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SFU Co-op Student

As a student in the field myself, if you are pursuing a mechatronics degree, I would highly recommend working in different co-op positions to discover your interests and strengths.

I believe that developing your passion is a prerequisite to finding your purpose in a particular area and thus, develop potential career options.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose”.

- Bishop Jakes

The Mechatronic Systems Engineering Program at Simon Fraser University allows students to engage in several traditional areas of electrical, mechanical and software engineering. As a fourth-year student in the program who is about to graduate, and someone who worked in different co-op positions, I constantly ask myself if what I am doing today is getting me closer to where I want to be.

A varied job experience has given me a diverse skill set that can be valuable to my employer, especially in industries where employees are required to be highly specialized in a particular area. The question then is: Do I regret working in different positions instead of focusing on a singular goal? Did I manage to discover my passion?

In this blog, I will elaborate how working within various fields gave me a unique insight into my own preferences and helped me figure out what matters the most to me.

Beginnings Are Not Always Hard

I started my first co-op in a start-up called Shield-X Technology where we take protection to the next level. Sure, most start-up companies do not offer a high pay, but this experience taught me a lot more than what I would have learnt working with a big organization. Shield-X Technology allowed me to take up responsibilities and challenges based on direct feedback from employers. As a related workplace responsibility, I had to accept what errors I may cause and acknowledge what contributions I had made. To personally do the work I was hired to do, boosted my confidence and yet became self motivated and productive.

Doing different things was definitely exciting. I got the license to work with a small team that created counterfactual problems to help find possible alternatives to decal performances and delivered results with fresh conceptual designs that captured costumer’s interest. It was essential to build a culture where people do not only become authentic, yet going to bring the best of their work and their best ideas. The pride of enhancing the performance of the decal product which would not help show-off our skills but also allow the company to maintain growth in the long term, was immense.

Further, Shield-X Technology gave me the ability to know how to respond effectively to pressure and stress in any line of tasks involved, specifically when submitting decals to North American hardware companies. However, how one responds to pressure definitely varies from person to person. Some people might perform better under pressure while others may panic and turn unproductive. It is also vital to be aware of how to act in such pressure-infused situations and take quick decisions to maintain work productivity. I also worked on and improved my stress management skills and the ability to work effectively with others to get a job done on time.

However, while my hands-on skills with regards to layer manufacturing and prototyping were enhanced in this job, I did not see myself growing as much as I would have liked to. I kept doing the exact same thing over and over, and it felt like I wasn’t acquiring any new knowledge. I did not see myself innovate and thus, wasn’t making any progress towards discovering what my passion was. Therefore, I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone in order to explore new opportunities.

The Turning Point

For some students, working on campus is a necessity, for others it is simply what they desire. By offering the opportunity to develop technical skills that employers expect upon graduation, SFU ensures that students are ready to enter the workforce. Working on campus is very much like studying in the university yet helps students to gain professional experience and define their career goals. The on-campus co-op program is designed to assist students to manage their time efficiently and be able to expand their networks and level of productivity at the same time.

My second co-op was working with  MENRVA at SFU, an organization that has heralded numerous projects related to biomedical wearable devices, prosthetic bionic arm, leg compression therapy and Controlled Arm Exoskeleton. Here, I learnt how to work with software designed process control system and fabricate a proper mechanical treatment to prototype production.

While working at MENRVA, I not only gained self-confidence, but also learnt how to overcome challenges and work with people who have different mindsets and come from diverse backgrounds. I feel as if MENRVA turned me into a better person - a person who is ready to put their best foot forward into the world. I was excited to enter a new phase of work life and to perform better, to face new challenges and work on multiple projects with experts in other disciplines. 

The Real Action!

After finishing my second co-op and heading back to school to finish my degree, I had a better understanding of the areas I am good at. I started applying for jobs, targeting mechanical and electrical related positions, and as fate would have it, I ended up working as a mechanical designer in a Vancouver based company called Avigilon Corporation that designs, manufactures and markets video surveillance cameras.

Working at Avigilon has been an extraordinary experience - it is an excellent organization where my contributions and achievements are acknowledged and appreciated by the team. What is different about this organization is the fact that it cares about the quality of the product to maintain customer satisfaction, brand value and meet company goals. Emphasis is on knowing your customers’ needs.

Every day spent at Avigilon is an adventure because there’s always something new to discover and learn. The more knowledge I acquire, the more confident I feel about my position and work. I not only assist with my team related tasks but also self-engage with other tasks from different departments such as creating proper packaging for hardware kits.

Working here has taught me how to prioritize tasks and projects over time. It has enhanced my critical thinking and decision-making skills as I independently decide what to do and when to do it, keeping in mind that every decision I take has consequences for me and others.

Needless to say, the first three months at Avigilon have been outstanding and I look forward to the coming months.

Bottom Line

Curiosity is what made me smarter. I am always seeking more opportunities and challenges and want to work in different organizations and positions in order to gain exposure and find my true passion.

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”

- Albert Einstein

Working at Shield-X Technology taught me how to efficiently use my time to fulfill mine and the organization’s goals, and how to build supportive relationships with co-workers to perform better and achieve more. At MENRVA, on the other hand, I entered a different phase of my work life – one that involved both development and the showcase of my skillset. Finally, ending my co-op term with Avigilon, I learnt how to handle more complex tasks and bigger responsibilities.  

As a student in the field myself, if you are pursuing a mechatronics degree, I would highly recommend working in different co-op positions to discover your interests and strengths. Since Mechatronics is a disciplinary program, the best way for students to discover their true interest by trying different things and exploring new opportunities.

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Mouataz Kaddoura on LinkedIn.
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Apr 19, 2018

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