When I got the offer from Solace Corporation in Ottawa, it was a fully remote position but I chose to visit their Kanata office in Ottawa for the first five weeks. I believe that in-person interactions will improve team collaboration and my learning experience. It was a good decision. If I had done everything remotely, I would not have met some of the most talented and hardworking individuals I met in person. Our UX team would take lunches together and spend time getting to know each other more. I was also lucky enough to attend their annual golf tournament to meet additional talented individuals out of my department in my company. I encourage all co-op students to visit the office of their work places in order to develop interpersonal bond with their coworkers.
Solace is a middleware company that manufactures and sells software and message-oriented middleware appliances that route data between applications, devices, and user interfaces. According to the description, Solace is a highly technical company. Coming into this co-op position, I had no expectations or idea what my day-to-day UX work would entail. UX in the workplace differs from what I was taught in school.
The main challenge I faced was figuring out how to communicate my design concept to the developers effectively; no matter how beautiful the design was, if the developers do not understand it or are unable to work with it, the product will not be created. Designers and developers must work closely together to address usability and technical issues in order to provide significant value to customers. I initially had difficulty comprehending the project brief and communicating my design ideas to the developers in the meeting and on Figma. So, I reached out to my exceptional manager and mentor for assistance.
Some of the tips I received were;
- Before the meeting, consider all the possible technical terms that will be discussed, and familiarize yourself with them to avoid confusion.
- Record the meeting or have someone else take notes on your behalf. This will ensure that the feedback you receive during the meeting is not lost.
- Practice, practice, practice! You will be able to clarify your design concepts and anticipate potential questions if you practice before your design presentation meeting.
- Endeavor to speak as simply as possible in order to clarify matters. If you observe that people do not understand, ask them if anything is unclear, and if you do not understand something during the meeting, do not hesitate to ask.
- For Figma detail specifications, it is preferable to attach story scenarios to visual mockups to make them easier to comprehend for non-designers.
I was able to build my UX skills in a more professional manner as a result of these tips. I can confidently say that every day has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I could see my development from the first day I was there. This four-month internship was extremely beneficial to my future UX career and I am prepared to assume full independence in my next co-op position.
In addition to the co-op, I was also the design director for CaseIT 2023 this year. My responsibilities included designing all internal and external graphics for the upcoming 2023 International Undergraduate MIS Case Competition. While I was away on my co-op, CaseIT provided opportunities to remain involved in school, make new friends, and improve my visual design skills. Therefore, you will find me performing fun UX work during the working days and CaseIT graphic work during the weekday evenings.
As a person who loves culture and art, I fell in love with Ottawa at first glance. Around the city center area, there are countless galleries, museums, and public art displays. I could spend an entire day inside a museum to learn about art and history. The European vibes of the downtown area make you feel like you’re in Amsterdam while holding a little patisserie in your hand gives a Parisian Vibe. Everything in this city is simply perfectly balanced. I always found myself sitting on a bench in the middle of the downtown area just to admire the gothic parliament building. This city is so unique and beautiful that I would 100% come back here again.
I changed back to working remotely after 5 weeks but often reflect on all the experiences I had during my time in Ottawa. This co-op term was definitely adventurous and fulfilling as I did not ever think I would do this much when I first received the offer. I was also fortunate to have the nicest manager and mentor to give me appropriate guidance at the start of my UX career as well as the opportunities to work autonomously on projects with the developers. This made me feel like I was part of the company rather than a simple co-op student. I always believed university life to be more than school and would encourage everyone to apply for co-op, step out of their comfort zone and create their own unique adventurous experience because you will be amazed at how many things you can accomplish.