While some employers had to cancel or post-pone work terms due to COVID-19, students who took part in remote work opportunities say it was a rewarding experience that helped them confirm career goals and showcase their knowledge to future employers.
Working remotely builds experience and confidence
Accounting student Tiffany Godard is impressed with how connected she feels in her co-op work term with Canada Life.
“I was concerned about staying connected when I started working remotely, but it turned out great,” she said.
In a typical work week, she compiles businesses cases and financial analysis, creates monthly financial reports, and juggles a variety of projects and requests as they come in. She uses Microsoft Teams to stay connected, discuss projects, and get to know her co-workers better.
“The team makes time to be social before and after meetings and the company encourages colleagues to have virtual coffee and lunch breaks with each other,” she said. “I’m getting work experience in my field and gaining confidence in my decision to study accounting. It’s a good fit for me.”
Online meetings inspire connection
The opportunity to connect with new colleagues and feel like part of a dynamic team was important to Applied Computer Science student Colin Hanlon-Dearman who spent his summer working as a co-op research assistant with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
“The work can be done from anywhere with an internet connection,” he said. “Once I had my login credentials, it was smooth sailing.”
His biggest concern working remotely was how to make connections with his new colleagues. His manager made a point of including him in video-conference meetings to connect with the team.
“This helped a lot since I could not walk around the office to meet co-workers in person,” he said. Without a doubt the best part of my work has been the people.”
This is Hanlon-Dearman’s second time participating in UWinnipeg’s co-op program. He values the hands-on experience which helps him bridge his theoretical knowledge with practical skills.
“Working with the IISD and their long term datasets has taught me a lot about how data should be managed, how to improve on data management strategies that already exist, and most importantly, how to make that accessible to others,” he said. “As more and more data gets recorded and used by organizations of all kinds, I expect this knowledge to be very applicable in my career after university.”
He has wanted to work in programming since being inspired by a high school teacher that encouraged his interest in code.
“I still get the same rush of excitement every time my code runs successfully that I got in those first few years and that has made programming really special to me,” he said.
Fast-paced start-up provides diverse work experience
Applied Computer Science student Daksh Saini is spending his summer working remotely as a software developer at the start-up company, FleetOperate.
“Most of my work is in the development of the web application’s front end which includes appearance, design, and strategy,” he said. “There are opportunities to work on different aspects of the project which I really enjoy.”
He has fun finding innovative solutions to software development problems as they arise, and says that while many technologies are capable of solving a problem, he is learning to focus on finding solutions that are both robust and maintainable, which is extremely satisfying work.
As for working remotely rather than heading to the office, Saini says it has been a fantastic experience.
“All of the software and development tools can be accessed from anywhere, which makes it easy to work on tasks,” he said. “Things move at a fast pace so the development and learning opportunities are great.”
Open lines of communication key to a successful work term
Accounting student Kuet Kuet was juggling school, a work term, and family demands when the pandemic shifted his priorities.
“I wondered how I was going to balance my work schedule while co-parenting during a pandemic,” he said. “Thankfully, the organization that I am working for is extremely flexible with work hours.”
Kuet says open lines of communication really helped.
“We were able to discuss all possible solutions and contingency plans to make sure I was able to be there for my family and be a positive contributor for the organization during my work term,” he said.
Despite his initial concern with how everything would work out, his co-op work term at BDO Canada has been a great success.
“The tools and resources I have gained from the co-op program have helped me organize my schedule, prioritize my responsibilities, and execute on plans even though there has been so many moving parts in 2020,” said Kuet. “This has been one of my most valuable learning experiences.”
Learn more about UWinnipeg’s Co-operative Education Program which provides professional development and work experience to students in Applied Computer Science, Business & Administration, and Economics. Employers interested in hiring a co-op student may be able to access funding, if eligible, through the Federal Student Work Placement Program or the Manitoba Paid Work Experience Tax Credit. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.