Co-op #2, Month 1: Here we go

We’re back! Another co-op term means more co-op blogs, I hope you’re as excited as I am! Let’s see what I’ve been up to in my first month. What have I learned? How have I driven impact? And what comes next?

These first four weeks, I’ve gotten introduced to my team and our projects. I spent time building critical contextual understanding and then diving into some exciting work. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really amazing people, and work closely with them to shape our strategic direction. And that’s only the start! I’m restarting my coffee chats and starting new and intriguing work.

Working virtually, part 2

Unfortunately, with COVID-19 still a pressing issue, I’m starting my second co-op term virtually again, and bringing with me my learnings from last time. I’ve continued to find it helpful to change into and out my “work clothes” to maintain a sense of work-life balance and separation.

I’ve also moved my desk to face my window, using some natural light to keep me well lit on calls. My webcam setup has again been upgraded, now using a retired Android phone as a 4k webcam. The webcam sits atop a new monitor, which gives me a nice dual screen desk setup. With the right environment in place, I was excited to get the term started.

My first week was handled really well. The other co-ops and I were given the opportunity to get introduced to each team, and see demos of our products. This gave me a great head start on understanding our organization and core business model. But I wasn’t there to work on our existing business…

As a part of the Strategic Initiatives team, my work was focused on new markets, partnerships, and opportunities to expand our growth and success in the long term. If you remember from my last co-op blog post, this is precisely the sort of role I was looking for.

Trying something new

This role was definitely something new to me. In my first month, I got to work on plenty of things I’ve never done before, including desk research, pitch decks, and corporate development planning.

I started by researching a new opportunity. It was fun to dig up stats on the market’s size and growth, and explore the needs of a potential user. I collected these stats and built charts to visual the trends, drew conclusions, and wrapped up my findings into a deck. I was really starting to feel like a consultant this point :).

I also got to develop a pitch deck, which was definitely new to me. With the desk research as a foundation, I identified and conveyed a problem, opportunities, and value proposition, which lead into the “magic” of our solution, as well as some financial and implementation implications.

Finally, I started on some corporate development work, helping understand the needs of a new venture, and starting to identify potential partners. I’m definitely excited to continue on and take ownership of this.

What’s it like hiring a co-op student?

As someone who’s applied for hundreds and interviewed for dozens of roles, this is definitely something I’ve wondered. We’ve all heard advice about how to structure a resume to stand out, or how to interview and leave a lasting impression. But how much of this advice is true, and how much is overly generic?

Well, having screened the resumes of the co-op who will replace me, I definitely learned a lot about how to stand out. 180 resumes later, it’s clear to me what catches my eye and makes a difference. I think the most surprising thing was the distribution of the candidates. After having ranked them on business acumen, technical understanding, and “wow” factor, the sum of these scores was almost a normal distribution.

There’s definitely an aspect of bias and human effects on my ranking, but at a very high level, it was super clear who the top 10-15% of candidates were, who the bottom 10-15% were, and the remaining 75% sort of blended in. Standing out on your resume is critical, because even an impressive experience or two can fade into the pile.

Looking forward

Now that I’ve settled in, I have the chance to think about how I want to shape this co-op. Firstly, I’ve started up bi-weekly co-op social, something I wish I’d done earlier at my last co-op. I’ve also restarted my coffee chats, it’s been great to meet others outside of my team.

I’m also hoping to use the opportunity to learn more from my talented teams. This role gives me the opportunity to not only build my skills, but get mentorship from others who have gone down the same path as me.

As far as my work goes, I’ll be continuing to explore new sorts of work, including government grant proposals and more business development work. I’ll be honing in my skills in strategy, and applying these skills to drive impact at ThoughtWire.