“I wish it didn’t have to come to this, but it’s looking like we’ll have to let you go.”
While this dreaded sentence is probably something you would never hope or expect to hear, especially on a Co-op term, you’re probably wondering how I even got to this point. Back when I first started working at Allocadia in January 2020, in many ways, it was a dream come true. The holiday season had just passed by, the days were getting longer, and I had secured my first Co-op position working in Downtown Vancouver on a team of tech consultants. As a business major concentrating in Management Information Systems and Strategy, I often wondered if life could get any better than this.
Allocadia is a Vancouver-based Marketing and Financial SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) tech company that aims to align corporations’ business strategy with their spend, providing greater transparency and operational efficiency. By nature, they primarily function as a Marketing Performance Management (MPM) tool, optimizing the performance of clients ranging from emerging firms to Fortune 500 companies across the globe. In effect, Allocadia allows firms to realize the value of effective financial strategic alignment through the use of real-time, data-driven insights, while keeping in mind the equally important driving force behind business operations – the people.
My position as a Solutions & Services Co-op embodied the intertwining of this human element with the technical aspects of a SaaS firm. In practice, the Solutions & Services department is comprised of a variety of teams – Professional Services, Education, Support, and Integrations - that work together to transition clients from post-sale to go-live. During this process, much of the work is comprised of consulting and solutions engineering; that is to say, the development of strategies and change management for each client and their unique business requirements. During these processes, my role involved supporting various client projects, ranging from data analysis and reporting, to the preparation of presentation materials for clients. The most exciting aspects of my role, however, were my interactions with business leaders from across the world, by participating in client meetings to provide recommendations on their use of Allocadia. In these moments, I often found myself reflecting on how blessed I was to have received this tremendous opportunity for personal and professional development.
When we first heard of COVID-19, it was already late February. Allocadia was experiencing another successful quarter and while we had our concerns, in hindsight, they were minuscule compared to the effect that the virus would have on the global business world. By March and April, the vast majority of clients began taking significant actions against this grave reality, restructuring their businesses and cutting operating expenses. For some clients, particularly those in the entertainment and tourism industries, this became the beginning of the end. For others, this marked the beginning of mass lay-offs, corporate restructuring, and the transition into remote work. Allocadia was unfortunately no exception to the rule. My position was terminated amid the changing of the seasons.
Coming Back and Working Remotely
In all honesty, like many other students, much of my Summer was spent with feelings of disappointment and uncertainty. Gone were the perfect plans for my degree that I had carefully crafted in my mind, replaced by the probable reality that I would have to search for another position in an increasingly difficult job market. Even then, the acceptance of this new reality felt fictitious at times, with the pandemic exponentially worsening in Vancouver, despite the unchanging nature of each passing day. However, I was presented with a sliver of hope when my manager reached out to me asking if I would be interested in coming back before the beginning of the Fall – of course, I said “yes.”
Upon returning, it became evident that Allocadia’s tremendous internal culture had allowed for the company to succeed working remotely when many others failed. Gone were the weekly jigsaw puzzle sessions and happy hour outings. They were replaced with Friday Beer Calls over Zoom and ‘The Office’ Trivia on Slack. Strangely enough, I felt even closer with my team than ever before, working within the confines of my four bedroom walls. Of course, remote work certainly presented its own unique challenges – at first, I admittedly struggled to find motivation and drive, finding myself distracted within my home. On other days, I would experience difficulty learning technical concepts from my coworkers over Zoom – even the ‘share screen’ function had its limitations. During this time, what became abundantly clear to me was the value of teamwork. As we adapted together as a team, our unspoken but conscious effort to turn our cameras on during meetings, while taking the time to get to know one another as both friends and colleagues became second nature. In an online environment, making that extra effort to stay connected with your coworkers began to make all the difference in the world.
As the semester comes to an end, I can wholeheartedly say that working remotely had countless challenges; however, learning to overcome them and thrive in an online environment is something that I will always look back fondly on. While I will be back next Spring with Allocadia taking on more responsibilities and challenges than ever before, I feel excited. Finally, in reflecting on my past two co-op work terms, if I could offer any advice to a fellow student, it would be to take care of your mental health first and foremost. Working remotely, I often found myself forgetting that we are living in truly unprecedented times – that many of us are living under tremendous stress and uncertainty, even if we have grown accustomed to it. Whether you are currently in school or on a work term, every day will have its own unique challenges – but hopefully ones you can look back on and smile about.
Beyond the Blog
To learn more about opportunities like Marcus', visit the Co-operative Education website.