Titus Lin (he/him), a second-year Mechatronics Engineering student, discusses how discovering different industries and not being picky early in your co-op career is vital for building a strong résumé.
Titus' co-op journey:
Work term one: At United Glass Fabrication, Titus worked as a computer numerical control programmer. He assisted in the coding of CNC machinery, specifically, coding coordinates to precisely manufacture custom pieces that met customers’ needs.
Work term two: He then transitioned to the role of estimating intern at PCL Construction. Here he crafted skills within Excel and data analytics to organize and observe computer-aided design (CAD) paperwork for budgeting.
Q&A with Titus:
There are stresses involved with finding roles for your work terms. What was that process like for you?
“I feel like the first year, it can be difficult for a student in my program because Mechatronics Engineering is a program where we learn a bit of everything.”
“The problem I found in first year was that we're not as proficient in any specific field to get a job easily. So, first year I would really recommend getting onto the search early, really try to build your résumé and try to have some side projects.”
“Searching through the school term later can make it really difficult but with my second job, the interviews became easier.”
“I got interviews through WaterlooWorks, but I found my second co-op position externally. I did feel kind of pressured, rushed and stressed because of schoolwork plus finding a job. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get more opportunities through cycles three and four, so I just took the external offer early on. For my estimating role with PCL, they preferred to hire mechanical, electrical, all kinds of engineering workers since an engineering background was required even within estimating.”
“There's a lot of computer-aided design engineering paperwork that we need to look at and, at the same time, we also need to have the ability to handle data analysis through Excel.”
Has there been a good ratio between data-based and more hands-on work within your roles?
“My first role was in the summer when conditions were humid, and there was a lot of physical work. For my role in estimating, it was office work with a lot of computer and data analysis, so overall both of my roles have combined the two.”
“Personally, I'm fine with an estimating type of job, the only problem with construction estimating is that mechatronics is not that related to the construction industry."
"I can surely move on in that path, but I was never that interested in construction, it was a steppingstone for me to build my résumé and progress within the co-op program.”
Did you feel like you could thrive more in the larger setting or a smaller one?
“I would say smaller, more secluded companies or startups is a good opportunity to grow. It really depends on the company itself, however. If it gets to the point where a setting is limiting you, it's obviously not that helpful. Within larger companies it can also be harder on the other hand to rise above others and take more responsibility.”
“Personally, I think starting out with a bigger company with a larger platform where you gain more disperse professional experience and then try and move on to smaller ones and start your own would be a good idea. The large companies do offer a lot more experience and things that you can work on and can have more people there to guide you.”
Was there a specific influence that led you into your program or to gravitate toward these co-op roles?
“Personally, I have always been fascinated by aerospace and the engineering related to it. That's what got me into this program.”
“These two jobs are obviously not my ideal for where I want to end up, but that's where you have to start off.”
What is the thing that you've done within your two terms so far that you are most proud of?
“On my first term, the auto order tracking they had previously was on paper and was a mess. They kept losing orders and couldn’t find a specific piece of glass that customers wanted.”
“I built this digital system based on Google Sheets where they could keep track of everything. That kind of makes up for what I said previously. Within smaller companies, this is an example relating to how you can have opportunities to take on more responsibility and stand out.”
What's next for you on your co-op journey?
“I would want to find a position on the mechanical side. I would take an aerospace job as well. It’s hard to say though because I’m also quite interested in software too.”
“I think if I can search for a blend of those together it would be efficient. I do love the pure mechanical side of things, but I also do realize that the world is going digital and there's no changing that so if a position that requires those skills is available that would be ideal.”