Working remotely across time zones

Anand in Nature Anand Nair, a third-year Chemical Engineering student, shares what it was like working and completing courses remotely, all in a different time zone.

Work term 1 & 2: HelloFresh – Procurement analyst

Work term 3: Prataap Snacks Ltd. – Process engineering intern

Work term 4: Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada – Production control analyst


Q&A with Anand

What were your main projects?

“One of the projects that I was really passionate about was back in my first co-op, where we were having an issue at HelloFresh.”

“In the warehouse, the workers were completing our meal kit boxes but they were missing some ingredients, some ingredients were bad and they didn’t know what to do.”

“The usual situation that we had was they would informally call someone in our HQ and ask them what should be done. The team would give them a temporary solution, however, none of this was on the record. There was no improvement cycle.”

"My project was to build a tool that could communicate this information to our headquarters. I created a form that they submitted at the warehouse and got integrated into Slack, which gave them an automated message at the headquarters saying, ‘this request has been generated, this needs your immediate attention,’ and whatever the solution was from HQ, was also submitted through a form. That way, the information is recorded.”

“When I was there at my second co-op term, we were able to gather a lot of data to find which ingredients were being replaced the most, which are the most problematic, etc. So that’s something I was really proud about back in my first co-op.”

After Nair's first co-op term, he continued to work remotely part-time for HelloFresh while completing his courses during the spring term, as he was back home in India during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“I was very fortunate for my employers to give me a return offer and allow me to continue working with them. I was able to take on larger projects, even when I was working remotely.”

How did you manage part-time work and school?

Anand in nature “Being in engineering, you’re always on a full course load with highly demanding courses. It’s really important to get your time management correct.”

“I was in a different time zone, studying in a different time zone and collaborating with friends on group projects who are in a different time zone.”

“While doing this, I was able to come up with an arrangement with my employers that we would have one weekly check-in where I’d update them with my progress. There wasn’t a point where both of us had to be online for that. I would provide my update and by the next day, when I wake up, I would have an answer from the night before.”

“To manage course load, for the first time in my life I got a physical calendar and a whiteboard. I feel like visualizing your tasks and prioritizing them every day when you wake up helps you with achieving the most.”

The highlight of your work terms

“My last co-op term has to be my favourite. Specifically, at Toyota, the common thing they have for all co-op students is at the end of the term you have to present a formal business proposal of what you’ve done and what improvements you propose.”

“I think that was a really unique idea and with this, I got the opportunity to present it to general managers at Toyota. Being able to interact with such visionaries of a big company is a great privilege and an amazing learning experience once you get the feedback from them.”

What is something you learned that you would take with you moving forward?

Anand at an outdoor stadium “One of the most important things that I learned, and I think builds cumulatively over time, is the ability to ask questions and not shy away from them, even when you don’t understand anything.”

“Also, remember the answers to those questions. You don’t want to seem like you're asking questions for the sake of it but not actually grasping it. This is something I was receiving feedback on throughout my few co-op terms: to ask more questions and try to be more involved for your own benefit.”

“It helps you think outside the box and come up with alternative solutions. Because the entire point of having a co-op student work with you is you get a fresh set of eyes on the same problem that you've been dealing with. No employer would say no to asking a question and they will really appreciate your genuine interest in the work that you're doing.”

What’s next for you?

Anand in nature“I have an eight-month co-op coming up next. This is something I’m looking forward to and it’s the avenue where I know what I like and don’t like so far.”

“This is the opportunity I will take to invest some time in myself for some improvement on learning new skills and try to get a co-op job that I am really passionate about and will set the trajectory for the rest of at least the year or so.”

“Other than that, moving on, I'm really looking forward to my fourth-year design projects. I feel in engineering as you continuously pass through your terms, you're focusing more on applications and practical solutions to whatever theory you've learned so far.”

“So, in fourth year, since it's all about design projects and applying whatever theories you've learned so far, that's something I'm really looking forward to.”