WE Accelerate-ing into tech

Cecilia Qiu in a parkCecilia Qiu, a third-year computer science student, shares with us her experience with the WE Accelerate program as well as her co-op role as a program developer.

Cecilia has completed two co-op terms so far, with her first one using the Waterloo Experience (WE) Accelerate program.

“In my first term, I was part of the modern web application design stream, which was by Manulife. We had to attend live workshops that were related to web development, front-end and back-end design, and building on microservices back end.”

“If you don’t know what else is entailed in that program, for the first two months, they have these workshops that cover a broad range of topics related to the stream.”

“Besides Manulife, there’s other industry collaborators that you can work with for a month on a project in their company. I worked with a couple of other students, and we were able to work together and get some real-life applications of what we were learning.”

“In spring, I worked at CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, as a platform developer. So, my role was to help integrate listen-web services which include the radio, podcasts, and playlists into different voice platform products, such as Alexa.”

Q&A with Cecilia

Main projects

“I helped redesign the front end of a website for the employer during the WE Accelerate program. It was a new product they were building, and they needed help reworking the front end.”

“It was cool working with these other students and to make a big impact on that website, because all our ideas were implemented.”

“At CBC, my biggest project was improving a feature that is already available on Alexa Skill. What was available before was if you asked to play podcasts, it would only be able to play the most recent episode. I was in charge of adding new features to that. So, being able to pause, play, select a specific episode, and to go back and next.”

Cecilia Qiu standing in front of a buildingWhat was the most rewarding thing about co-op?

“There’s been so many rewarding things for me. Just being able to put together my resume and apply for these companies that I didn’t have much experience for felt rewarding. It made me think about those things much earlier than after I graduate.”

“Another would be being able to apply what I’ve learned in school to real-life applications. In co-op itself, it’s really cool to see how my work directly impacts customers and clients. I think that's pretty rewarding.

“And I feel like making connections and meeting people has been really rewarding because in this specific co-op, I’m also part of an employee resource group called Women in Tech and they have a couple meetings monthly. I was also given the opportunity to go to a tech conference called Collision.”

“Because most of my work is remote, I haven’t been able to meet many people in person, but that conference was in-person, so it was such a wholesome experience meeting all of these women and being able to make connections as well.”

What has been the most challenging thing about co-op?

I want to say definitely the process of applying for my first co-op. I came into the program with little experience in coding and programming and while you’re on a school semester, it can be difficult to begin and explore side projects, if you don’t really know what to do.”

“So, preparing for interviews and having that resume ready was the most challenging, but the school has a lot of resources available to help make that possible. They had the WE Accelerate program as well that I was able to participate in, which I think really helped me get my role in this co-op.”

What would be your advice for students who are in the same position that you were in?

topquote

A big help for me was making friends and talking about these things with them. If you have friends in your program who have these experiences, you can ask for their advice on where you can jumpstart and learn different things.

- CECILIA QIU, THIRD-YEAR COMPUTER SCIENCE STUDENT

“There are also a lot of free courses online for you to learn a bit and put some time into making side projects. That was a big hindrance for me, but if you start early and explore, you should have enough things to put on your resume and be able to show something off to a possible employer.”

Cecilia Qiu in the snowWhat’s something you learned that you would take with you moving forward?

“All of the technical skills that I learned I would take with me forward. I learned a lot about JavaScript and working with these different services like DynamoDB, working with AWS Lambda, all of these tools.”

“It was my first time working in a company, so I wasn’t sure what kind of worker I was. But then I realized that from my coworker’s feedback, they told me I’m pretty mature and not afraid to express my thoughts and opinions on things that we’re working on. So, keeping that in mind and working on that because that’s a good thing and I’ve had valuable experiences because of it.”

What’s next for you?

“With respect to co-op, my plan is to try out different roles and companies because I want to touch on different areas in this field to see what I like and don’t like.”

“I want to see if I can do some app development, whether that be Android or iOS, and I’m interested in game development as well.”