Shooting for the stars: Waterloo co-op student pursues dreams in the space industry

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Birds eye view of the Canadian Space Agency building and parking lot

By: Krista Henry (she/her)

Taking her shot at an out-of-this-world co-op job has led Waterloo Arts student Angelica Lee closer to her dreams of outer space.

An Accounting and Financial Management co-op student, Lee recently completed two consecutive work terms at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The CSA promotes the peaceful use and development of space and aims to advance the knowledge of space through science. The government agency ensures space science and technology provides social and economic benefits for Canadians.

Angelica standinga and smiling infront of a wall with planets on it

For Lee, working at the CSA is a dream come true. “As a child, I had the classic ‘I want to be an astronaut’ dream,” says Lee. “But I thought it was too prestigious for me, so I went into accounting and finance instead because those are two fields needed in every industry.” Lee’s space dreams were reignited when she joined the University of Waterloo’s student satellite design team, UW Orbital.

When looking for a co-op job, Lee came across an analytical and financial management resources intern role at the CSA.

“When I saw the posting, I thought to myself ‘why not just shoot my shot and give it a try’. I didn’t expect anything to happen, but I ended up getting the interview and here I am with an amazing co-op job,” says Lee.

The CSA hires Waterloo co-op students in multiple divisions of the organization including Space Exploration, Space Science and Technology, Space Utilization and Human Resources. While she’s getting to learn and explore more about the space industry in general, the best part of the role for Lee is the people she’s met along the way.

“Everyone is so welcoming, friendly and humble,” says Lee.

“I think that comes from the leadership top down. It’s honestly very inspiring to be around so many role models. Everyone is passionate about their projects and space. They are always willing to talk to you.”

CSA prioritizes student’s talent and interests

Student hiring is a priority for the Government of Canada and the CSA. According to Roxanne Lessard (she/her), financial analyst at CSA and Lee’s supervisor, several departments at CSA are proud to offer students meaningful experiences by working on projects and initiatives that impact the lives of Canadians.

“Co-op is a great opportunity to merge school knowledge with work experience,” say Lessard. “When we interviewed Angelica, we really loved her enthusiasm and passion for the agency. It’s been such a pleasure to work with her. I don’t think I’ve ever met a student as involved in the organization as Angelica is.”

Main rotunda and the anechoic chamber at the CSA.

As well as fulfilling her duties on the finance team, such as working on transactions for the monthly financial reports, Lee has gotten involved with projects like the Health Beyond Initiative. The initiative aims to support innovative and sustainable solutions to address healthcare challenges astronauts face in deep space. The solutions may also apply to other groups including people living in remote communities in Canada.

Lee’s interest in the project helped to build collaboration among the finance team and other departments. “We were able to navigate how we could collaborate across departments because of Angelica’s request to be involved in the initiative. Her request helped us to branch out across engineering and different teams,” says Lessard.

Taking initiative leads to award nomination

Angelica standing beside her presentation board smilingThe initiative she demonstrated throughout her work terms led Lee to apply for the Women’s Aerospace Network awards. The annual award aims to celebrate women’s professional excellence in aerospace.

“I came across the awards on LinkedIn and saw that you could submit your nomination”, says Lee. “I wanted a bit more exposure, because I would like to work in Europe, so I applied. I didn’t expect it to blow up so big. At the moment, I’m the only Canadian nominee in the student leadership category.”

Lee encourages her fellow co-op students to continue reaching for their dreams and not letting their current programs dictate where they work. As an AFM student, Lee could have chosen to only apply to jobs at major financial institutions. Instead, she applied to a wide variety of positions outside of the financial industry. She encourages other co-op students to be open to roles outside of typical industries for their program.

“Use the versatility of your education to jump into any industry you’re passionate about. Our program is so unique that we can work anywhere,” says Lee.