From Co-op to Commencement

By: Abbey Pober

When he first discovered his passion for software engineering Ethan Arrowood never thought he’d be turning down opportunities to interview with Google and Twitter to accept a co-op offer from Microsoft. Across his back-to-back co-ops, Ethan gained experience as a software engineer and worked with groundbreaking technologies to deliver innovative cloud-computing applications to leading Microsoft clients around the world. His key to success as a growing programmer? Getting involved with opensource and finding a developer community that supported him. On campus, Ethan’s active involvement with Accelerate is what led to his interview, co-op, and ultimately a full-time role with Microsoft.

Our Spring 2019 Intern, Lauren Rodolakis, spent the semester learning all about Ethan’s journey from co-op search to accepting his full-time offer at Microsoft. Read the full article on the Wentworth website, and check out our video interview here.

Arrowood at MicrosoftThank you for sharing your experience with us, Ethan! 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.

Co-op Stories: Jasmine Andrade

By: Jasmine Andrade

Jasmine is a Wentworth Junior studying Interdisciplinary Engineering concentrating in Manufacturing Engineering and minoring in Industrial Design & Business Management, with a concentration in Project Management. She recently completed her second co-op at Amazon Robotics (AR) as the Technical Operations Co-op, Process Engineer. Jasmine generously shared her story with us:

Jasmine at Amazon Robotics

Her career goal is to become a Product Design Engineer or Innovation and Design Engineer, so she chose this combination of concentrations and minors to make her a well-rounded engineer and to meet her career goal.

“In a Product Design Engineer role, it is important to have skills in Design/Innovation (Industrial Design Minor), Research & Development (Interdisciplinary Engineering) and Manufacturing/Process/Industrial Engineering (Manufacturing Engineering Concentration). You must also have the ability for negotiating and communicating with internal and external business partners, contractors and vendors (Business Management minor). The variety of knowledge and perspectives that my concentration and minor provides allows me to continuously look at a problem through a multidisciplinary lens.”

  • Tell us about your second co-op at Amazon Robotics: 

The Technical Operations Co-op is responsible for delivering and supporting operations and production projects by collaborating with Amazon Robotics Tech Ops Engineering process owners and other cross-functional team members.

  • What interested you in this company/the role?

The culture of Amazon, the peculiar and eccentric ways of sustaining their mission to being “earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators” is what stood out. Amazon gives you the freedom to think a little differently and to embrace differences. Amazon works to avoid being bland, “big homogeneous, corporate Borg” and aims to stay transparent in what the company needs to continuously work on and improve.

The role stood out because it was different from the my previous role as a Surface Mount Technology (SMT) Manufacturing Engineer at Raytheon IDS, the Process Engineering positions would provide me with a new skillset and also build on what I learned as an SMT Engineer. The position description also starts with “Are you inspired by invention? Is problem solving through teamwork in your DNA? Do you like the idea of seeing how your work impacts the bigger picture? Answer yes to any of these and you’ll fit right in here at Amazon Robotics (AR). We are a smart team of doers that work passionately to apply cutting edge advances in robotics and software to solve real-world challenges that will transform our customers’ experiences in ways we can’t even image yet. We invent new improvements every day. We are Amazon Robotics and we will give you the tools and support you need to invent with us in ways that are rewarding, fulfilling and fun.” The statement provided before you even look at the position description draws you into the possibilities and potential with AR.

  • What was your search process like? And how did you prepare for your interviews?

My search process included applying to 30+ co-op positions that fit my interest and skill set. I also reached out to my LinkedIn network for positions that I was interested in. I utilized the CO-OPS + CAREERS interviews questions list and wrote out all my questions for my on the phone interview for reference. For the in person interview, Amazon provided an outline for potential questions and the format for how they “grade” or determine if you fit culture and position. I wrote out all those questions and practiced answering them out-loud by myself and did a practice interview with friends.

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

One of the project I had the pleasure to work on was for “a new, fully-electric delivery system – Amazon Scout – designed to safely get packages to customers using autonomous delivery devices” (https://blog.aboutamazon.com/transportation/meet-scout). I worked on preparing work instructions and set up for the alpha build. Through this process I was able to see how important the Process Engineering and Technical Operation is to Amazon and how we function cross- functionally with other divisions in Amazon to sustain the mission of being a customer-centric company. This project encouraged me to “Think Big”, “Insist on the Highest Standards” and to “Deliver Results”. These principles are something that stood out within this project and motivated me to continue to develop these skills in the projects that followed.

