Vikram Bhatt (he/him), a third-year management engineering student, shares how he improved his networking and professionalism skills while working on his co-op terms.
To date, Vikram has completed three co-op terms and is currently finishing up his fourth:
- Work term 1: Lumos Lux, application developer
- Work term 2: Manulife, data migration engineer
- Work term 3: MyCoachingTree, project manager
- Work term 4: Ericsson, integration engineer
Q&A with Vikram
What were some main projects this work term?
“One that stood out to me is in this co-op, at Ericsson. I'm automating a manual process and adding machine learning into that automation.”
“I’m learning much more and what I’m applying is much higher level and more engineering-related.”
What is the most challenging thing about your co-op?
“I’ve been teetering between startups and large companies. So, I’d say adjusting to that because the expectations between a startup and a larger company are very different.”
“In a startup, from my experience, I was in charge of four or five things at once. It was not like I had teammates to rely on. I had teammates for learning, of course, but they were few and far between. And so, it was mostly me taking on a lot of responsibilities.”
“But for larger companies, like Ericsson and Manulife, I worked in a team of four or five individuals. When we got a project, we would split it apart, create timelines and assign work based on our strengths.”
“So, going from teammates to rely on, to doing all the work by myself was a change, but I wouldn't say it was too drastic, you can easily adapt.”
That's the beauty of Waterloo students; we're taught to adapt, and with our experiences, we can adapt easily.
- VIKRAM BHATT(HE/HIM), THIRD-YEAR MANAGMENT ENGINEERING STUDENT
What has been the most rewarding thing about co-op?
“It’s got to be the monetary value that you get. The satisfaction that you won’t have to take out another OSAP loan and pile that debt further. So, you become financially ready by the time you graduate. That might be a shallow answer, but that’s one of the biggest ones.”
“The second is networking. Getting to advance your network, knowing professionals in your field and using them as a template to understand if that field is right for you.”
“For example, in my third co-op, I was under a project manager who had been in that role for almost 30 years. He taught me the ins and outs; how the budgeting system works for smaller companies, how to maximize your features by minimizing the cost, utilizing workforces across the globe, etc. So, definitely networking is the second part.”
Tips for networking
“One major tip I think more and more people can start utilizing is going to the office. What I realized this term is I have the opportunity to go in person and I actually do go regularly.”
“I’ve realized that on a Teams call, many people don’t necessarily have their cameras on. You’re just looking at a circle thinking, ‘How do I talk to this person?’ and if it’s your first co-op, you might be more hesitant.”
“But if you go in-person, you see their face, you see them interact with you, you see their expressions, and it makes it easier to communicate later.”
“As you build up that confidence and camaraderie with your team members, you can talk more openly and get to know them a bit better and get to know their colleagues. So, I think the most important thing would be to go in person if you have the opportunity.”
What is something you learned on your co-op terms that you could take with you moving forward?
“How to professionally present myself. It doesn’t necessarily translate to wearing professional clothes, it’s more of how to communicate with different people in the office.”
"In my experience, you’re more professional in the sense that the way you talk and listen to conversations changes. You listen more attentively and approach more professionally.”
What’s next for you?
“In terms of my next two co-ops that I have remaining, I’d like to focus on data science. Mostly because my co-ops at Manulife and Ericsson were more data science and machine learning. I realized that’s something that I love to do.”
“I would like to work in more larger companies and if I get lucky, I’d like something like SpaceX, Facebook, or Meta.”