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Jason Ding

SFU Student Undergraduate
Science › Mathematics
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Position Title
Experience Faculty
One of the most valuable aspects of this co-op was gaining work experience directly related to my major. My career goal is to secure a tech job because I enjoy problem-solving and working on programming projects.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Preparation Tips for Future Students

Before my co-op term began, I prepared so that my transition would be easier, and I recommend that future students do the same. My first tip is to not over-prepare as co-op positions are intended for students to learn job skills, supervisors typically don’t expect students to have extensive prior knowledge and are there to provide training. When preparing for a co-op term, I find it useful to review the job posting to understand the tools I will use on the job, as well as the kind of work that I will be doing. Since my co-op is a technical role, I reviewed Python in case I needed it for my work, and statistics knowledge from previous courses as my role requires statistical analysis. Of course, co-op jobs encompass a wide range of fields, so my general tip is to review relevant aspects in the job posting, this preparation may make a positive first impression on supervisors and coworkers.

Lastly, I believe that it is important to prepare for the unexpected, as things that are out of the student’s control can happen. For example, I might have to work with someone that I don’t see eye to eye with, and in that case I would still try to communicate with them in a professional manner and sort things out. However, if disagreements become too personal then I would bring up the issue with my supervisor, as I believe that students should speak up if they feel uncomfortable. 

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The first couple of days during my co-op at Statistics Canada mainly involved getting my work laptop set up, as well as reading documentation on the RME (Register Matching Engine), which is the main program that my team uses for running tests. Once my work laptop and account were set up, I met other co-op students within my team as well as the rest of my team members in a Teams call. Each of the co-op students, including me, gave an introduction about ourselves and talked about our experiences with programming. After the first week of orientation activities, the second week was where I started to learn hands-on some of the tasks that I would be doing throughout the co-op term. Since my team mainly uses SAS for programming, I completed SAS training and met with my supervisor daily to provide updates on my learning as well as receive guidance on my tasks. The orientation that my supervisor provided included a summary of my team, the work they do and what projects I would be working on throughout the term, as well as SAS training which was necessary for my projects.

Day to Day

A typical day starts quite early for me at 7 am to align with my team’s schedule since most of my team is based in Ottawa. Some days I have meetings at 8 am, so I prepare beforehand and think about questions that I may have. After the meeting, I will work on my projects, and spend an hour or so working with another co-op student on a project that we are assigned to work on together. I usually take a lunch break at 12 pm, and if I am in the office, I will buy lunch nearby, while at home (working remotely) I cook something for lunch. At 1 pm I have another meeting with my supervisor where I discuss my progress as well as next steps, and after the meeting, I continue working on my projects until 3 pm, which is when I finish work. My co-op is hybrid, so I go to the office twice a week, and my commute is quite long since I live in Surrey and the office is in Downtown Vancouver. However, despite the long commute, I feel that going to the office has made my day-to-day schedule more interesting, as I can meet new people in the office and explore the downtown area.

Learning and Adaptation

During my co-op term at Statistics Canada, I learned a lot of new skills on the job, and as the term progressed I was able to adapt to my team’s expectations, especially when the projects that I worked on became more complex. I spent the first two weeks learning about the Register Matching Engine (RME) and SAS programming as my work mainly revolved around these tools. At first, I found SAS to be confusing and challenging as the syntax was very different from more conventional programming languages that I am familiar with, such as Python and C. As I wrote more and more SAS code, I naturally became increasingly comfortable, and now I am at a point where I can understand the programs that I use just by looking at the SAS code. The RME is a tool that my team uses to match two files with each other and analyze the results, and during the first two weeks, I mostly read the documents describing the algorithms that are available in the RME. Once I started using the RME to perform analysis, I began to really understand the RME itself, and I learned by running tests and making notes on the results and how they change depending on the algorithm and parameters used.

