Co-op Stories: Prabhjyot Kaur

Prabhjyot Kaur is a Wentworth Junior studying Computer Information Systems. She recently completed her first co-op with The TJX Companies as an IT business Analyst in Marlborough, MA.  Prabhjyot sat down with CO-OPS + CAREERS to share her co-op story.

Student Smiling

Tell us about your co-op at TJX: 

I worked with the release management team for selling and payments, so I was involved in organizing deployments for the MarMaxx and HomeGoods/HomeSense POS (Point-of-Sale) systems. As an IT Business Analyst I was responsible for managing and communicating the schedule for deployments, sending beta statuses, creating business documentation and presentations, and reporting release defects.

What interested you in this company and the role?

Some of my friends did their co-op at TJX and talked very highly about the company including the people and work culture. They encouraged me to apply and I was very interested because TJX is a well-known company and I love the stores. I applied as an IT business analyst because that is one of the career paths I am looking into after graduation. I want to get some experience as a BA in an IT setting and see if I actually enjoy it.

TJX was my first offer and they gave me a week to accept or reject. Around that time I was waiting to hear back from a company I interviewed at but unfortunately I did not get the job. After that, I accepted the TJX offer instantly, I was hesitant only because it was located in Marlborough (45 mins from Boston).

Tell us about your search process and what steps you took to land your co-op at TJX.

I applied to the TJX website directly in August and then started my interview process around late September. The first interview was a digital interview where I had to answer questions under 3 minutes while recording myself. That was definitely one of the most awkward interviews I’ve had. After that, I was called into the headquarters for an interview. There were around 40 interviewees and some even flew in from schools around the country, it was very intimidating. There were three rounds of interviews and the questions were very behavioral and about related experiences.

To prep for the TJX interview, I made sure to research the company and what it stands for, values, etc. Interviewers find it very impressive when you can talk about the company, you’ll appear as someone who is prepared and puts in that extra effort. Also I read up on previous projects and class assignments that I could bring up in my interviews. I reviewed those projects and wrote down the process/steps, results, lessons learned, and how they can relate back to my role. For some job interviews I also read old PowerPoint lectures. Especially on networking, SQL, and JAVA so that I could be prepared for a technical question. I strongly encourage everyone to read up on lectures, projects, or even brush up certain technical skills before an interview because it helps a lot when you can speak about past experiences and concrete skills.

What was a typical day like at your co-op? Do you work alongside other co-op students?

My typical day consists of many meetings between 9am-5pm, sometimes 3-4 1hr/30min long meetings. I am usually the one taking meeting minutes so I will revise anything I have and send it out to all the teams. Then my manager will either give me my tasks for the day or I will continue working on any task or project. TJX hires around 70+ co-ops and they are disbursed throughout four buildings. I am the only co-op within my team and the selling and payments department, but I am part of a co-op project with two other students from Northeastern. I got to work with other co-op students for 2-3 months and met them a couple of times throughout the week to go over project details.

While on co-op, what project(s) have you been a part of, or something that you are working on, that has inspired you?

As a co-op I was a part of many customer facing deployments and projects. I cannot share much detail since they are still work in progress but it is amazing to see how projects we’ve worked on are customer facing, even I, as a customer, utilize those features. I’ve been involved in many of the project planning sessions and know about the upcoming releases. I find this so amazing and inspiring because even when I leave this company I can go to a TJMaxx and say “I was a part of this.”

I am also part of a project where we have to propose fixes to the current TJX buying system. Myself, along with two other co-ops, had been working on this for 2-3 months. It took a lot of research since this was a part of the company we weren’t familiar with. We spent a lot of time attending meetings with the business architects and shadowing merchandising leads and assistants. This experience allowed me to look into other interesting careers such as buying and merchandise planning. Also, this project gave me the opportunity to venture out and learn about something completely different than my field of work.

What was the biggest lesson you learned through your co-op?

The biggest lesson I learned through my co-op is that you have to be self-sufficient and take initiative. TJX is a huge corporation and for the first couple of months it was hard adjusting to the high risk, fast paced environment. At times I was given tasks that I didn’t know how to do, but I would either research about the topic or look up instructions online. There were days where I wasn’t given much to do, so I used the company training resources and educated myself on different methodologies and processes. It is important to be self-sufficient and productive even if you are not getting undivided attention or guidance.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Prabhjyot! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your co-op experience (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Co-op Stories: Sophia Seltenreich

Sophia Seltenreich is a Wentworth Junior studying Business Management with a minor in International Business. Sophia recently completed her first mandatory co-op with Yesware in Downtown Boston where she worked as a Content Strategy Co-op, which was a hybrid position of content marketing and market analysis. In this role, her tasks included developing cadence and curating content on social channels, establishing perspectives/thought leadership & analyzing data in the area of sales to write about on Yesware’s blog, tracking KPIs for Yesware and competitors to measure growth and success, designing graphics for website and social platforms, and customer outreach for data insights and review generation. Here’s what she shared with us about her experience:

What was it like to work at a start-up like Yesware?

