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A woman standing in front of a Blackberry poster
“It was amazing to be part of it. There was a great energy. It was an incredible working environment and you really picked up on that buzz”

Simon Fraser University students involved in Cooperative Education work terms at BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) – one of the SFU program’s biggest employers – are getting more than a hands-on experience. Many are landing plum positions.

Last year alone, 263 SFU co-op students spanning a wide variety of faculties completed terms with the high profile company – a number that has consistently risen from a start of three in 2004 to a total since then of more than 1,000 students.

The experience has proven positive for students like Aaron La Lau of SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), who spent two semesters at BlackBerry and has since landed a job at Google in Zurich.

La Lau worked as a media and interactive designer, creating videos and motion graphics and designing apps for the “User Experience” department. “I even got to help out on the look and feel of the new line of phones, as well as the packaging,” he says. “It all helped me get my bearings in the work environment, and to have the confidence in what I do to land my new position. SIAT co-op did a great job preparing me for this type of work.”

La Lau won an honorable mention in SFU’s 2012 WIL Video contest for a video he created about his BlackBerry co-op experience.

Senior SIAT student Chi Hsi spent a semester at BlackBerry last fall soaking up the hype surrounding the production of the latest BlackBerry smartphone line. “It was amazing to be part of it. There was a great energy. It was an incredible working environment and you really picked up on that buzz,” she says.

Samanthi Jayetileke, one of SIAT’s first students to get a placement at Blackberry, went on to get a full-time job at the high tech company. For the past three-and-a-half years she has worked in consumer product marketing under the BlackBerry accessories organization.

During her co-op term Jayetileke carried out research to determine which accessory products enhanced the BlackBerry user experience. Among her current roles, she manages all accessories marketing assets for sales organizations globally. She also works on marketing initiatives for new accessory product portfolios, including global launch events and BlackBerry’s largest conference, BlackBerry Live, in addition to developing and managing accessories retail packaging merchandising strategies.

Students who excel in their co-op job placements often return to BlackBerry for additional co-op terms, or even full-time employment in such areas as engineering, computing science, user experience/design or even marketing.

 “Working at BlackBerry has definitely given me the opportunity to utilize my educational experience and apply it to my day-to-day functions,” says Jayetileke, who has also been a mentor to SFU’s flow of co-op students who’ve landed at the company.

“BlackBerry is one of our top employers supportive of co-op students, particularly across SIAT, computing science, engineering and business, but you can add other fields, like communication and the arts to that quite easily,” says Frances McLafferty, SIAT’s co-op coordinator.

“BlackBerry also offers generous packages and bonuses such as a smartphone for use throughout their co-op terms, challenging projects and future opportunities,” adds McLafferty. The company also assists students with costs associated with relocating to its offices across Canada, including Waterloo, Mississauga, Ottawa and Halifax.

“BlackBerry has a long history of hiring talented co-op students and interns from prestigious universities like Simon Fraser,” says Anne McKenna, manager, university programs. “The BlackBerry brand is for people with ambition. Our co-ops and interns are proving everyday that they are driven to succeed, and keep their careers moving, through the experience they obtain throughout their placement at BlackBerry.”

The company recently announced the BlackBerry Scholars Program, a four-year scholarship program to empower women through mobile technology.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

Beyond the Blog

This article was originally posted by SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations on July 3, 2013.

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