job should I be selected for that position.

Previous Experience

Before applying to co-op, I worked for five years in the hospitality industry. My great-uncle owned and operated a well-known restaurant in North Burnaby. For the longest time I thought that I would eventually end up working for him full-time. Then the pandemic hit, and I began to explore other interests and hobbies. My anxiety was at an all-time high and it was very difficult to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. But, I knew as a newly declared communication student that I needed to gain more experience in my field if I wanted to achieve my career goals. Because of the pandemic, I hadn’t participated in many extra-curricular activities since high school. The two-year hiatus made it difficult for me to build my portfolio and resume. Yet, I did my best to pull together writing and graphic design samples from my coursework at SFU and made sure that my resume/portfolio were personable and reflective of my personality. I had a few years of volunteer experience and significant work experience, yet before applying to co-op I wanted to make sure that I had a bit more experience relative to my field.

Preparation Tips for Future Students
  • Don’t have a lot of work or volunteer experience? Emphasize your coursework! You’d be surprised as to how much you incidentally created in your classes you can use in your portfolio.
  • Join clubs! Getting involved will put you in the same circles as like-minded, goal-oriented individuals that can help motivate you.
  • The co-op you think you want may not be the co-op you need. During the application process, you will come across many different co-ops that are exciting and may seem attractive at a first glance. Looking at big, well-known organizations may feel like the best way to go. BUT if it’s your first co-op semester, especially if you’re looking to build your resume/portfolio, I highly recommend to applying to a non-profit, or smaller organizations that will allow you to gain more experiences so you can have more to show a bigger organization later.
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

I had two interviews with the Downtown Surrey BIA for two different positions. Ultimately, I was offered the position of Communication and Marketing Intern for Summer 2023 and had my work term extended for the semester of Fall 2023. I was excited when I first began the position in May. I met seven other interns that would be working for the semester. Each person had a unique skillset. At first, I was slightly uncomfortable stepping into the position. I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. I often refrained from asking questions because I didn’t want it to seem like I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s important to remind yourself that you were selected for the job as a reason and that your supervisor is there to support you and wants you to succeed.

The first week on the job was orientation-based. We went over what a BIA is, the dress code, safety, day-to-day tasks and the events we would be planning. We chose offices and introduced ourselves. We all spent time learning about the Downtown Surrey community, familiarizing ourselves with the neighborhood, researching past events, and becoming familiar with our everyday roles. The DSBIA is a non-profit with a small staff, so it was easy to get to know everyone well and very important for us to work together as a team.

When I returned to the DSBIA in the fall, I was the only co-op student in the office so the dynamic was slightly different. I had to adjust to a different workflow and take on more administrative tasks. It took  time to adjust to the quiet in the office after having shared my space with two other interns in the summer. A few key things I did to help structure my day when I worked on my own were time blocking, making to-do lists, and taking frequent mini breaks.

Day to Day

This fall term we had two major events that were completely run by the DSBIA. The first initiative was our Elf on the Shelf contest. We hid two elves at two different King George Hub locations each week. People in the community would use hints posted on social media to locate the elves and send us a picture. All the people who found the elves were then entered into a prize draw to win a gift card. The purpose of this event was to support businesses in the area by bringing foot traffic into the shops while increasing community engagement in the Downtown Surrey area.

Our second project was our biggest event, Gingerbread Village 2023. This was my main priority over the last few months. This vote-by-donation gingerbread-making competition was held at Central City Shopping Centre at the beginning of December. I created a comprehensive entry package to send out to the community. It was my responsibility to create promotional materials for social media, mail out flyers, and coordinate with the contestants. I was available to answer questions. I created Excel spreadsheets with registration information and planned for the entries via email. It was a lot of information to keep track of and I needed to make sure I stayed super organized. I collaborated with our part-time graphic designer to make sure the graphics fit this year’s vision for the event. I also took photos of all the gingerbread creations and updated our website with the voting information.

We were invited to participate in the Surrey Tree Lighting at city hall. Leading up to the event, we sorted out kids’ crafts. At the event, we set up a large booth. I oversaw four volunteers at a time throughout the afternoon. It was my responsibility to schedule breaks, answer questions, and making sure all the kids stayed inside of the designated craft zone.

Learning and Adaptation

My experience with the DSBIA was an opportunity for me to step outside of my comfort zone. For me, it was becoming familiar with a new area, new community and learn new technical skills. It was an opportunity to see how I enjoyed working in an office setting. I learned how to act professionally in an office setting and interact with members of the community. During our events, there was opportunity to connect with professionals and businesses in our neighborhood. I learned about how all of the different organizations in Surrey work together. Each organization plays a role in improving Downtown Surrey. We worked together with developers, municipal workers, other non-profits, schools, universities, and many more key players in the development of Downtown Surrey.