It’s incredible! Every day is so lively and so different. You have a lot of flexibility and independence, but also a lot of responsibility. Given the ever-changing start-up environment, you have to be adaptable and ready to pivot at any time. Personally, I love that aspect of the start-up environment. I also love the work I’m doing because even though I’m a co-op, everyone in the company is so interconnected and reliant on each other that even small things like writing a blog post make a difference!

Sophia Seltenreich Headshot(Photo courtesy of Yesware)

Speaking more to the company culture, Yesware was voted Boston’s Top Place to Work two years in a row (2017/2018). Everyone at the company is treated exceptionally well, and as a co-op, I was treated no different than a full-time employee. Some office perks include: free catered lunch every day, pet-friendly office space – which means people often bring in their dogs, weekly yoga sessions, monthly massages, board game nights, a nap room, a fully stocked kitchen (including vegan ice-cream & oatmilk), and great people! I cannot speak enough to the character and integrity that each person at Yesware embodies. For example, every two months, all the execs participate in an AMA (Ask Me Anything), exhibiting complete transparency and authenticity, taking the time to answer everyone’s questions. Another example, when an employee makes a successful hiring referral, instead of getting a cash bonus, they make a $5,000 donation to a charity of their choosing. Our People Team also plans and hosts several community events throughout the year, like a Galentine’s Day celebration with She+ Geeks Out & the Big Sister Association of Boston. Getting to work with these kinds of genuine people is the best environment to learn and grow in, and it shows me how passionate people are about the work they do and the communities they’re a part of.

Galentines Event(Photo courtesy of Yesware)

How did you choose to work at a start-up?

I received a competing co-op offer for social management at Liberty Mutual, the antithesis of a start-up company. While working at a fortune 100 company can provide stability and safety, I wasn’t looking to sit at a cubicle and do the same set tasks every day (even if it meant getting a lower wage).

What was a typical day like for you on co-op?

As I said before, every day can be different! A fairly typical day starts off with me scheduling Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts (after I’ve made myself some breakfast & tea) and going through new emails. After that, I work on sprint goals such as drafting new blog pieces, creating review campaigns, conducting customer outreach for feedback, sorting through data in Pardot, designing graphics in canva  etc. Then (free) lunch comes along! After lunch, marketing has a daily stand-up at 1:30pm where we usually discuss the tasks we’re working on (and everyone’s progress as we re-watch Game of Thrones). The latter half of the day consists of me listening to podcasts and finishing whatever goal I set for myself in the morning.

Yesware Office(Photo courtesy of Yesware)

What advice do you have for students who are interested in working for a start-up?

Advice for those seeking start-up jobs: be flexible, and highly adaptable! Take pride in your work, but don’t get too attached to it- changes can be made, projects can be dropped, and work can be scrapped. Be a self-starter, take the initiative on connections and projects you think would help your team or their processes.

What did you learn from your first co-op that you will take with you to your second? 

I learned that I had to apply to 40+ positions before I found one I truly resonated with. Don’t be afraid to turn companies down just because they’re the first to offer you a job.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Sophia! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your search process, co-op experience (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office during Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Co-op Stories: Sarah Higgins, Computer Science

Sarah Higgins is a current Wentworth student majoring in Computer Science. Here’s what Sarah shared with us about her co-op experience:

 

Where was your co-op? What was your job title? & What interested you in this company/the role?

My first co-op was with Jibo as a Build Tools Software Engineer.  I only knew that I liked writing code and problem solving, and I knew there were teams at the company that would provide me with opportunities to get better at both.  I lucked out with Jibo because I was not only reassured of my choice to go back to school for Computer Science, but my mentor and the people I got to work with were incredible.

My second co-op was with Validity.  Although very different from Jibo, I knew that they were looking for a software engineer to complete tasks similar to what I had worked on at Jibo, so I applied and luckily got the job.  I also intentionally wanted to take on a role in a different type of work culture environment to see if it would help me figure out what I like more in a company environment for when I graduate.

 

What got you interested in Software Engineering?

I took a Computer Science course while I was majoring in Mechanical Engineering and loved it!!  The puzzles and problems we got to solve, learning about logic gates, and basic programs written in Java came easy to me.

I have been a hairstylist for the past 10 years and I knew that I always wanted to go back to school, but it’d have to be worth the investment.  A few of my friends are mechanical engineers and after talking with them about what their jobs are like, I thought I’d like it and wanted to give it a try.  After learning that it takes almost a semester’s worth of time to see what feels like an ounce of progress, I realized I hated it.  Coming from an industry where the longest I’m with a client is about 3 hours, that wasn’t going to cut it.  Solving problems in as little as 30 seconds with writing programs and logic was far more fun, so I switched my major and dove in to a new found passion.

 

What did you need to focus on inside or outside of the classroom to be successful as a candidate?

Time management. While I was at school Monday – Friday seeking co-ops, I’d allot an hour each day to specifically apply for co-ops, which meant also writing a lot of cover letters.  For my first co-op, I think I sent out almost 45 applications.  I heard back from 5 companies for interviews, and I received 2 offers.  One was in Providence, and the other was Jibo here in Downtown Boston. Because Jibo was a shorter commute and the company product seemed way cooler, I accepted that one.

