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SFU Co-op Student

michael sitting next to the computer
I feel I have learned much more about myself while having had a chance to see what I am really good at, what I enjoy, and what I struggle with.

Who Am I?

Despite having chosen an initial path within the SIAT program, I had arrived at a crossroads in regards to what I want to do with my life and my career. I wanted to explore my options further. I felt I needed a real-world opportunity to help me better focus my education, and to determine what I really want to do with my life beyond university. At this stage in my development, I needed guidance. This is where SFU’s Co-op program comes in.

My Path to Co-op

Prior to joining the co-op program, I had a rough concept of what having a job and going to work was all about. This was mainly due to a lack of significant work experience. However, I knew that I needed to experience working in a professional, technical environment to better help me evaluate and decide my future.

While I had initially spoken to my SIAT Co-op advisor, I also decided to reach out to SFU's First Nations Office for co-op assistance, based on my family’s Métis Cree heritage. With support from both advisors, I acquired a co-op position working as a Service Desk Analyst for the Innovation and Information Management Services department of BC’s own First Nations Health Authority.

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and the IIMS Department

Borrowing their words, the FNHA is a British Columbia-based organization whose vision is “to
transform the health and well-being of BC's First Nations and Aboriginal people by dramatically changing healthcare for the better” (First Nations Health Authority, 2016, “About Us”, para 1). FNHA works alongside the Province of BC and First Nations “to address service gaps through new partnerships, closer collaboration, and health systems innovation” (First Nations Health Authority, 2016, “About Us”, para 3).​

FNHA's Innovation and Information Management Services (IIMS) department, of which I was a part, specializes in providing the Authority's departments and employees with technical advice and tools for productivity – from initializing hardware, such as laptops, to software installations. With services spanning from providing nurse support for disease and injury control, to supplying remote First Nations bands with network-based access to doctors through eHealth services, the IIMS department is crucial in ensuring the Authority’s continued success in its vision.

First Steps

Coming into the FNHA with no significant prior work experience under my belt, I wanted to use this co-op work term to discover my strengths and determine what I want to do in the future. I made sure to declare this personal mission to the department manager during my interview for the position. Initially, I was nervous about asking my managers and teammates for help in achieving this objective thinking they would be worried I might not be able to pull my weight in the department and within the FNHA. As it turned out, my fears were for naught, as I received consistent encouragement to explore the field of services offered through the IT department. Throughout my co-op with FNHA, I was encouraged to ask questions, invited to shadow my co-workers, and even asked to make suggestions on how to improve certain processes. I was honestly amazed by how willing my manager and my teammates were to work with my strengths and to help me to learn more about myself. I was given opportunities to see and explore some of the many sides to the complex world of IT and to test my abilities by solving problems in each area.

Gaining a Stride

As the co-op term went on, I continued to learn from my co-workers and gradually saw myself
becoming more proficient in the areas I had little prior experience in. I learned the processes of imaging laptops and desktops, how to set up workstations for new employees, made updates to old technology infrastructures, and created documentation based on my own processes to help future IT employees succeed. I enjoyed my job so much that I requested to stay on for a second co-op semester. Lucky for me, the FNHA was happy to have me back! This not only meant that I had more time to spend learning in this professional environment, but also that I could build up a greater rapport with my co-workers. It’s a nice feeling to be recognized around the various offices of the FNHA as someone who could provide solutions to people’s technological problems. To me, the FNHA, as a whole, excels at making its employees truly feel a part of the organization as well as integral to achieving its goals.

Forward Momentum: Crossing the Finish Line

The FNHA provided me with an invaluable step forward in my development as a person, for which I am sincerely thankful. I feel I have learned much more about myself while having had a chance to see what I am really good at, what I enjoy, and what I struggle with. This work term also helped boost my confidence about where I should go next, which was exactly what I had hoped for.

From my first day at this wonderful organization to my last, I always felt welcomed, encouraged, and appreciated by my fellow FNHA family members. Even though I will be leaving the Authority to continue my studies at SFU, I will hold on to the relationships I’ve made during my time here. I know I still have a great number of things to learn, however, it is thanks to the First Nations Health Authority that I am now able to say I have some meaningful, relevant, and successful professional work experience to offer my next employers.

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Michael on LinkedIn and take a look at his design work on his portfolio website. 
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Mar 24, 2016

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