Abdurrahman Muni, a Waterloo alumnus who graduated in 2016 from the Arts and Business program, gives us a glimpse into his unique co-op journey and tells us about the entrepreneurial business he is running six years later in career coaching.
During his time at Waterloo, Muni completed a total of five co-op work term:
- Work term 1: LINKETT, sales development representative
- Work term 2: A&M Reputations, co-founder (E co-op)
- Work term 3: University of Waterloo, Faculty of Arts, social media and special events coordinator
- Work term 4: BrandBound, co-founder (E co-op)
- Work term 5: Prospect, sales development representative
While in co-op, Muni spent the majority of his time either in sales or going down the entrepreneurial route. A little fun fact, both his first and last work terms were with companies that came out of Velocity, an incubator at Waterloo. His various experiences presented him with some cool projects along the way.
While working at Waterloo, he was responsible for managing the Faculty of Arts' Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as planning and holding different events and initiatives on campus. “Around the time that I did it, we were sending out admissions for new students," says Muni. "When you got into Arts, you might remember that you got a handwritten card, that was an initiative that we were doing back then as well. So, I was part of that process of helping write these cards out, putting the welcome packages for the students and being part of the open houses on campus. Prospective students and their parents would come and we would give them a tour. Any other events that we held that term I was part of the planning process and execution of it. I met a lot of people and I learned more about the campus from that role than I did from just being a student there, so that was really good.”
“With the nature of the role, I had a lot of opportunities to try out new things and to develop new skills, for example, I got into point-and-shoot photography for the first time. My supervisor was very flexible with me and would let me take a couple of hours out of my day to walk around campus and just take pictures, and sometimes these pictures I ended up using in our social media campaigns. I had a lot of space to be able to work on these things and it was my first time working in my own office.”
For his two positions as a sales development representative, his main goal was to find leads and familiarize those leads with the company’s products. “As a sales development representative you have to understand the company's products and then reach out to people who you think would be a good fit for this product and engage them in conversation.”
“So the goal is to reach out to people who've never heard of you and you've never heard of them, and to start a conversation and get them to a point where they're willing to see a product demo. I was more on the front end of the role, generating leads and warming those leads up so that the founder could have a conversation with them about the product."
“In my E co-op terms, that's where the most fun was for me because it was all about building the company. So yes, there was a part where we were delivering the service to clients, but at the same time, we were also getting to work on building the company, finding new ways to increase sales, hiring people, getting more customers, going to different startup events to meet other founders and to learn from them, and taking part in pitch competitions.”
“That's where I had a lot of fun because I had the complete flexibility of all my time, and then also got to just do a variety of things, and here I am today back to my entrepreneurial roots.”
Muni currently runs a business called, VIPCV, which is a career transformation program.
“Traditional career coaching and employment services are very much about how to help somebody land a job. My goal is to not help people land jobs. My goal is to transform the individual into somebody who can land whatever job that they want.”
“I take them from somebody who is feeling lost and has a lack of direction in their job search to actually feeling confident and in control. They know what they need to do, how to do it and how to get the job that they want”
Did your co-op experiences help navigate you to the career you are in today?
“I really struggled to get a co-op at the beginning. So my first co-op, when I worked with LINKETT as a sales development representative, I really struggled. That was the last interview of the term that I had and if I didn't get the job I was going to be jobless basically. I remember I was in the Tatham Centre and just sitting in the lounge area, before COVID obviously, way, way back.”
“So I'm sitting there, and I'm like, ‘Man, this is my first and last interview', so I was nervous. Then I saw something on the bottom of the screen. There's a little strip that just has some information scrolling across and they would give you little tips on how to do well in your interview, and one of them was to ask for the job. I read that, and for some reason, I remembered that, and I'm like, ‘How am I supposed to ask for the job?' Shortly after I saw that my name and room number popped up and I went for my interview. It was my first and last interview, so everything was on the line. I was like, ‘Let's just do the best we can.’”
“It went really well. Me and the CEO of that company were going back and forth and talking. It was a great conversation, he liked my entrepreneurial experience and everything seemed really good. At the end of the interview the CEO was like, ‘Well, do you have any other questions for me?’ I'm like, ‘I don't have a question, but I do want to say this: if you hire me, I'll make good things happen for you.’ That's it. He just kind of leaned back and had a little smirk on his face and I was like, ‘I hope I got this right.’ Then we just shook hands and went, and then later that afternoon I got the offer in my email, so it was really, really cool.”
“All this to say, did co-op contribute to where I am today? Absolutely. If it wasn't for that co-op experience, I wouldn't have gotten into the whole startup ecosystem in the Waterloo Region and Velocity garage. Once I was in there, that really helped accelerate my development as an entrepreneur and I went from there. So it definitely helped out and even with what I'm doing now with my career coaching company, it's really based on helping people get jobs. So the foundations of how I learned how to successfully get a job came from the University of Waterloo, and then I just built on top of that to help people who are out there land jobs and be more confident and in control of their careers.”
How do you think co-op has helped you develop yourself?
“I think that self-development is a byproduct of the things that you learn. When you get good at networking, you develop the ability to add value to people. This is the biggest thing, if you can add value to people, people add value to you. Through the co-op experience, like through interviews, knowing how to write a really good cover letter and resume, helped me develop my communication skills. Once I start working on the job, that helps me develop my professional skill sets, how to communicate professionally, how to work as a team professionally, all of that. Networking and communication skills are hands down the two biggest pieces of personal development I gained through co-op.”
What tips would you offer someone going into co-op?
“Right away, create a LinkedIn profile. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, create one. If you have one that you're not using, start using it. What I mean by this is what's really helpful in building the career that you want is following the footsteps of those who have already done it. So, let's say you're on your first or second co-op term, and let's say, for example, you want to become a director of sales one day. Or maybe you want to become a director of engineering, whatever it may be. Look at somebody who's in the next step ahead of you.”
“So, if I wanted to be a director of sales one day, and the first step for me is to become a sales development representative, create a LinkedIn profile and use LinkedIn to search for people who are sales development reps at companies that you think you'd like, and start following them, connect with them, ask them for a quick virtual zoom call, a 15-minute zoom call and ask them questions about how they got to where they are in their career. When you start to network like that and learn from people, they give you insights that you won't find anywhere else because they've already done it. So LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool. This is a big one I'd recommend.”
What’s next for you?
“Just growing awesome companies! Right now I'm working on my career coaching business, VIPCV. It's a full-time effort and I'm pushing this as far as it can grow. There are a lot of exciting things coming on the line for this and I’m very excited to shake up the career transformation industry, as I like to call it. This is what I'm going to be focusing on long-term and I've gone through a lot of different experiences where I’ve worked with other companies. My goal now for the foreseeable future is to focus on my own company and continue to grow that, and ensure that I can spread as much value to other people.”