Decoding how to succeed in co-op

Eric Bilaver (he/him) is in his fourth year of Computer Engineering. He shares his experience building an app from scratch, developing self-confidence along the way and working on perfecting his application process.

Work terms one and two: At Mero, he co-ordinated and managed product deployment of multiple sensors across Canada and United Kingdom and performed quality assurance on receivers. He also produced bi-weekly and quarterly business reports for clients and was met with an extremely positive response to the design.

Work term three: During his work term at AHead Simulation, he designed and implemented Vue components and Python scripts for an audiology training platform, tested and troubleshot various low-level protocols. He also wrote documentations and workflows for hardware, software and boot protocols.

Work term four: For his role as a junior developer at 1Password, he worked with senior developers to re-architect billing process into a single payment window and aided with other coding tasks.

Work term five: As a developer intern at Jam3, he designed various components and implemented Application Programming Interface (API) calls along with creating a client site.

Work term six: At Indigo Books and Music, Eric developed and released their new kiosk software in stores all across Canada as the sole developer and created internal processes for programming.

What skills have you developed through co-op?

Eric smiling against a colourful background

“The first thing I developed was a sense of self confidence. It can be daunting, especially in your first co-op term, to suddenly have so much responsibility. It’s like trial by fire where the more you do it, the more comfortable you are with it. The self-confidence you gain is such an invaluable skill which can be carried over to your other co-op terms or even your personal life.”

“Problem solving and time management skills also come into play, especially if you’re working with a team. It’s not like school where you can just get a late day, you need to be on top of things and plan ahead. When you’re presented with problems in co-op, you may not have ever had experience dealing with something like that before. If you’re able to break it down and work with your mentors and team, you get used to solving larger problems and produce better work because of it.”


What challenges did you face along your co-op journey?

“When I was first starting out in co-op, I struggled finding a position. It was about trying to see what I was qualified for and what I was the best fit for, which can be difficult. I used a lot of the resources that Waterloo provides such as mock interviews and résumé critiquing sessions. These really helped build my confidence and even if I wasn’t the most qualified person for the job, I could present myself as if I was and that works!”

“Most recently, working independently can be a challenge. A lot of the times when you’re in co-op, you’re a little isolated from everyone else. You’re working on your own quite a bit and being comfortable with that, being able to problem solve on your own but also knowing when to ask for help is important."

"There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, but you don’t want to be the person who’s always asking for help either. Being able to distinguish between a big problem and a small problem is something you learn along the way.”

What accomplishments from your last co-op term are you most proud of?

“The biggest accomplishment was being able to launch the app that we built from scratch on a very tight timeline, in about two months. It was a lot to get done and I was very proud because we started on the first day."

"Going through designs and mock versions to see what we wanted was interesting, especially since I was the only developer on the project.”

“Being able to get everything working and receiving such amazing feedback made me feel proud. We had hundreds of customer emails coming in appreciating the kiosks and then we launched it across Canada, in more than 80 stores.”

A picture of Eric's Kiosk project at Indigo

“It was really cool being able to see my work in different provinces and despite the huge responsibility, it turned out really nicely.”

What do you love about software engineering?

“For me it’s like getting to solve a puzzle every single day, especially when you’re working on a big project. A lot of what you’re doing is thinking ahead and planning for the future, keeping in mind how this solves a problem and how people can further build upon this. A lot of the day-to-day work for me was tackling one component at a time and doing whatever I could to make it a reality."

"Being able to work systematically is fulfilling for me, because I can focus on something and watch everything come together. You get to work with other people as well and I enjoy the social aspect of being able to work cross-functionally with different teams such as marketing or design.”

What advice do you have for someone applying for their first co-op?

“Focus on what makes you a good worker in reference to the job you’re applying for. It’s easy to just mass apply, but writing custom résumés where your skills, experience and even hobbies are tailored to the job is important. Think about your transferable skills and apply them to the job requirements."

"You need to try as hard as you can to be the best candidate for the job and get your résumé looked at by at least five people. It’s always great to have another set of eyes to look at it and see what the general consensus is.”

What’s next for you?

“Now that I’m almost done with my degree, I will be working with Indigo full time as a developer.”

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