Naomi Chao never thought it would be possible to intern at tech giants Microsoft, Adobe and SAP before she even graduated. As a double major in Interactive Arts and Technology and Computing Science at Simon Fraser University, Naomi gained the knowledge in her classes to become a designer and developer. But it was her early co-op term at Spexi Geospatial, a cloud-based drone platform that makes aerial photography simple for businesses, that gave her a chance to apply her skills to real world problems.
As a startup, Spexi Geospatial faced resource constraints during their early development efforts, making hiring a full-time designer challenging. This is where the WildBrain (formerly DHX Media) Co-op Award came in. Through a generous gift and six-year commitment from WildBrain to Simon Fraser University Co-op, the award supported pre-profit and non-profit innovation-focused organizations that lacked the financial resources to hire a co-op student.
Being able to bring on a student like Naomi was of great value says Peter Szymczak, CTO at Spexi Geospatial. “Naomi was extremely diligent, proactive and thorough while leading our user experience redesign effort for our mobile application. Her design skills really helped our technically driven prototype application gain a new polish that was desperately needed for the future success of our platform.”
In her role as User Experience Design Intern, Naomi overhauled the mobile and web experience for drone pilots by leading the platform design from early state to market, working closely with developers to implement new features and visual design. "Looking back, I learned so much during my time at Spexi,” says Naomi. “The experience there really kick-started my career as a product designer, and I'm so thrilled to tell people what we accomplished there!"
Naomi is one of 30 students who have benefitted from co-op work experiences thanks to WildBrain’s Co-op Award over the past six years. The award, which gave priority to students in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, has funded roles in digital and product marketing, communications, web development, project coordination as well as UX/UI design. From software companies to health technology to community services, WildBrain’s Co-op Award has impacted many sectors.
As one of the first recipients of WildBrain's Co-op Award, Marc St. Pierre, now a Communication alumnus, understood the goal that the company was trying to achieve. "There are so many exciting, innovative new businesses starting up in the Lower Mainland, and WildBrain is playing a significant role in connecting those companies with the right students. Their support really embodies SFU's spirit of engaging students with community."
In his co-op term with Maker Cube Society, a non-profit makerspace that offered S.T.E.A.M.-focused education, innovation, and civic engagement, Marc lead community initiatives including interactive installations and educational workshops for children. "Without this award,” says Marc, “I would not have had the security and resources to pursue new connections through my work and open more career pathways for the future."
Three years later, Marc now directs the community team at MakerLabs, a large makerspace with over 200 members, many of whom are small businesses. In his role, he helps to create conditions for members to try new things and innovate within MakerLabs’ studios and common areas. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to build community and work with technology which began in the job funded through WildBrain's Co-op Award. They were supportive of my efforts with my fledgling makerspace and their encouragement led me to pursue further opportunities in this field."
Beyond the Blog
For more information about WildBrain, please visit http://www.wildbrain.com.
For more information about hiring a Co-op student and accessing funding, please visit www.sfu.ca/hire/coop.html
For more opportunities like Naomi's, visit SFU's SIAT Co-op homepage
Visit Spexi Geospatial's homepage to find out more!
Interested in accessing funding to hire a Co-op student?