For my second co-op, I only had to apply to about 10 companies before I heard from Validity.  The second time around is much easier, as everyone told me.  Once you’ve gained professional experience, it’s not as stressful applying.

 

What was a typical day like at your co-op?

My typical day at both Validity and Jibo were very similar. I’d arrive at 9am every day and we’d have a daily stand-up.  Stand-up is a brief 5-10 minute meeting in which everyone on your specific software engineering team will say what they have accomplished since the last stand-up, currently working on, when they anticipate to have that completed by, and anything blocking progress from happening.

I’d then continue working on whatever project my mentor had assigned to me. It never took me more than a week or two to complete a project he would give me.  My mentor would check in with me frequently via Slack or by coming to my desk to see if I was stuck on anything, and always gave me feedback on whatever I was working on.

I’d be a part of meetings throughout the day, too.  Even though I was a co-op, I was treated like every other full-time working member of the team.  If the project that I was a part of required me to get more information from other members on the team or the manager, I’d be a part of the meeting to make sure I had everything to go forward.

Every two weeks, we’d have Sprint meetings.  Sprint meetings in software engineering allow for more long-term planning, typically two weeks away from where you’re at.  We assign projects and tickets to each member of the team and hopefully by the next sprint, all tasks are completed. They almost never were though because Jibo was a start-up, and start-ups demand that everyone take on more than what falls into their realm of responsibility sometimes.  That’s okay though, because it was always fun and felt great to know that I could be responsible for more work than the team expected from me!

Student on-site

While on co-op, what project(s) were you a part of, or something that you worked on, that has inspired you?

At Jibo, I was a part of the Build Tools team.  Build tools I’ve learned are an important and valued discipline in Software Engineering because it gets the products built, deployed, shipped, and its version number is incremented and ready for the next build.  A lot of software exists to help make that process easier, and only require a script from the programmer to tell the build what to do.  At Validity, I wrote the company’s first automated build script on my own, because I did a lot of work similar to it at Jibo.

At Jibo however, we needed to automate the entire process, which was incredibly complicating.  Because Jibo was a robot built with custom hardware that was being turned into its own platform, my mentor and I were responsible for creating the entire build process to communicate with the robot.  A software service would not be able to do that.  Learning all about what went into a “starting-from-scratch” automation process to deploy software was a life changing experience that made me appreciate the industry side of software building because while writing code, you need to make sure that all of the libraries you choose will work together smoothly.

That project specifically took almost a month for us to complete. I realized how special that was while I was writing my build script at Validity, because it took less than a week’s time.  It felt pretty incredible to know that I not only knew all of the behind the scenes build process, but I was able to get it done on my own and thoroughly explain it to someone else properly.  I eventually became someone who was a go-to for questions about build software like Jenkins and CircleCI at Validity because of that, which felt amazing!

 

What was the biggest lesson you learned on co-op?

The biggest and most valuable lesson that I learned is that I can do it, and that I am capable. That might seem like a ridiculous answer, but it’s true. I was terrified going to my first co-op at Jibo, especially since the only “professional” experience I had ever had was in a completely different industry. I had to start over and be a beginner all over again in an industry I knew almost nothing about. I was lucky enough to have an incredible mentor who was also a phenomenal teacher and incredibly patient with me when I needed things explained more than once, but he always gave me all of the credit for whatever I’d figured out. By the end of my co-op, I was given tasks with hardly any instructions and at Validity, it was a lot of the same. It felt amazing being relied on and becoming someone who people could eventually ask questions to about their own work.

 

What advice do you have for students interested in software engineering?

Dive in and go for it! I was a hairstylist who was frustrated to be stuck in one place because my clientelle was built and established and you can’t bring them with you if you want to pick up and move to a different town, never mind a different state. Software engineering provides open doors almost everywhere, especially in bustling, big cities where there are a lot of companies working on really cool things!

Jibo was a social robot who would talk to us and say things like “Hi, I’m glad you’re here.  If you weren’t, I would be talking to myself right now”, and he was able to do that because of the software that my mentor and I had pushed up to him ourselves.  Everything that he’d say or do was because of the work we put into it. At Validity, I alongside another software engineering co-op, collaborated on creating and building a brand new website for their customers to keep track of their email accounts, in addition to many other projects like my build script.

Even though the two companies were vastly different, I got to work on projects with similar libraries and languages to allow me to further develop my own skills to carry with me wherever I’d end up next.  Right now, I am taking advantage of all of the Python skills I learned at both co-ops in two of my classes.  Prior to my co-ops, I had never worked with Python before.

My point is, do it. Just do it. There’s no better feeling in the world than solving a problem on your own, you feel like a wizard sitting at the computer. Seriously. If you want to learn how to write code, go for it.  It will be hard, but it’s so worth it. I love who I see when I look at myself in the mirror now, knowing that I am about to graduate with a new found career path and passion, and I did it all for myself.  Everybody deserves to know what that feels like.  Do it!

 

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Sarah! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your search process, co-op experience (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office during Spring 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.