Hello! My name is Abigail Ruhland and I am a third-year Science and Business student. I am excited to share my co-op experience in marketing, quality and supply chain!
What year and program are you in?
I am currently in my 3B term of a Bachelor of Science, Honours Science and Business, and am working towards a specialization in Biotechnology.
This program is unique in that it covers material from marketing, technological innovation, and management to molecular biology, chemistry and biotechnology.
Choosing to enter the Science and Business program has brought me diverse work experience in both science and business fields, which has made me a more well-rounded individual.
The co-op program has allowed me to gain practical experience in different areas while learning what areas I am most interested in continuing to work in.
What was it like working at your co-ops? What challenges and accomplishments did you go through?
My first co-op work term was at Greensaver, a non-profit energy conservation organization based in Etobicoke, Ontario. I applied through WaterlooWorks later in my 2A term and I was working in the marketing department.
I worked with other organizations to share conservation programs with their clients. The provincial government offers funding for various environmental programs and Greensaver was managing operations for the Energy Affordability Program.
One of the department's roles was to develop promotional and educational content to market the program to relevant organizations for their clientele.
I vastly expanded marketing outreach outlets, starting from telephone calls and webinars to also include radio shows, TV programming and phone conferences. I also developed extensive training materials for the subsequent students.
I got to see the value of doing market research and making personal connections with clients based on the value proposition, which increased program enrollment numbers.
Though this term was fully remote, I saw myself grow my self-confidence while making program pitches to potential clients or presenting program information to organizations.
For my second co-op work term, I was in Illinois at a family-owned health foods business, NOW Foods. I did this through the arrange your own job process and reaching out to a connection who worked there (networking is valuable!).
The pandemic environment restricted international travel for co-op, so I applied for an exception to the policy. I have family and friends in the area, so permission was granted for the co-op credit and I was so excited to go to Chicago.
During this term, I was inside one of the production plant’s microbiology labs, which is ISO/IEC 17025 Accredited.
I was responsible for the daily testing of product samples according to their specifications.
I used sophisticated equipment, like the Soleris, an optical system for microbial contamination, and a Molecular Detection System (MDS), which uses Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification to detect pathogens in a sample.
Another part of the role was environmental testing, which included swabbing and testing production machines, tools and different areas of the facility for allergens, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) or pathogens.
It was very enlightening to see all the aspects of quality control - from chemical and physical testing to microbiology to regulatory affairs – work together with production to create valuable products in a safe environment.
Overall, it was a very valuable experience as I gained commercial laboratory experience and greatly improved lab efficiencies.
My third co-op work term was with SC Johnson at their Brantford location. My role in customer supply chain consisted of proactive inventory management, customer reporting and forecasting analysis.
These contributions enabled more efficient customer ordering, alleviated inventory issues and allowed for more efficient and accurate demand and production planning.
A major term project was creating an Excel tool for a major customer to easily visualize forecast comparisons between the customer and the company. I worked collaboratively with different business units (sales, marketing, demand and supply planning etc.) to ensure inventory issues, current and future, were being well-managed and resolved.
I learned the importance of planning, resilience and adaptability through my supervisors and co-workers in the way they carried out their work and their motivation to strive for good results even when the supply chain environment is pushing for the opposite.
What’s next for you?
As I finish my third year and enter my final co-op work term and school year, my hope is to focus on supply chain in the biotechnology industry.
I really appreciate that supply chain encompasses both the planning and execution aspects of business and would also love to use my biotechnology knowledge in a more practical way.
Do you have any advice for other co-op students?
One thing I would say is to write everything down!
Having a copy of your job notes, learnings, praise and advice you’ve received is very helpful at the end of the term when you reflect on your biggest accomplishments from the job. It helps you to understand what aspects of the job you did or did not like and why, which will guide you toward the next step in your career.
Another suggestion would be to make the most of your time at your co-op company.
Book meetings with co-workers to get to know their job and past experiences and learn from their perspectives.
It is amazing when you might work alongside someone, completing projects or just through email, but you know very little about their background. Everyone has had different experiences in the workforce or entrepreneurially, which makes it so valuable to learn from their failures and successes.