Co-operative Education is an opportunity for students to test our knowledge and skills in the workplace; a time to get our feet wet. We reveal our knowledge and skill deficits when work challenges us and the experience broadens our perspective and motivates us to learn more. Although any chance at participating in co-op is recommended, I highly suggest doing co-op outside of BC. Living in a new city while taking on a new job serves as both a challenge and reward. In this blog post, I share rewarding experiences I’ve had working in Ontario and explain why co-op experiences outside of BC are worth doing.
My Experience as Product Management Coordinator at BlackBerry
At the time of writing this post, I’m eight months into my twelve-month co-op experience as Product Management Coordinator and Associate Product Manager at BlackBerry. My job is to support product managers and act as the bridge between business, user experience, and development. The end goal is to deliver software for BlackBerry’s line of Android devices. It feels fulfilling to be able to put my business technology management (BTM) and project management skills in motion. This is the most exciting time to be at BlackBerry, as the company is launching its first Android smartphone and on the verge of turning around its handset business.
Selected as an ambassador for the BlackBerry PRIV, BlackBerry’s first Android smartphone, I was tasked to showcase the new device and to train sales leads at Rogers and Bell stores around the Greater Toronto Area for PRIV’s November 2015 launch. My role was also to channel feedback from carrier stores to improve BlackBerry’s software experience and marketing strategy. Furthermore, I was selected to showcase the PRIV alongside the Toronto Raptors at the 2016 Raps City Social fundraiser. This particular event featured many of the Toronto Raptors players and was a way to raise money for initiatives around the community. As an ambassador, I demonstrated BlackBerry PRIV’s camera features and helped fans take photos with their favourite Raptors stars. Partnered with my colleague in corporate strategy, Raghav Sandhu, I met Luis Scola, Bruno Caboclo, and DeMarre Carrol from the Toronto Raptors. Below is our photo with Luis Scola.
Working at BlackBerry in both the Waterloo and Mississauga offices has allowed me to meet students from universities across Canada and colleagues who come from various fields of study and work. However, my networking extends beyond BlackBerry. By living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), I’m able to attend large-scale tech conferences and seminars in technical product management. Through attending such events, I have met like-minded students and recruiters from hot tech start-ups and juggernauts, ranging from Tilt and 500px to Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Palantir. Not only have been able to meet people in business and technology fields, but I have also met friends in arts and sciences. By working and traveling in Ontario, my perspective on lifestyles and careers has greatly broadened beyond what is offered in BC.
A pattern I noticed from listening to people’s stories is that career progression and finding the ideal job through a defined path is often unpredictable. Career progression is more of an opportunity jungle gym, rather than a ladder. People progress by moving up, down, laterally, and across organizations to reach their next desired position. With conventional career paths becoming increasingly rare, it makes more sense to navigate career plans in 18 to 24-month leaps. After all, the positions we want in 36 months may or may not yet be available given the current rate of technological advancement.
More importantly, the path of learning extends beyond school and into each segment of a person’s career. One of the most inspiring people I was able to meet was Jennifer Stott, Senior Vice President of Investor and Treasury Service IT at RBC. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo in Business Management and Computing Science. She is an inspiring leader who dedicates herself to continuous learning and avoids settling into comfort. As she says, “If we coast, we will always let ourselves coast.” Following this advice, I continually challenge myself to take risks, pitch projects and start initiatives.
Toronto is a Great Place for Food and Travel
Last but not least, travel is a great upside of working outside of BC. From Monday to Friday, I focus on learning as much as possible and making valuable contributions at work. On the weekends, I’m a tourist exploring and experiencing what Toronto has to offer. Travel doesn’t require much explanation. It’s simply fun to explore Ontario and spend time with friends over great food. There are plenty of must-visit restaurants and tourist attractions, here in Ontario, and I’m glad to have explored so much. Since I’m a bit of a photographer and foodie, I’ll let my photos do the talking. Below are some of the photos I’ve taken in Ontario.
Co-operative Education has been and will continue to be a safe environment to experiment with careers and to experience living in a different city. Fortunately for me, BlackBerry has placed trust in its hired students with project ownership, while also providing support and guidance. This term, I have had the opportunity to lead a team of students and pitch a new business strategy to Blackberry’s handset leadership team. Our idea was chosen out of all of those that were presented and, as a result, we were awarded smartphones. However, the true reward was having played a part in coordinating the strategy and seeing it come to fruition. With four months of co-op left at BlackBerry, my goal is to ensure ideas are put in motion and to build a software product roadmap for BlackBerry Camera. So when you consider doing co-op, I encourage you to take risks and consider working outside the province. After all, the policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.
P.S. if you need a recommendation for food in The Six (Toronto), feel free to contact me on social media!