Co-op #2, Month 2: Exciting opportunities

Without further ado, here’s my monthly co-op reflection blog from February! February went by quick, but let’s dive into all the exciting work I’ve been a part of. What new challenges have I faced? What have I achieved in the past month? Who have I connected with? And how have I used these opportunities to learn and grow?

This past month, I’ve gotten exposure to many new areas. I worked on a major proposal, researched and supported business development efforts, helped kickoff a new project, and started up my series of coffee chats. Throughout, I’ve had the opportunity to meet talented people, build critical skills, and try new things. Let’s get started!

Proposing proposals

Early in February, I was introduced to a funding opportunity from one of our government partners. I was excited to take lead on this, and pursue an opportunity that would make a highly tangible impact on the organization. But this was something I’d never done before.

I started by taking a deep dive into the product we were seeking funding for. I needed to understand what this was, how it addressed the ask, and where it could fit into the available funding. Pulling on technical and non-technical resources, both documentation and experts on our team, I was able to very quickly wrap my mind about this offering and understand how it fit into the funding opportunity.

From there, I worked with others to outline our project plan and milestones, which we then used to develop an understanding of the resources and effort that this project would require. I brought this information into two meetings with the funding organization. Through these meetings and follow-ups, I was able to convey key points of our proposal and ensure alignment with their objectives for the funding.

With all this in mind, I drafted the first version of our 15-page proposal. After a few rounds of revision, we submitted the proposal and accompanying documentation to the funding organization. It was a long journey, and it’s still not finished yet, but with some grit and passion, I was able to learn a lot. I can’t wait to see the results!

Building business through people

Business, first and foremost, is about people. And to me, that’s what makes it interesting! Over the past few weeks, I’ve made an effort in various areas with the goal of strengthening and securing commitment from the necessary people for our projects.

On one project, we had been preparing to move from planning into development work, but our project partner was concerned about the risk, and had doubt in their ability to succeed in a new space. We knew we needed to address this if we wanted the project to move ahead.

To do this, I layed out a “placemat” of all the organizational components we would need for the project to succeed. Through a gap analysis, I identified where we had these capabilities, where our partner could step in, and what was still missing. It was known that many components were missing and would be developed with time, but this analysis allowed me to highlight some key areas where we could bring in external support to ease our partner’s concerns. Having shared these results with the partner organization, it became clear which areas felt most pressing to them, so I took a stab at addressing these.

I explored a possible capital injection through working with relevant Venture Capital firms. I researched the space and generated a prioritized list of VC firms we could work with. I also looked into possible Telecom providers we could partner with to deploy and maintain our technology. They brought unique and proven expertise deploying hardware nationally, which could address a major concern with this project. This information, presented as a pitch deck and slidedoc helped to ease the partner organization’s concerns temporarily.

Starting projects

In addition to maintaining existing projects, I also had the chance in February to help start a new one! While it’s still in the early stages, it was an exciting and novel opportunity for me to be involved from the very start of a project. I was able to see what the process looked like hands-on, and help support this critical phase.

It started with understanding the opportunity. I put together a brief on the customer and met with my team to convey my findings and the value I felt we could provide. I got to meet with their leadership first-hand and understand their needs and situation. I was glad to see our product would be a great fit!

I then put together supplementary content to share with them. Through follow-up meetings, we clarified our plan, addressed their concerns, and gained their commitment. Now, we’re working to get the project off the ground and make this vision into reality. I’m excited to be on the ground floor of something completely new!

Restarting Coffee Chats

Finally, I took time this month to get my series of coffee chats started again. This was something I had done at my last co-op and found really valuable! It was always nice getting to meet people in other areas of the business, and learn from them and their experiences.

This time, I took a different approach to making my list. I just started by asking my team who they thought I should talk to. This gave me a list of about 6 people. On my calls with each of them, my last question would be “Now that you’ve gotten to know me, is there anyone within or outside of the organization who would be valuable to chat with?”. Each person tends to share a name or two, and that way my list keeps growing exponentially. I’ve now had ~10 coffee chats, and have a dozen more people to reach out to.

Once again, these chats have been super valuable and enlightening. I love hearing everyone’s unique and diverse backgrounds, and how this has shaped their personal and careers journeys. A few highlights include a classic literature major turned front-end developer, a South African marketer who loves jogging in the cold, and an ex-nurse passionate about using tech to save lives. These are just some of the many intriguing and amazing people I’ve gotten to meet on our team. I’m looking forward to meeting many more!

What’s next

As I reach the half-way point of my co-op term, it’s a good chance to take a step back. I’ve definitely been enjoying the diverse and impactful work, and have been learning lots from my team and our projects. While our work naturally puts me in uncertain and ambiguous situations, I learned a long time ago to thrive there, and it’s been paying off.

It’s hard to say where the next two months will take me, but if these last two are any indication, it will be novel, challenging, and invigorating. I can’t wait!