Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams, Civil Engineering - Class of 1989

Andrew Williams

Why did you choose your undergraduate program?

I wanted to work with computers and the civil engineering program had the most hands on use of them at the time. The first local area network, watstar was in its infancy and I spent many hours in the lab, lived through several hiccups including losing 6 months work when the watstar network crashed. I learned a valuable lesson about backing up my work in multiple locations after that.

How did you like your experience at UWaterloo?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UW. Both in and out of the classroom. The professors and TA's were some of the best in the world at what they did. The wealth of knowledge and experience that UW had then and has today has made it world renown for research, for the COOP experience and for creating entrepreneurs. I loved the UW Campus as it was all in one and you could get anywhere quickly with your bicycle.

I made several lifelong friendships while there. I had many life lessons and the coop program was and remains one of the best in the world today. My work terms (all of which I spent at IBM) were incredible learning experiences.

What were your favourite classes?

Management sciences, I was fascinated with human behavior and leadership. My work terms at IBM introduced me to 6 sigma quality control, open door management, leadership training seminars, and one of the most successful companies in the world. I enjoyed learning about wastewater treatment, how simple and effective it is and how we take it for granted until we need clean water to survive and live.

How did the friends you made at UWaterloo inspire you throughout your undergraduate experience?

I made several lifelong friendships at UW, today when I mentor other students I encourage them to make friends while at school. It will enable to you to do so much more through teamwork, mental health support, social and community skills, and just having others to share your journey with. My classmates were all incredible individuals from a wide variety of back grounds and cultures yet we were still able to find common ground in our efforts to complete one of the more gruelling curriculums, engineering. I endeavored to emulate my brilliant and hard working classmates as I didn't want to become one of the 3 of 4 that didn't make it through to graduation.

Co-op work term history

  • 1st term - IBM Canada Quality Engineering: (1985)
    Migrated and Updated an APL program for the engineering department at the IBM Canada Manufacturing plant. Tracked rejection of parts from the assembly lines, summarized percentage failures using spreadsheets and automated the above process using Macro's.
  • 2nd term - IBM Canada Distribution Marketing:
    Redesigned, edited, and updated database of PC Dealers and Remarketers. Streamlined process of mail outs to PC dealers and Remarketers. Reestablished use of database as a useful tool for Marketing Reps and other personnel.
  • 3rd Term - IBM Canada Information Systems
    Coded, debugged and analysed application programme subroutines from the VM product Professional Office systems (PROFS). (First email and calendar office program).
    Coordinated the GRIPE's database for the department (an electronic feedback system for internal customer complaints)
  • 4th term - IBM Canada Marketing Development
    Organized, edited and updated database of PC Software products. Sponsored advertising promotion for the products. Consolidated new price listings for announcements. Created graphic presentations for management to promote products. Edited, consolidated announcement letters for printing
  • 5th Term - IBM Canada Language & Related Products
    Consolidated, edited and summarized planning documents for printing. Composed monthly departmental administrative and planning workbooks. Provided technical support on VM and PC host systems. Created Graphic presentations for the planners. Executed database searches for forecasting data.
  • 6th Term - IBM Canada Toronto General O/AR (1988)
    Executed Database searches, created reports from data (SQL) formulated spreadsheets to analyse and solve tedious calculations. Analysed large COBOL applications - created flowcharts to facilitate conversion process. Created programs to eliminate repetitive work. Summarized and evaluated results from customer surveys. Created graphic presentations for System Engineers.

My 6 successful coop terms gave me the opportunity to work at IBM Canada full time as they gave me a job offer prior to graduation. I joined their Network Services group right after graduation. The ground floor of the internet revolution (1989) and the information age. It was an incredible experience.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from co-op?

If you love what you do, you will spend more time doing it, you will enjoy it and you will become very good at it. Having mentors really makes a difference, I had several at IBM throughout my workterms. I learned that I really enjoy working with people and I have an ability to identify the passion in others. This enabled me to communicate better with them and learn from them.

What is your occupation now?

My life experiences of working for IBM Canada (a large successful corporation) and subsequently owning and operating several small business, A hardware store, a Polyethelene manufacturing plant, a FM Radio Station, a supermarket, a sugar cane farm, and a Exotic fruit farm nursery have all led me to my current occupation of managing a Home Hardware Store.
I enjoy managing and motivating my team, meeting and greeting customers everyday, determining what their needs are for their current project and then recommending the best products for the task. Whether its just a light bulb or designing a new deck for the back yard. I learn new things daily, meeting new customers or greeting our regulars by name, discovering new products or recommending the tried and true I relish the challenge and look forward to work every morning.

Did your undergraduate program play a role in where you are today? How?

Yes, absolutely, UW's engineering program taught me critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, research, leadership, and hardwork. The coop program enabled me to work with some of the best at IBM Canada as the information age began to blossom in the 1980's and 1990's. The personal computer, the internet, and all the software that began to develop. Through my UW experience I learnt people skills, leadership, and time management.

List 3 lessons you'd like to share with the current undergraduate students.

  1. Make friends both in and out of class, the friendships you nurture and create in school can and will last a lifetime. Many of your classmates will go on to other various and successful careers and if you continue your friendships after graduation and into your professional career those friends can and will open doors to other opportunities for you.
  2. Get involved in extra curricular activities, sports, clubs, etc. The life skills you will learn by interacting with others will serve you well. The activity will keep you fit both physically and mentally.
  3. Volunteer - get out and try different vocations, give back to the community, we are a social species and your soul will be rewarded by the thanks you receive for your generosity of your time and efforts. It will also enable you to try out different things and will help you determine what you like and don't like to do.