Accomplishments and Challenges

The accomplishment that I am most proud of as a co-op student at Statistics Canada is being able to contribute data that is directly relevant to Canadian society, and I feel that I have made an impact in providing up-to-date data that Canadians can use. One of my main projects was to ensure that new street addresses being added were truly new, and I identified any streets that might be a duplicate or have typos in them. I was able to complete my street unduplication project for three provinces, which I am proud of, as my original expectation was to complete the project for two provinces. Another accomplishment I am proud of is being proficient in SAS after only three months, as I haven’t had any experience with it before this co-op. I feel that I am at a point now where I can write relatively complex SAS code and even assist others who are new to SAS. I am also proud of overcoming challenges that I faced during my co-op, and for me, the biggest challenge was learning SAS with no previous knowledge. What made this challenging was that many of the SAS programs my team used were designed by my supervisor who has decades of experience with SAS, so the programs were quite complex and it took me a while to really understand what was happening in the code.

Reflection & Tips

My co-op term at Statistics Canada was a great experience, as I learned a lot of new things and met a lot of new people as well. Compared to my previous co-op, I felt that this co-op fits well with my career goals, and the skills that I learned during my co-op term will be useful when applying for jobs in the future. I’m happy that I was able to learn new skills on the job, such as the SAS programming language as well as the RME and its algorithms. I enjoyed speaking with my supervisor, who helped write the code for several of the algorithms, about the RME and I appreciated the knowledge that he passed on to me. Even though I learned new skills in my co-op term, I was also happy to use my existing knowledge of Python to write some programs for the RME, as my team is in the process of transitioning from SAS to Python. My supervisor told me that the Python programs that I wrote could be used by my team in the future, so it was nice to know that my work can help others, including future students.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

One of the most valuable aspects of this co-op was gaining work experience directly related to my major. My career goal is to secure a tech job because I enjoy problem-solving and working on programming projects. As a Data Integration Co-op, my responsibilities involve a blend of data analysis and data processing. This role has given me insight into potential career paths as a data analyst or data scientist. Learning SAS has been valuable as well, as SAS is commonly used in data jobs along with R and Python. Another valuable aspect of my co-op is the social interactions, I have met new people and expanded my network, which can be useful for job references or recommendation letters in the future. My co-op went from fully remote to hybrid after a month, and I found it easier to interact with my coworkers in the office than online. I’ve also built relationships through in-person meetings as well as having lunch together. Since most of my team is based in Ottawa, it has been more difficult for me to interact with them, but I’ve met people in the Vancouver office who are on different teams, and it’s interesting to see what everyone is working on.


Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

As a Mathematics and Computing Science major, I hope to work in the tech field after graduation, so working as a Data Integration Co-op is useful for me to gain tech experience, which will make it easier for me to find tech jobs in the future. My work is a mix of data analysis and data processing, which aligns with my career goal to work as a data analyst or data scientist. I have also found that I use my knowledge from math and computer science classes in my co-op, such as implementing logic-based code and writing Python programs. Statistics Canada offers training courses for R, Python, and other programming languages, so I take advantage of the training to boost my knowledge, which can be useful for future computer science courses as well as future job opportunities. I am planning to take more data science courses in the future as well, and I believe that this co-op will be useful for those classes since the programming that I do involves querying and analyzing complex data. As someone who is passionate about data, I enjoyed my co-op term and I can see myself doing more data analysis and data processing work in the future.

Advice for Future Students

Since my co-op is in the tech sector, I can give a few tips specific to tech co-ops as well as general tips for all future co-op students. The first and most important tip for all future students is that as a co-op, make sure to ask a lot of questions to your supervisor or manager as well as to your coworkers. The first few days can be intimidating as you have to learn new things and meet new people, and asking questions shows that you are eager to learn while helping build relationships. Also, most supervisors expect students to ask a lot of questions during the first few weeks, and I know from experience that supervisors would rather have students work slowly and understand the work than try to finish tasks quickly without knowing if the task was done correctly. The next tip I have is that students should strive to make a positive influence during their co-op, as this can leave a lasting impression on coworkers. This is useful especially after the co-op term, as many supervisors hire co-ops as full-time workers after graduation if the student left a good impression. Supervisors and coworkers can also be used as references for future job opportunities. For tech co-ops, an important tip is to experiment with the code if allowed by the supervisor to gain a deeper understanding and to ask coworkers who are familiar with the code for help, which is something I did often when I was learning SAS.