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Margaret Leong

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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the author with her colleagues during work
Do you want to learn a new skill? If you ask, most often, someone will be willing to teach or mentor you.

Many people fantasize about working for a big organization, and there are certainly many perks and benefits that come from completing a co-op work term at a big company. However, working for a start-up can provide you with many other types of experiences and help you develop a variety of skills you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do at a larger organization. This was certainly my experience at Vancouver tech start-up Tradable Bits. Aside from learning more about marketing communications and the world of fan-based marketing, I’ve learned so many new skills in just one work term.

So why work for a start-up? Here are 6 good reasons:

Flexibility and Independence

One of the things people told me before starting my co-op placement was that tech companies and start-ups give you lots of flexibility and independence. After jumping into the world of tech myself, I have to agree with that statement. I’ve experienced a lot of flexibility during my work term, and that includes the ability to choose my own work hours (within a given timeframe) and working from home if needed. I was also encouraged to come up with a lot of my own ideas for projects, from blog post topics to social media content. Do you want to learn a new skill? If you ask, most often, someone will be willing to teach or mentor you.

Responsibility

Having lots of flexibility and independence is great because it also gives you the chance to showcase that your employer can trust you with various responsibilities. No one will be holding your hand; you’ll be in charge of your own day. This will include ensuring your tasks are done, that you’re staying focused (especially while working from home), getting things done efficiently and effectively, and asking for help when needed.

Resourcefulness

Most start-ups don’t have the big budgets or tools that large organizations have at their disposal, which encourages everyone to get more creative and think outside of the box about how to achieve their goals and scale their initiatives on a smaller budget. Whether it’s building your own in-house tools or leveraging the various skills on the team, a start-up environment forces you to get things done quickly and effectively.

Variety

Working for a start-up often means wearing a lot of hats, and as a result, gives you a variety of learning opportunities. From video editing to managing the social media channels, writing blog posts, to product marketing, I have been able to learn and gain a lot of experience in just four months. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to complete some certifications in the process. I was able to get my Hootsuite Social Marketing certification and work on my Google Analytics certification.

Chill and Casual Work Environment

Do you just want to be in a t-shirt and jeans at work? Great news, if you work at a start-up that’s generally the dress code! From a kitchen stocked with snacks, to Friday socials, a chill work environment will make you feel more comfortable and help you get to know your colleagues better. It can be stressful starting a new job, and being a co-op student new to the professional world can make things even more daunting, so having a casual work environment can help you settle into your new role.

Build Relationships With People Beyond Your Team

A smaller company means that you’ll have the opportunity to meet and interact with people outside of your immediate team. During my work term, I was able to interact with more than just the marketing team. I learned from a variety of people in roles such as client management, digital advertising, design, sales, software development and even the CEO. It can be intimidating approaching people as a co-op student, and the fact that all of my colleagues reached out and introduced themselves to me during my first week helped me feel a lot more comfortable. I would also recommend getting to know your colleagues better by going on lunches and coffee dates together. This will help you get to know them on both a professional and personal level. 

Overall, my experience at Tradable Bits has been very rewarding. I find it very fitting that their logo is an octopus; it has eight tentacles and each one is doing a different task, which is how life at a start-up really is. Completing a co-op work term at a start-up can be very rewarding. You’ll graduate with lots of experience, great contacts (who can become future references and maybe even future colleagues) and every day is different. I even got the opportunity to see the company move into a bigger office, showcasing how a start-up can experience hyper-growth. If you want to dip your feet into the Vancouver tech industry and you see a job posting for a start-up, don’t hesitate to apply.

About the Author

Margaret Leong

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Connect with Margaret on LinkedIn.

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