Co-op #3, Month #3: Trying Something New

Coming into the second half of my co-op term, I had my eyes out for something new and something more. And it panned out! What new audiences did I get to present to? How did I find true fun in my work? And what did I do to grow my analytical skills?

The month of March was a blast, and it flew by. In my third month of co-op, I presented new content to a large client audience, got to revisiting coding in my work and found I really enjoyed it, and took time to reinforce a skill with practical experiences. Let’s dive right in!

Leading showbacks

I can’t even count how many presentations I’ve done over the years. Between academic presentations, extracurriculars, panels, and competitions, I’ve definitely gotten my reps in. But each presentation still has its unique context and so requires a somewhat different approach. In my role, I often prepare the presentation decks that go in front of client executives, but I rarely get to present to such an audience.

To get more experience with this, I had been keeping my eye out for the right opportunity, and in March, one such opportunity presented itself. I was able to step in and present the opening and closing content for a showback. It was a large audience, including many leaders from the client-side – exactly what I was looking for.

When it came down to it, this presentation wasn’t fundamentally different from any other. But I was definitely a little more excited and nervous than usual. I’m happy to say it went off without a hitch! Although I think the nerves moved me through the content quicker than I would’ve liked. I’m still very glad I did it, and I’m hoping I’ll be a good experience to leverage to find more opportunities like it.

Finding fun in your work

Most days, I really enjoy my work. It’s fulfilling, challenging, and dynamic. But I would rarely describe it as “fun” – at least in the sense that I’m not often grinning when I do my day-to-day tasks. On occasion, however, I get to do something unexpected that reminds me why I love what I do. This past month, I got to help with something small that allowed me to reconnect with skills and expertise I hadn’t used in more than a couple of years.

I’ve been coding for a long time. I think it’s a powerful tool and an important skill, but I learned a long time ago that software development wasn’t the right career path for me. As a result, my role today involves very little coding. So when I got the chance to help redesign a small component of an internal-facing site, I thought it would be a nice chance to reconnect with this skill.

In the end, I found I really enjoyed it! In many ways, it took me back to the projects and related emotions from many years ago, and I felt the exact same joy with the final outcome that I used to feel back then. I took a step outside of my role and volunteered for something that I wasn’t required to know how to do, and it turned out to be quite a lot of fun! I’m glad I took that chance. It’s encouraged me to pursue more things like that, both in my last month of co-op and in my spare time. Why not take time to have fun if you can!?

Learning to be analytical

Understanding your gaps and blindspots is one of the most important ways to learn and grow meaningfully. But the next step has to be addressing them! One gap I noticed before this term was a lack of proven quantitative analysis skills. Sure, I had used those skills in the classroom, and in my personal work, but I couldn’t pinpoint an outcome or deliverable I created in the workplace which required a high level of quantitative analysis skills. So I set out to find opportunities to demonstrate and grow this skill.

Admittedly, this proved to be harder than I expected. My main project role wasn’t hugely analytical, and any opportunities I took to bring data into my work were usually as a value-add or time-saver, and not the key outcome. I had hoped to go further by doing the pricing for a proposal or helping on a committee to analyze our practice’s resources and financials, but neither opportunity came to fruition.

Instead, I got asked to help synthesize insights from a huge scoring dataset for an ERP selection. I took the time to understand the data, look at the existing analysis, and build upon it. I then surfaced these insights into a deck, which balanced both quantitative and qualitative points. In the process, I got much faster with Excel shortcuts and picked up a few other tricks to make my work quicker and easier. I also got good feedback, which helped me refine my methods and presentation. Overall, I’m very happy I took the time and kept pushing for an opportunity to demonstrate this skill, and proud of what I learned in the process.