Working upwards from start-ups to Tesla Motors

A photo of Sydney sitting at a table in a park, wearing sunglasses.Sydney Ouellette (she/her), a third-year Arts student, gives us insight into the various positions she has done in the technical writing field.

Sydney is in the Rhetoric, Media and Professional Communications program with a Legal Studies and Computing Technology minor. So far she has completed a total of four co-op terms and is currently on her fifth term:

  • Work term 1: CryptoNumerics, Content Writer
  • Work term 2: Hubba, Growth Coordinator
  • Work term 3 & 4: Oracle Eloqua, User Assistance Developer
  • Work term 5: Oracle NetSuite, Technical Writer

Some of the main projects Sydney has worked on during her work terms mainly involve technical writing-based content.

“My first co-op job was essentially writing three articles a week on data privacy. While there, I also did a white paper, which is sort of like a big document that goes out to clients on technical issues. So, I had a lot of responsibility. I got to author it and design it.”

“My co-op at Oracle last term, I didn't even really finish my training and right away I was doing a lot of migrations. I created three different help centers and migrated and authored content for developers on their different help center sites. I also worked on a lot of release notes. So, it's basically a lot of technical and step-by-step content.”

Sydney was also able to secure a four-month contract with Tesla Motors starting September 2022!

"I had originally applied to work there this summer but had secured my NetSuite position before Tesla got back to me!"

What do you think has been the most rewarding thing about co-op?

“Probably the most rewarding is looking back and being able to see actual growth as a person. When I think back to my very first co-op, it's almost like I'm looking at a kid. I didn't know how to not only self-advocate but also just do work.”

“I don't really go into positions anymore feeling like a co-op; I go in feeling just like a worker. I think that's been the most rewarding, just seeing personal growth and being able to reflect back on that.”

A photo of Sydney smiling.What was the most challenging thing about co-op?

“I feel like the most challenging is going back to school after; it's a challenge to adapt back. They're very different, how you approach the work you're doing, especially as an English major, that was a really big thing for me.”

“When I started co-op, it was really difficult because I was used to in-depth writing, asking so many questions and going in a million directions for things. Whereas all my co-op roles were very straightforward and didn’t need to be analyzed.”

What advice would you give to students dealing with the hardships of transitioning from co-op to a study term?

“Something that I started doing was learning how to structure my time better. In my co-op at Oracle, I was introduced to ‘sprint and agile’ working, which is like ‘sprint planning’ for two weeks.”

“At the start of that time, you create all of your tasks for two weeks, determine how long you have to work on each and a deadline. And I feel like that sort of time management was a really big deal to me.”

Was there anything that you enjoyed specifically about any of the companies that you worked at?

“I noticed the startup culture is a lot more fun. But also, I enjoyed sprinting in the sense of getting a lot done at a time. You're working nonstop and there's so much to do all the time.”

“And then at companies like Oracle, it's pretty clear that they put a lot of money into their workers. We have a lot of ‘celebration days’ for workers or we have things like ‘no meeting days’ every two weeks, where you have no meetings in your calendar like it's a rest day.”

“I really enjoy getting to be a part of an organization that wants people to enjoy working and they understand how people can burn out and how to prevent that.”

A photo of Sydney sitting at her work desk, smiling and wearing headphones.Is there any advice you would give to students going into their first co-op term?

“In my first co-op, one of the criticisms I got when I was leaving is that I didn't ask enough questions. When I was doing work, I just expected myself to figure it out... and I was screwed. That was a big thing that I took into when I came to Oracle was to ask a lot of questions because that does help me stay organized.”

“I think a lot of communication with supervisors and mentors is key. I've learned now that I will not get anything done if I don't have a pressing deadline. So, I set up a meeting with my supervisor and asked to set up fake deadlines and have meetings so I can show them what work I've done."

“I would say that it’s figuring out how you work best because it's different than school, right? You don't have deadlines in the same way. Creating deadlines for myself and bringing people in on those deadlines to keep me accountable is very helpful.”

Sydney's future plans

Sydney is soon approaching her graduation and has obtained a short-term job starting September at Tesla Motors in California as a technical editor.

“I feel that would not have happened without having any of my Waterloo co-op experiences. And so being able to go through that whole interview process and get to start working there soon, I feel like it solidifies that like ‘I did co-op, right. I did it, I got through Waterloo.’”

"Because I am doing a computer science option, I was always looking for something that would let me use those skills in addition to my English degree, so tech writing quickly became that perfect solution."

“I'd like to continue working in technical writing, I felt like that wasn't something that I even heard about before I started co-op. And once I found it through the job board, it was like, I found something that I actually wanted to do, and I enjoy doing.”

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