Getting accustomed to a new workplace with new people can be daunting. MBB student Janelle shares her experience working for the fast-paced industrial lab, Maxxam. This is part two of a two part series.
I spent eight months as a co-op student at Maxxam, a lab where I worked as a Lab Technician Assistant. In this position, I had the pleasure of developing my skillset and networking with some great individuals. In general, I try to approach networking as striking up casual conversation and showing interest in the work that other people do. Networking will get you references and inside knowledge about the industry. Also, Maxxam was full of interesting people and I was genuinely curious about their stories. It is almost a given that you will walk away from the job with people from your department as your references, but it is also useful to become acquainted with people outside of your department. You can get to know more about other positions in the field and perhaps ask them what steps they took academically or in their career that allowed them to get that position. Maxxam had several opportunities to do just that:
One of the best things about Maxxam is they appreciated their employees and they showed this by frequently organizing barbeques, free lunches, and free ice cream. The social committee is in charge of putting together these events and is comprised of people from many different departments, labs and the front offices. It is a great place to meet new people and something to look forward to at work.
There were about two dozen co-op students employed during my time at Maxxam. They come from several different majors from SFU and UBC. The majority of us banded together to have lunches and after-work socials to share our experiences. Even now, I am in touch with a former fellow co-op student who has since graduated and shares their current experience with trying to find work in the industry.
Quality Assurance was keen on recruiting people from many different departments. As part of your QA training, you are given the opportunity to shadow another lab technician to see if the Standard Operating Procedure guidelines are followed. It is a great way to meet people from different departments and ask questions about their work.
Every December, departments are pitted against each other to see who can raise the most money for a charity. Naturally, co-op students of each department are put in charge of organizing the events or fundraising activities. Signing people up for these events involved going around to every nook and cranny of the lab. I discovered departments I did not know existed and met more people in the span of two weeks than I did in the past eight months.
One of the co-op projects that I did was interviewing my co-workers and a lab technician from a separate department. It is possible to also interview your supervisor, manager or even the company president if you ask. They can give a lot of tips and insight into the industry and all of them were more than willing to share their experience and knowledge with the co-op students.
In all, I am very glad I did my first co-op experience at Maxxam. They knew how to handle co-op students, which made it easy to settle into the workplace. The job itself was fairly simple but it allowed me to gain my first lab experience, have a taste of what working in a fast-paced industrial lab was like, and obtain references in the industry. My most important take away from working at Maxxam was meeting many amazing people who are now my friends and contacts.