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SFU Co-op Student

a quiet street in Toronto
I would never get a second chance like this to gain so much improvement in self-discipline and to learn how to manage my mental health.

“If I was given a second chance, I would make the same decision.” I was asking myself if I regret it or not when I started writing this. Initially, it seemed really brave to move to Toronto for a co-op and work in a tax app team during the tax season. It’s both the coldest in Toronto and the busiest season at Intuit, TurboTax team. Then, an unexpected global pandemic occurred requiring me and all my co-workers to work remotely from home for 7 weeks. I didn’t anticipate the additional barriers I would be encountering and the incredible learnings I would take from this move.

Working as a user experience designer at Intuit was my very first experience working in a worldwide known company. It’s hard to describe how much I have learned from this position and how much I appreciate that I decided to take this offer back in 2019. This experience showed me everything I can expect from working in a big tech company. From collaborating closely with other designers, content strategists, product managers, marketers and developers, participating in multiple “Follow-me-home” sessions to better understand customers in their natural environment by observing them using the TurboTax app, to driving a project by myself, there’s no more I can ask for from a co-op position. I remember how anxious I was during the first week at Intuit after attending several meetings with my manager, team members and senior leaders because I realized how much I would need to learn and how far I would need to push myself out of my comfort zone. People are saying only challenges help you grow. I am thankful that I met a team providing me opportunities to overcome challenges and at the same time, offering me enough care and support. I was accepted as a family member of the team and treated as a full-time employee who has ownership of some projects. I felt trusted and supported while working on products that will eventually be touched by real users. 

Quickly moving from a collaborative office environment to working remotely at home for almost 2 months due to the pandemic was completely unexpected. Living and working in a city that I am not familiar with was an exciting adventure, in the beginning, it reminded me of the moments I first came to Canada. I couldn’t wait to explore every store downtown, know new friends and try numerous restaurants. However, working from home in a temporary rented place made it a totally different story. The place I rented does not have a proper place to work, so I needed to work at a dining table, right beside the kitchen. Social distancing is not easy for many to cope with, I found it really challenging in the first several days. Later on, I realized how meaningful this experience was for me. Many people would agree that it’s much harder to concentrate and be productive at home, yet it’s also a good chance to develop those skills. After a couple of days, I needed to force myself to work as focused as at the office. I picked up my iPad which I had only used for streaming movies in the past several months and wrote down an everyday schedule in detail, then tried to follow it strictly. I pushed myself to be more active in weekly design critique meetings and prepared by creating presentations. Fortunately, our brain knows how to adapt ourselves to new situations quickly, after a couple of days I had a regular routine and productive schedule. 

It’s most likely I would never get a second chance like this to gain so much improvement in self-discipline and to learn how to manage my mental health. Currently, I am enjoying my last several weeks in Toronto while wrapping up my work term. I would recommend to anyone who is hesitant to make risky choices in their life to take the chance and challenge themselves. No one knows what is waiting for us ahead, but a new experience is one thing that we can learn and grow from. There's nothing to lose.

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with April on LinkedIn or Instagram. April Zhang is a passionate designer who's curious about the world. She completed her co-op experience working as a User Experience designer for Inuit, a global company. 
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Apr 15, 2020

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