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SFU Co-op Student

Claire standing in front of the SFU building, looking to a distance
Instead of observing the company’s culture and attempting to fit into a cookie-cutter shape of who I should be, I was able to help build the culture and be myself.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain are buzzwords that have overwhelmed the tech space in the past two years. A likely topic for dinner conversation that ends with your grandparents saying they simply don’t understand the fuss, and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure I did either until I started my first co-op term as a marketing assistant at Coral Health.

What is a Blockchain anyway? (In Case Your Grandparents Want to Know)

 A blockchain is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records called blocks. The network is peer to peer, meaning I could create a block, and you, as well as all others working on the chain, would need to validate it. This makes the network very hard to hack, while information can still be easily shared when needed. It’s basically a way to bypass stagnant institutions (like medical or banking) so that your information is in your control. For new blocks to be confirmed, it must be verified by all members, and then will reach “decentralized consensus.” Decentralized because the data is distributed across a network of nodes, and is not in the hands of any single institution, and consensus because everyone has confirmed the new block as comprehensible and accurate. Phew, that was a lot! I’m glad that I can finally explain it now, but this wasn’t always the case.

Being a Non-technical Intern in a Technical Company

Preceding my first week on the job was a stack of self-assigned reading that I hoped would make me fluent in the language of coding and crypto. PHP, DAG, DPOS, POS, IPFS -  it was a new world for a communication and publishing student. Throughout my reading, one question remained largely unanswered: ‘how do I market something that I don’t fully understand?’

I needed to build trust between the company and the customer through knowledge, to prove that the information I was producing was coherent and accurate. Yikes!

Fortunately, the very first day on the job, I was provided with numerous online company resources and passionate industry professionals who were willing to answer any question that I had and were eager to do so!

One Foot in the Door

Coral Health is a healthcare technology company that is building blockchain-powered solutions to incentivize critical healthcare data exchange. The company is developing cutting-edge technology, and while it’s less than a year old, it is well-positioned to become a leader in the industry, which is an exciting concept for me, as a co-op student. The thought that I could be helping build the future of healthcare technology to make the industry more efficient, puts into perspective the power that positive communication work can have.

The Start-up Life

Day one in the office for me was day one in the office for everyone! The space was filled with cardboard boxes, desks and chairs that needed to be built, coffee makers that needed to be assembled and lots of other small details. Everyone, including the CEO worked together to get the office into shape. It was great seeing the interns, software developers and the executive team getting their hands dirty together - a true hallmark of a startup.

The process of creating the space from the ground up made the integration of co-op students into the company differ greatly from that of an already established work environment. I appreciated the equal work that all co-workers put in, forecasting the way that the office would function moving forward. Instead of observing the company’s culture and attempting to fit into a cookie-cutter shape of who I should be, I was able to help build the culture and be myself.

Coral Health – Final Thoughts!

The opportunity to work at a fast-paced tech start-up is helping me build fundamental skills that greatly enhance my formal education in the communication field. Freedom to help create the company aesthetic, an opportunity to be not only be integrated, but individually considered in the creation of the company culture, and a chance to work with emerging cutting-edge technology is helping me build an invaluable skill set.

I would suggest working in a tech startup to any communication major who wants to work in more than just a traditional work environment - as it pushes one to be resourceful and creative with no one around to hold your hand. Getting my career started in this start-up not only provided me with some great conversation topics around blockchain technology but also put me in the position to create independent thought that will aid in the acceleration of a future career in the industry.

SFU Co-op Student
Claire is a fourth-year Communication and Dialogue student at SFU. Her passion for traveling led her to pursue a semester studying Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam and then move to Barcelona to pursue a co-op teaching English. Time abroad sparked a very keen interest in digital literacy, democracy, civic engagement, and environmentalism. She is looking for ways that communication can make these topics accessible to large audiences. Connect with Claire on LinkedIn and to read more of Claire's articles and work, check out her website.

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