Co-op #1, Month 2: On a Role

Another month of my first co-op term has gone by quicker than I could’ve imagined! How have I grown? What impact have I made? And how will my role continue to transform?

This past month, I’ve continued to network and get to know others on my team. This has not only helped me learn, but also opened up opportunities for me to face new and exciting challenges. I also enjoyed writing my first Work Term Report, on optimizing onboarding, as part of UWaterloo’s co-op program. I continued to leverage my understanding of our users to bring new features, and took advantage of my existing skill set to speed up some development and have some fun!

Networking and New Projects

I continued to spend time this month getting to know others in our practice. Often, people I talked to would recommend other people with similar interests or relevant experiences, so my list began to grow exponentially. I got to meet other Junior and Senior Consultants and some Managers, and hear their experiences. I even got the chance to meet with all three Partners in our practice and hear about their experiences.

Hearing from other Consultants continued to be very helpful. I especially liked hearing from the many members of our team who graduated out of UWaterloo’s co-op program themselves. It was great to hear their advice, not only about their career, but the many years leading up to it. 

Hearing from the three Partners was also a pleasure. I learned what it takes to work your way up to their role, whether by advancing between firms, sticking to a single firm, or even building a practice from the ground up. They all shared stories about being in the right place at the right time, but also knowing the right people, and being well prepared to take on the unique challenges they’ve faced at each stage of their careers. I learned a lot even from these brief conversations.

I also had the chance to get to learn more about the work BDO does in Data Strategy. I talked to someone who suggested I talk to someone else, who in turn suggested that I talk to the team lead in this area. Getting to hear about their work excited me and reinforced the direction I hope to take my career. It also opened the door to spending some time working on Strategy projects, and getting hands-on experiences and perspectives from these projects. I can’t wait to dive in!

Work Term Report

Any UWaterloo student in the co-op program knows (and many dread) the Work Term Report. But I knew I wanted to make the best of it, and write on something that interested me. After some brainstorming, I settled on “Enhancing Onboarding on Agile Projects by Bridging the Gap Between Expectations and Reality”. My report combined secondary research and novel interviews to help draw new conclusions into how BDO, or any similar organization, could optimize how they handle software onboarding.

The report helped to clarify and categorize the goals of software onboarding, based on the findings of previous studies. It also collected research on the ideal timeline, and then shared some common challenges our co-ops faced in onboarding. The report collected common solutions, and spoke to the differences between the perceived and actual effectiveness of these strategies for both experienced and inexperienced co-op students. The report concluded with some limitations and made both general and BDO-specific recommendations.

I hope this report not only gave me something interesting to write about, but can also be a useful collection of primary and secondary research for decision makers at BDO and elsewhere. At the least, it’s helped me to understand what strategies can be effective when I’m bringing new members on to my own teams.

New Requirements and New Screens

This past month, I also had the chance to help be a part of some new features that I know our users will appreciate. First was our new security model, which was definitely needed, but also brought with it some unique challenges. I also spent time helping to test our profitability calculator, and worked to design our new email templates.

Security is important in any application, so I was glad to see we’d be making an effort to implement robust security in ours! But like any real world solution, it’s never perfect on the first try. The biggest challenge was grouping our users into logical groups based on what they needed to do within our software. Often, a single person is taking care of multiple roles, sometimes above or below their listed job title. Any security model would have to make assumptions that went against this reality.

Profitability was also a feature I was looking forward to, especially after having talked to the Partners about their work and goals. It was clear that a big area of their work was finding the ideal combination of resources (people) for each project to minimize cost and maximize success. I’m eager to see how they like the tool we’ve built for this exact purpose.

Finally, I got to try my hand at design, and create our new email templates! These templates, while simple, get sent right to the inbox of many important decision makers to remind them of needed action, so I wanted to make sure they looked good. And after plenty of tweaking and revision, I settled on a design that’s now been added into our system, and will greet our users pleasantly and professionally.

Design and Implementation

Probably my favorite thing I got to do was redesign our input forms! What? Not exciting enough for you? Well it sure was for me! For one, I had been annoyed with the previous layout ever since I joined the project. It was a relief to get the chance to fix them finally.

But the biggest reason I was excited, was that I offered to implement the changes myself as well. I missed getting to write code myself, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to get my hands dirty. Plus, there’s no better way to see how your design looks than to build it yourself. This allowed me to tweak and tweak and tweak my design to make a clean, responsive, and much more visually appealing form. Needless to say, I was very proud of the result, even more so since I saw it through from start to finish.

Next Steps

My work continues to excite me and help me grow. I get to understand our users, our team, and myself. I get to meet others on our team from whose experience I can learn and shape my own path. I get to see how things play out in the real world, often differently than I had imagined. And I get to have an impact on our users and beyond.

In the coming months, I’ll be starting on some new projects, using new technologies and facing new challenges. I can’t wait! I’ll continue to learn and take on work that interests me even more. Standing at the halfway point of my co-op journey, I can say that, while it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I’m looking forward to these last two months, and I’m surprised to say I think I’ll miss this co-op term.