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Sooa Mo

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Home Country
This co-op journey has been a time of learning and self-growth. Overcoming my initial doubts about my language skills and ability to adapt to a professional environment was a huge accomplishment. 
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2023
Skills
Application and Interview Tips
Introduction + Preparation

Before joining the Co-op program, I harbored numerous concerns. As an international student with English as a second language, I feared my proficiency in both speaking and writing might hinder my work. Additionally, lacking prior work experience, I worried about my professionalism in a workplace setting. Despite these apprehensions, I opted for the Co-op program, prioritizing gaining hands-on experience over dwelling on uncertainties.

While studying Interactive Art and Technology at SFU, my ambition to become a UX designer fueled my quest for a related job. Despite its seemingly unrelated title, the Communications, Marketing + Associate position at SFU's Graduate Studies revealed a connection to UX design upon reading the job description. Understanding audience needs, managing websites, and designing for specific audiences aligned closely with my aspirations as a UX designer.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Understanding design programs like InDesign and Photoshop is valuable in this role. While familiarity with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is advantageous, knowledge of HTML and CSS can facilitate a quick grasp of the platform. Embrace learning new skills without hesitation.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Joining the Communications, Marketing and Student Experience team at SFU's Graduate Studies in late August initiated my co-op journey. My initial weeks coincided with a graduate student orientation, enabling immediate involvement in preparing for a significant event. This encounter provided insight into my department and facilitated personal interaction with graduate students, our primary clients. Subsequently, the following weeks revolved around assimilating into the company culture, familiarizing myself with the required software, and understanding the scope of my responsibilities.

Day to Day

Along with the daily tasks, I had some tasks that needed to be done within a specific time frame. Here are some of the daily and ongoing tasks:

  • For the day-to-day tasks, I had to add new information to the website for graduate students, such as events, job postings, and funding information, and remove outdated information.
  • The department's name in the office changed, and we had to change the logo and department name on the website and all forms. 
  • Receive requests via email or supportpal ticket to update the website with new information, remove unnecessary content, and update as requested.
  • Utilize Photoshop to work on graphics such as banners for events or monthly Newsletter.

I asked my mentor if I felt stuck or unsure when performing a task.

Learning and Adaptation

Throughout the job, I found it very important to be a good note-taker. I took notes on my schedule, what to do, and how to proceed with tasks. This helped me quickly figure out which tasks were the highest priority, enabling me to stay on track and remember what I was asked to do. I also took notes on how to do things during my onboarding period to rely on my previous notes when I was asked to do the same thing again.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Contrary to what I was worried about before I started working, I could adapt well to work life. I was worried about my lack of English skills, but I realized that people were more focused on what I was trying to say and express rather than whether I had good speaking skills. Because people in the department respected me, my confidence in my communication skills grew after a challenging start.

Also, asking my mentor for clarification when I felt stuck on a task or asking for help when I made a mistake helped me solve any problems quickly by admitting my shortcomings and asked for assistance. However, acknowledging the need to tackle challenges and seek feedback independently remains a goal for the remainder of my co-op tern.  

Wrap Up

My co-op experience with Graduate Studies at SFU has been invaluable, offering insights that will undoubtedly enrich my future career. My mentor's guidance wasn't confined to providing answers; instead, they fostered critical thinking, enhancing my skills as a UX designer and a communication and marketing associate. This opportunity with an exceptional team has been enriching, and I eagerly anticipate the remainder of the semester.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

This co-op journey has been a time of learning and self-growth. Overcoming my initial doubts about my language skills and ability to adapt to a professional environment was a huge accomplishment. 

I could communicate by focusing on what I wanted to convey rather than my language skills. I also adapted to a professional environment as part of a team by seeking help or learning what I didn't know and making good use of my skills. It was a significant growth opportunity for me to work diligently and develop an active problem-solving mindset, moving from passive to giving input and receiving feedback.
 

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

The most significant takeaway from this experience has been the invaluable mentorship and encouragement I received. My mentor didn't merely provide solutions but encouraged me to think critically, fostering independence and self-reliance in problem-solving. Additionally, the exposure to diverse tasks, from website management to graphic design, offered a holistic understanding of UX design principles in a practical context. Moreover, interacting directly with clients during events enhanced my communication skills and knowledge of user needs.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

Through Interactive art and technology classes, I have worked on various projects. Whether dealing with Adobe programs or UX design, researching, wireframing, prototyping, etc., has helped me immensely in my actual work. Taking note of important points at the beginning of a project, such as writing to-do lists, ideas, drawing and wireframing, has benefited my career. 

I also learned additional new features for my work and increased its efficiency. Through this, I realized that facing challenges and learning to solve problems, rather than hiding and avoiding what I don't know, can positively impact my career and myself.  

Advice for Future Students

To future students, I recommend embracing challenges and seeking opportunities to apply classroom knowledge in practical settings. Don't shy away from seeking guidance or admitting areas for improvement; this fosters growth and opens avenues for learning. Take diligent notes during onboarding, as these will be invaluable references for future tasks. Additionally, maintain an open mind towards learning new tools and software; versatility is valuable in any role.

Author

Sooa Mo

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op
visibility  221
Mar 12, 2024