  • Knowing what you know now, how will you approach your Fall co-op/co-op search differently?

My approach to applying for fall co-op is to find/apply for positions that I see myself transitioning into a full time role. In addition, look at the company culture, history and mission. I am differently more picky in selecting co-ops this semester because I want to make sure I am applying to a companies that I see myself at, long-term and will provide me what the skills I need to acquire to meet my career goal of being a Product Design Engineer.

  • What advice do you have for students who are interested in working for a company like Amazon Robotics?

Go for it! Don’t be afraid to be yourself in your interview, embrace your experiences and peculiar ways to engineering and design thinking. Learn and be curious about everything, commit to being a life-long learner and dive deep into understanding the problem before seeking a solution. Also, remember who your customer is and how your idea or solution will benefit them.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Jasmine! 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: Joey Cordeiro

By: Joey Cordeiro

Joey Cordeiro is a Junior in the Electrical Engineering program at Wentworth. He completed his first co-op with Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, RI as a Student Trainee/Torpedo Systems Engineer. Joey recently sat down with CO-OPS + CAREERS to share his co-op story.

Student on Naval Base

Tell us about your first co-op:

I worked in the Systems Integration and Test Branch in the Undersea Weapons, Vehicles, and Defensive Systems Department. My role was to support the build and programming of a test set for an electronics assembly used in a weapon system. I worked under and was mentored by several experienced electrical and computer engineers. I had already completed a summer internship with NUWC last summer.

What interested you in NUWC?

Working for a defensive and weapons company has sparked my interest for a few years now. I always knew that if I got into this line of engineering then it would be a very satisfying job, and I would be working on something that has an impact on today’s world.

Applying for a role with the Navy, were there extra steps you needed to take?

The application process was like most other engineering internships, including submission of a lengthy application, resume, and doing a few initial phone interviews. The process became much more involved once an offer was made and I accepted. The process of acquiring the required security clearance to work this government job was a lengthy one at that. The procedure was well worth it looking back; getting the great opportunity to work for a strong Navy operation such as NUWC.

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

I normally spend my mornings reading torpedo specification documents and reading up on the hardware that I would be working with. There is an abundance of information and aspects of undersea weapons to learn about. The rich history of the vigorous engineering and years of hard work that has gotten NUWC to where it is today is truly what gets me excited to come to work every morning. I would typically spend all of my afternoon in the labs with my project team members working on the various tasks of our project. This spring co-op, I spent a majority of my time building a test set for the electronics assembly being programmed for the torpedo.

You are completing your second co-op with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. What has changed between your first co-op and your current?

I, along with my co-workers and managers, had more confidence in me to give me more responsibility and work load. I was able to work on multiple aspects of my electronics assembly program. On my first co-op I spent a lot of time working on specification documents, and revising and updated them to Navy standards. This time around, I was able to complete more hands-on work involving design, fabrication, and testing of a torpedo test-set.

Why did you choose to return for a second co-op with your employer? What advice do you have for students who are interested in returning to their first co-op employer?

I returned to NUWC for this co-op for many reasons. One of the main reasons is because of the satisfaction I got from working for the Navy. Seeing the great things we do as a 3000-person team here at NUWC, it was a no-brainer for me to return. A lot of it also had to do with my knowledge of defense systems as a whole. I learned a lot on my first internship, but I wanted to learn more and I felt that another 4-month co-op would do just that. I wanted to learn as much as possible about undersea warfare and what it feels like to serve the Navy fleet every day.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Joey! 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: Vanessa Cardona

By: Vanessa Cardona

Vanessa Cardona is currently a Junior in the Biomedical Engineering program at Wentworth. She completed her first co-op with Sanofi Genzyme in Allston, MA as part of the Manufacturing Engineering Group. Vanessa recently sat down with CO-OPS + CAREERS to share her co-op story.