Accomplishments and Challenges
Accomplishments: 
  • Added social media graphics to my portfolio: I created a variety of content including edited photos and videos, graphics, Instagram stories, reels, and tweets used to promote our events and ongoing BIA initiatives.
  • Interacted with businesses, board members, and members of local government: Learning how different organizations operate together in the area.
  • Connected with the community: During our events I was able to interact with members of the community and see the impact of the DSBIA in-person.
  • Collaborated with Central City and Surrey Christmas Bureau to promote and execute the Gingerbread Village event.
  • I played a key role in organizing Gingerbread Village 2023 with the support of my supervisors. I coordinated drop-off and pick-up the gingerbread creations, created social media content to promote the event, collected and organized contest entries, and worked with our partnering organizations to make sure the event ran smoothly.
Challenges:
  • Inputting 1500 surveys into Excel: I haven’t had much experience using Excel with a big chunk of data, so this was a test of my technical skills. I self-taught myself how to use the program by watching YouTube tutorials and effectively produced a comprehensive digital file of all the survey results.
  • Time-management when planning events: I made sure I had time to plan our events but also make sure I am taking the time to promote them by creating quality content on social media.
  • Website work: Dealing with IT issues.
  • Personal: managing anxiety during working hours.
Cultural and Environmental Observations
  • Observed and connected with Surrey’s diverse population.
  • Learned about the new developments, both commercial and residential, in the downtown area
  • Became aware of the challenges within the community (homelessness, addiction, etc.)
Wrap Up

Overall, working at the DSBIA was a fantastic experience. I would recommend this co-op to anyone who wants to participate in community-driven events or hopes to add to their portfolio. There are many different co-op roles available within the company, so there is something suited for any strengths. The core staff is super friendly and supportive. It was easy to bond with my coworkers and peers. I learned about the way the different organizations play a role in shaping the Downtown Surrey community. I felt that I had so much creative freedom in my role. I would highly recommend applying to the DSBIA, especially if this is your first co-op term.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

I am so happy that I got to have this experience with the Downtown Surrey BIA. I feel more prepared to take on a job in my field. Even though some days were challenging, I always enjoyed the work that I was doing. Working at the DSBIA, I really felt like I was making a difference. All the work I did I was proud of. It was fulfilling to get comments from the community on our events. I received positive feedback on my design work and my writing. One of the most rewarding experiences was being able to work within the community.

Not only was I able to add to my portfolio, but I got to learn new technical skills and meet so many great people. My supervisors were inspiring, goal-oriented women I learned a lot from. I gained so much experience with event planning, having been the point person on Gingerbread Village. My confidence has grown so much. Having spent time creating social media graphics, I feel like I have developed the skills necessary to pursue a career in content creation or digital marketing. 

I am so thrilled that I was able to do two co-op terms at the DSBIA. Both the technical and interpersonal skills I learned at this organization were invaluable. I would highly recommend this co-op to any student from any faculty. 

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

My confidence has grown exponentially as a result of working for the DSBIA. Not only did I strengthen my written and graphic design skills, but I’ve become a better communicator and more organized as a result of taking on this role for a second semester. Being the only co-op student in the office required me to become quite a bit more independent. This helped improve my time-management skills, as it was only up to me to make sure deadlines were met. 

I found a love for content creation and digital marketing through this job. I became inspired to create a YouTube channel and try creating content on my personal Instagram account. This position has provided me with the opportunity to practice editing photos and creating social media campaigns. 

Another valuable aspect of this experience was getting to know the Downtown Surrey community. Before this experience, I hadn’t spent much time in Surrey at all. Putting on events in the community provided me with the opportunity to get to know the area and the people who live there. I now have such an appreciation for Downtown Surrey and I hope to come back and attend their special events next year!

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

This co-op has really solidified the direction I want to take my academic studies and provided the push for me to get into digital marketing. I am so excited to take this experience and use it in my further career endeavours. Using Mail Chimp to produce e-newsletters, brainstorming social media campaigns, and event planning are invaluable skills I will always be able to carry with me into whatever I do next. I am excited to take more marketing courses in my department at SFU. I am  looking forward to taking a Publishing course, as recommended by my supervisor. I have a better sense of the skills that I will need to succeed in the marketing world. Not only have I learned so much, but I have become so much more confident in my skills. Going back to school in January, I feel like I will be a more productive student. I have a newfound drive to achieve my goals as I have an understanding of what I will need to know in the future. I am looking forward to connecting what I’ve learned at this co-op to my coursework and vice versa. The experience I’ve had at the DSBIA has taught me so much about myself. I now know how much I really enjoy digital marketing, creating social media campaigns, and planning events. I found that I am quite passionate about work that benefits the community. I am so excited for my third co-op term this summer. I would love to try working in the corporate sector to compare the two experiences.

Advice for Future Students

Doing a co-op is absolutely worth it. Applying to co-ops may seem like a daunting process, but it is by far the best experience I have had as an SFU student. I learned so many new skills and so much about myself. The DSBIA is such a great organization and I would recommend them to anyone who wants to build their portfolio, enjoys community work, wants to learn about the inner workings of city dynamics, or gain experience planning events. I had the best time here over the last two semesters.

If you decide to apply to the DSBIA, I would make sure to have a bit of background about the organization. Do some research of the key events they have been a part of in the past. Showing that you know about these events and how they run during the interview will definitely impress. Familiarize yourself with the Downtown Surrey area and community. Check out the DSBIA website and social media channels to learn about their branding and overall goal as an organization. This will work significantly in your favour. Knowing about their initiatives shows that you put the effort into learning about the organization and that you care about their work. On your resume, highlighting experience relevant to the position you are applying for within the organization. In your cover letter, comment on your desire to help build community.