When I first started applying for jobs for my first Co-op semester, I was not quite sure which industries would fit me. I was, however, determined to step outside of my comfort zone, and I was open to new possibilities. As a result, I ended up landing the position of Marketing Assistant at CPE Systems Inc. The company is known for its B2B (business-to-business) sales operations to businesses in the brewing, winemaking, distilling, and food industries, being one of the largest suppliers of essential industrial equipment. My main project was the creation of several eCommerce websites, using the Shopify platform. Each of them was dedicated to the promotion of key product lines to the company’s target audience and main customers. I got to learn a lot of amazing things about eCommerce website creation, starting from building out the informational architecture and designing the themes, to adding the content and uploading the inventory. My other responsibilities included exploring the market and consumer needs of the businesses to ensure an outstanding user experience.
Throughout my work term, I worked under the supervision of the marketing manager, who happened to be an SFU Communication alumnus himself. He taught me digital marketing skills, such as website analytics and SEO, as well as tools like Google AdWords and Google Analytics, all of which are important for ensuring better website rankings and increased organic traffic. As a nice bonus, I got to learn all about the types of craft beer and their features and the step-by-step processes of brewing and winemaking since all of this was crucial to understanding what each of the products we were selling did.
By the end of my first work term, the pandemic hit our world and changed our lives forever, which resulted in my next Co-op experiences being significantly different from my first one. In fact, my second Co-op position was directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, small business operations in particular. The role of a Digital Marketer with the Burnaby Board of Trade was a part of the company’s Digital Development Assistance (DDA) Program, specifically created to help businesses navigate through the pandemic. The focus of the position was to help small businesses with building, increasing, and enhancing their digital presence. More importantly, I was helping these businesses to adjust to the new reality and overcome the challenges of breaking into the digital marketplace during the pandemic, all while working remotely myself.
Throughout the work term, I got to work with seven local businesses, each from a different industry and sector. Due to the pandemic, some of my clients had to cut their marketing expenses, while some of them heavily relied on foot traffic which was also compromised during these times. My primary responsibilities revolved around consulting businesses about their digital marketing practices and making recommendations on areas requiring improvement. In contrast to my first Co-op experience, this position was highly autonomous, which I think was the biggest challenge. As a student, you are always told to adhere to strict deadlines to submit your assignments and projects, whereas in this position, I was the one setting the deadlines for my clients, which was not always easy. Because the DDA program was relatively short, I was always on a tight schedule, so it was important for me to ensure that businesses got back to me right away. Because I was creating social media plans and strategies, setting up digital advertising, and designing social media campaigns for my clients, this work term’s tasks addressed a more creative aspect of digital marketing compared to a more technical one in my previous term.
For me, Co-op turned out to be this amazing program that, in a way, feels like a “trial version” of life after graduation, as it is intended to give you a sense of what it is truly like working in a professional environment. In addition, you get to try out many different positions and even more different industries in which you might not have ended up otherwise. As I was approaching my third and last semester of Co-op, I knew that I wanted to try myself out in either a tech or a start-up company. To my great surprise, I was able to find a position that brought together the best of both worlds. I ended up securing the role of Social Media Manager at Hypatia Systems Inc. The company was founded by math and science educators (one of whom is an SFU Math professor) to build the best mathematics tutoring system to support students and educators all over the world. Currently, one of the company’s products is the fastest math editor plug-in for Google Suite, which gained over 10 million users in under a year.
Despite their success, the company lacked a presence in the world of social media, and that is where my skills came in handy. My primary focus for this work term was to build and develop the company’s digital presence by creating social media campaigns, updating the social media calendar, and designing the posts for social media channels. During my academic career, I was never a fan of math, and even though the position did not require any advanced math knowledge, I had to do a lot of research to produce interesting, but most importantly, scientifically accurate content. In a way, my overall experience might seem similar to that of my previous work term, however, working with just one company and working with multiple clients simultaneously is very different. On top of that, my third work term lasted longer than my second one, which allowed me to track the results of the social media campaigns I executed throughout the term, both paid and free, and compare the insights. I also got to learn the basics of influencer marketing, which is at its peak right now, by reaching out to potential partners and influencers on social media. Throughout the work term, I built a database of potential influencers for our company to partner up with in the math and science industry.
Before starting my co-op journey, I had certain doubts about whether taking time away from school would be worth it. It is generally accepted that students are supposed to get their bachelor’s degree in four years, and anything beyond that is simply unconventional. However, I strongly disagree with that, especially given the fact that new graduates today are expected to have several years of work experience when applying to entry-level jobs. Of course, it would be easier to just finish my courses, graduate, and get a full-time job, but we know that having a degree does not guarantee you a job after graduation anymore. While school most certainly gives you important knowledge, theory is very different from practice, and professional settings are very different from academic ones. I acquired very important skills every step of the way during my Co-op journey, many of which are not taught or available in the classroom. I am very glad I took this step outside of my comfort zone to join the Co-op program in the first place, and I would definitely suggest you consider joining it too.