VanessaCardonaCo-op

Tell us about your co-op with Sanofi Genzyme:

For my first co-op, I had the privilege of working at Sanofi Genzyme in Allston, MA where I was part of the engineering group. As the co-op student, some of my responsibilities included: walking down piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&ID’s) to as built systems at the plant, developing and executing engineering studies, preparing commissioning and qualification documentation for the plant’s major annual maintenance shutdown, and supporting some of the engineers with implementations and/or improvements throughout the site.

What interested you in Sanofi and your role with the engineering group?

Prior to my co-op I had been interning at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where I worked in a few different departments, the last of them being the Cell Manipulation Core Facility. While in this department, I was exposed to a cleanroom setting and a world of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), standard operating procedures (SOP’s) and much more. This was a completely different side of the hospital that I had never seen before, but I loved every part of it.

My dad had been working at the Sanofi in Allston and for as long as I can remember, he would talk to me about the work being done there. As I began the co-op search process, I learned about a few co-op positions that were available for the spring at a few of the different Sanofi sites. From what I knew about Sanofi and from what I was reading in the job descriptions, I thought this would be a great place to start. One of the available positions was being the co-op student for the engineering group. As I read through the job description and the expectations for this role, I found myself checking the imaginary check boxes for all the experiences I was hoping to get out of my co-op. The role offered so many opportunities to grow and learn about working in the industry.

What was your search process like? And how did you prepare for your interviews?

Searching for a co-op was difficult and sometimes stressful. As the fall semester was coming to an end, assignments were piling up, finals were slowly creeping up, and I needed to find a placement for my spring co-op. During my gaps and after classes I would look at co-op postings on WITworks and check the job postings list on just about every company I could think about. After I landed an interview with Sanofi, I prepared for my interview by meeting with my Co-op Advisor to go through potential questions the employer could ask me and by ensuring my resume reflected my previous experiences, as well as my assets.

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

On a typical day I would arrive at Sanofi at 7AM, settle in and decide what were my top priorities for that day. At 8AM we would have our daily department meeting where we would talk about any safety concerns, the status of any projects, and anything else that came up. Because every month we would have a new meeting leader, I was able to take on the role for the month of April. It was intimidating at first but with the support of my supervisor and co-workers I was able to adjust quickly and pick up on a lot of the terminology.

After our morning meeting I would continue to work on my assigned projects which varied from day to day.  One of my main priorities became leading a couple engineering studies so I had to ensure everything was set to perform the engineering studies. This meant making sure the protocol was written and approved, and that we had the support and materials we needed to execute the studies. I also communicated with the third party who was supporting us with one of the engineering studies to make sure they were completing the tests we needed them to perform, as well as ensuring the proposal they sent contained accurate information.

While the engineering studies were taking place, I was also supporting with other tasks like walking down and updating piping and instrumentation drawings, which quickly became one of my favorite things to do. Depending on the system or the equipment, I would find myself in the clean room, completely gowned up (coveralls, booties, etc.) or in the utility space with my hard hat and safety shoes.

What lessons have you learned on your first co-op that will benefit your next co-op?

One huge lesson I learned while being on co-op was that it’s okay to not know everything and to give yourself time to adjust to the new environment. Being new to the industry, it takes time to become comfortable with the terminology, equipment, and systems. When I first started at Sanofi I definitely had moments where I felt like I didn’t fit in because of my lacking level of expertise in the field. As I attended more meetings and met with the different people in my group, I found myself using that terminology not just in the field but in the documents I was writing as well.

What advice do you have for students during their first co-op search?

I would say one piece of advice that has followed me throughout my life is to always ask questions. If this is your first time stepping into the field, there are going to be things you are unsure about. Also, learn as much as you can. Take advantage of new opportunities, shadow different people, try new things, and be proactive.
Being on co-op is the best time to get a preview of what it’s like to work in a professional setting.

In terms of the co-op search process I would say to start early and to take advantage of opportunities to interact with employers whether that be at the co-op fair or at any other event. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about companies, but also a chance to show employers what you can offer to their company.  I think another important tip for the co-op search is recognizing your network and identifying people who might be able to support you during the process. Whether that be by providing you with advice or connecting you to a potential employer.

If there is anything else you’d like to share about your co-op or your search process that was not covered by these questions please include that below.

My co-op experience was amazing. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and for the supportive people I met along the way. Everyone was always so willing support me with projects I was working on and provide me with advice for the future.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Vanessa! 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: 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.