Salma Marzouk (she/her) is a fourth-year Science and Business student with four co-op terms under her belt. She discusses her experienced co-op resume, her switch from a healthcare position to ones in tech, her impressive queue of projects and how collaboration, as well as quality, are key to being a leader and keeping a company’s strategy in line.
Salma's co-op journey:
Work term one: For her first co-op, Salma worked at Trillium Health Partners as a strategy management associate. Here she worked in a fast-paced environment within the Strategy Management Office and Command Centre to deal with COVID crisis daily, in line with their strategic plan.
Work term two: Salma’s second co-op was at Roche, where she worked as a business systems analyst. She worked with the Informatics team to create new software products for internal and external use. She had the opportunity to work on many projects, including a robotic process automation (RPA) project that helped employees automate their tasks.
Work term three: Salma then moved to Wind River, where she worked as a product management intern. Transitioning from healthcare and pharmaceuticals to tech, she collaborated with the product team as well as their engineers and designers to build a product called Gallery, which is a B2B E-commerce product, providing software to companies to integrate within their products.
Work term four: Her last co-op term was at ODAIA, as a product management intern, where she took on similar tasks as her previous role, giving her greater experience within a startup environment. She led a team to build features for MAPTUAL Field, which is an AI-driven product that enables pharma sales reps to better engage with healthcare professionals.
Q&A with Salma:
What were some of the challenges and successes of making the switch from healthcare to tech?
“The transition was quite smooth for me, but I experienced imposter syndrome before starting my co-op at Wind River because I didn’t have any experience in the tech industry. Thankfully, my imposter syndrome disappeared as soon as I met my team, because they were so supportive and welcoming from day one. They made my first experience in tech a truly memorable one.”
“I absolutely loved working in different industries, because I learned a lot in a short period of time. As an example, my experience in healthcare increased my resilience and ability to work under pressure, whereas my experience in tech taught me the importance of being data-and-user-driven. This balance helped make me a well-rounded person overall, with skills that can be applied to any industry.”
What’s a myth about co-op that you want to debunk for new students?
“Your first co-op may seem intimidating, especially if you don’t have any work experience, but that’s far from the truth. Companies offer co-op opportunities for students to learn and grow, so your managers and co-workers will want to help you succeed. Remember that you were hired for a reason, so don’t ever allow imposter syndrome to impact your experience.”
“Personally, my co-op at Trillium Health Partners was a unique experience that defied all my expectations for my first co-op. As an undergraduate student, I had the privilege of working with top-level executives in a position that’s typically reserved for MBA students. Before accepting the offer, I was nervous about the scale of the work, but I was also very excited for the opportunity. I’m so glad I stepped outside my comfort zone and took on the challenge, because my team created an environment where I could learn and grow to my fullest potential.”
Do you see glimpses of your co-op work translate into your courses and vice versa?
“Yes, absolutely! My science courses helped me appreciate healthcare and pharma on a deeper level by understanding scientific concepts, whereas my business courses strengthened skills that I used across all co-ops, like stakeholder management, public speaking and project management. I also took a few electives in UX design and tech development, which translated well to my product management experiences in tech.”
“When I was a teaching assistant for a fourth-year Strategic Management of Science and Technology Organizations course, I used my co-op experiences to engage students, which was immensely helpful because I hadn’t taken the course myself yet.”
“My co-op at ODAIA was an excellent accumulation of my courses and other co-op experiences. I drew on my experience at Trillium Health Partners to empathize with healthcare professionals, I used pharma knowledge from my co-op at Roche, and I improved the product management skills I gained at Wind River. It was the perfect way to wrap up my co-op journey.”
What advice would you give a new co-op student specifically within your program?
“As intuitive as this may sound, be sure to make the most of your co-ops by taking initiative and learning as much as possible. Please don’t just do the bare minimum. You’ll have a much more fulfilling time if you give it your all, so embrace every opportunity, step outside your comfort zone, be curious, and build strong relationships with your co-workers.”
What is the defining moment within your journey that you've been proud of?
“A defining moment that I was proud of was the launch of Wind River Gallery. Not only did I enjoy working on this product with my team, but I’m also very thankful for the trust they had in me to lead its release. As my first co-op in the tech industry, this experience gave me a lot of confidence for what I could achieve during this co-op and beyond.”
What is next for you on this journey?
“As I get ready to wrap up my time at Waterloo, I’m making the most of my time here by leading a few extra-curriculars and projects that, I hope, will leave a lasting impact on students.”
“In October 2023, I’m leading a team to host the first in-person TEDxUW conference in 5 years! I’m also advising Waterloo’s Fusion team to host a conference in November 2023 on biotech and ethics.”
“Aside from conferences, I’m excited to continue providing students with the tools they need to succeed as entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurship Society.”
“I’m also supporting the Science and Business community through a mentorship platform connecting 550+ students and alumni. Last but not least, I’m continuing my work at Waterloo to build a new master’s program in emerging technologies.”
“As I reflect on my journey, I’m incredibly grateful for all the amazing people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made and I truly can’t wait for what’s ahead.”