Gillian Trasuk (she/her), is a fourth-year Honours Math student, specializing in business and minoring in computing. Her blog displays her shining business pedigree and how co-op was always on her Waterloo agenda.
Gillian’s co-op journey:
Work term one: For her first co-op term, Gillian worked as a quality assurance technician at Farm Business Consultants. She connected with clients to check their tax returns, demonstrating customer service skills.
Work terms two and three: Gillian then transitioned to the role of analyst on the Program Development and Program Analysis team at Agricorp for her second and third terms. She set rates for the year and rewrote queries to run reports, many of them through the use of statistical analysis software.
Work term four: For her latest term, Gillian worked at Scotiabank as a sales and trading analyst in the Global Banking and Markets sector. She gained experience on the trade floor with the XVA trading team handling counterparty credit risk, adding associated charges to client trades.
Q&A with Gillian:
Are organization and time management skills you've been able to hone in on and master through your co-op, or are they something that you hit the ground running with in your first job?
“I feel like with the first job revolving around taxes, the workload was a lot. I was trying to get through 400 client tax returns by the end of the four months and I completed them, so that was a good introduction of how to manage my time.”
“The tax deadline date is one that’s set in stone, so having that ‘no ifs ands or buts’ mentality on meeting the deadline really forced me to keep track of things efficiently. I always set out a to-do list. I try to get a piece of everything going so I can constantly see that I was making progress.”
“Within my later roles, I had a bit more flexibility regarding being able to speak up if I had too much on my plate but my first job being within a ‘no excuses’ setting was good in terms of throwing me into that experience. I could gradually build that up within my later roles as I had the previous one.”
How has the content that you’ve learned in your courses worked its way into your co-op? And vice versa?
“The most relevant courses to my co-op career would definitely be computer science courses as I am minoring in computing.”
“The first term you take functional programming and that course really challenged me to rethink how I programmed based on what I learned in high school and that helped me develop good habits going forward. I carried that through all my co-op terms.”
“Working back into my courses, the coolest thing is in my finance courses. I'm taking a course right now, ACTSC 372, and we're talking about things happening in the market like investing and then also the way you price different investments. All of that, I learned in my co-op term.”
“Taking what I know, but also making it more reasonable and applying it to the workplace, has been something that's interesting to navigate.”
Having experienced three work terms solely online, how was that system structured?
“My first co-op was very, very independent. It was more like, ‘here's the work that you're assigned,’ and once you complete it you let your supervisor know that you're ready for more.”
“In my second and third co-op, when I went to the insurance company, I had an awesome boss who set up regular meetings and made sure to check in. That team I worked with was also a smaller one, so it was a good learning environment for me to speak up in meetings and express what I was doing.”
“I think within an online setting, you go through a state where you’re like ‘am I doing enough work? I feel like I need more,’ and like you're polling for more work but sometimes it's just not there.”
“Being able to navigate that and realizing that it's okay if I do my work and I'm trying my best to find opportunities to improve things. If I can achieve that, then I don't need to be constantly stressed.”
How different would your path have been if it were not for co-op?
“It would’ve been very different. I’ve never really thought about my life without co-op.”
“I grew up knowing how important co-op at Waterloo was. My parents would always say ‘don't worry about a scholarship, just get into co-op.’”
“The program holds you accountable and I think having the responsibility to get up and apply to jobs is something that I needed. I'm always on my friends about it because I'm the person that checks WaterlooWorks religiously for co-op jobs, even volunteer opportunities, so that's something that's served as an asset to me.”
What is one example of a highlight that you've experienced in your co-op or something that you’ve learned that other students could benefit from hearing?
“I'll start with the learning experience because I had this one interview that haunts me from first year to this day. After that one I was like, ‘I'll never get a job’ and I thought co-op wasn’t for me.”
“Funny enough, that interview was for a company I ended up getting an offer from years later. That contrast is cool to see my own progress and how far I’ve gotten.”
“A defining moment from my time in co-op is when I got to be part of a social committee during my last term. It was cool to be able to connect with other co-op students and get to be a voice for other interns and plan events to really establish that connection. That was something I felt was missing in my first couple of co-op terms working in a smaller company.”
“On the trading side, there was a lot happening with Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse and so being on a team that handles counterparty credit risk, those were big events. Feeling really valued and needed during those times was something cool. Being far enough into my co-op that they trusted me more, it acted as my test in a way.”
What are examples of the skills that your jobs have given you in return?
“In terms of technical skills at the insurance company, using SAS and SQL, I had never touched those before, so I had some programming concepts from my computer science courses, but those specific languages I hadn't learned, so I was learning those on the spot as I went along.”
“That was huge and I was very lucky that I was given the space to take time to learn them and train myself.”
“The non-technical skills I have gained would revolve around communication and realizing that it’s the biggest thing. Networking was something that terrified me. It still scares me a lot but it's so important and that's something I've learned how to do.”
“I had bosses that really challenged me to focus on it and note that it's important for your career, the ability to talk people and advocate for yourself.”
“Speaking up when you make a mistake is also important. That’s something that I learned how to do too, to note successes and failures. Both are important to take ownership of, so that's something that I took away from my co-op roles and especially when you get into those moments of more trust being put into your hands. Those skills are valuable and will always stick with me.”
If you could speak to Gillian right before her first work term, what would you tell her?
“It's going to be okay.”
“I'd also say your first co-op doesn't define you.”
“I liked my job, but it's very easy to compare yourself to other people, especially in your program, seeing where everyone else is working and wishing I was there working at a big fancy company. I was a little sad about it going in, but it’s fine, it doesn’t define you.”
“Your first co-op is just a starting point and exciting things are to come.”
What is next for you on this journey of yours?
“Good question. I don't have a solid answer because I don't know.”
“I really like the idea of being in a graduate program, some sort of rotational program within finance, similar to my most recent role as the sales and trading analyst.”
“We'll see, I’m still on the fence about whether I’m doing another co-op, but I’m kind of ready to finish things off.”