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SFU Co-op Student

Paull standing beside the Google headquarters sign
[This experience] really inspired me to apply myself more and showed me that as SFU students, we have so many opportunities that we can take advantage of.

My name is Paul and I started studying Software Systems at SFU in 2012. From a young age, I was always curious about computers. I would spend hours playing around with my computer and that is how I learned how to install operating systems, copy files to floppy disks, burn CD’s, and perform other tasks that kids my age would not know how to do. I grew up with immigrant parents from Poland, and as per our culture, there was an expectation for me to attend university. I believed in the same, however, the only problem was that I did not know what I wanted to focus on. I just knew that I was passionate about technology.

The Transition to University

The transition from high school to university was not as smooth as I had hoped. I was used to being one of the best student in my class and that changed when I started university. I began my undergraduate degree at SFU with an entrance scholarship however, I lost my award because my academic performance declined drastically. This was very demotivating and I started having doubts about my decision to go into Computing Science. I also felt like I did not fit in with other students because we had different interests. 

The Break From Studies

I decided to try out the co-op program at SFU because I wanted a break from school. I applied to IT and technical writing positions as I felt wasn’t ready to work as a software engineer which is what most Software Systems students aim for. I got a job at Absolute Software as an IT Support Administrator. After a year of being in IT however, I realized that it was unrelated to what I was taught in school, so I felt like I needed more. Nevertheless, landing this job allowed me to connect with people in the field which helped me get my first co-op as an automation engineer at the same company. 

I was starting to feel more passionate about Computer Science and this lead me to try and immerse myself into the tech culture. Every Computing Science student dreams about working for a Silicon Valley company like Google, Apple and Microsoft, among many others. I used to think that getting an offer from one of them would be like winning the lottery.

The Opportunity

Then one day, the Computing Science Student Society at SFU sent an email announcing a trip to Silicon Valley to visit tech companies' headquarters and I jumped at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So naturally, I applied to go! Within the first few days of the trip, I met so many new people and numerous connections with people working in the industry. I was so amazed at how well the employees were treated by their employers as well as all the cool perks like free food, fitness facilities, and employee discounts they benefitted from. I learned more in those three days than I did in my last three years at school.

The Inspiration

My entire outlook on my career and goals changed drastically when I returned back to Vancouver. Suddenly, I had motivation because I had the opportunity to see what my life could be like if I worked in Silicon Valley. Employees are able to grow and learn from other brilliant people, work with the most ground-breaking technologies, and can impact millions of people around the world through technology that we use every day in our lives. I found that fascinating and wanted to be a part of it. I also got to connect with alumni from SFU who worked for big companies in the Bay area and they made it all seem so achievable. I fell in love with the life these companies promised me. I would not be the person I am today if I had not attended the trip. 

During the past 2 years, I worked hard to improve my technical skills and that led me to interviews with several Silicon Valley companies. I landed an eight-month internship at SAP working as a Cloud Operations Engineer; and post-graduation, I will be working as a Software Engineer in Test at Electronic Arts. I believe my success would not be possible if I had not been on that trip. It really inspired me to apply myself more and showed me that as SFU students, we have so many opportunities that we can take advantage of.

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Paul via LinkedIn. 
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Mar 11, 2020

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