Conrad's Bridging Entrepreneurs to Students (BETS) program is a specialized co-op program which connects first year engineering co-op students with seed and early stage startup companies for 16 week placements. In this post, Winter 2017 BETS students and BETS employer Gamelynx share how the program worked for them this term.
BETS from the startup side
Using cutting-edge web technology, Gamelynx creates games and interactive experiences that bring people together for face-to-face play. We combine all the fun and social interaction of party and card games with the convenience and power of mobile web gaming to create a new hybrid gaming experience that is easily accessible at www.gamelynx.gg.
At Gamelynx, the BETS students, Sarthak Bhatnagar and Kevin Guo brought a huge injection of energy to our team. They were eager to learn, and we saw over the term that our investment in teaching them paid off. We emphasized the importance of resourcefulness and taking initiative, and they were quick to learn lots and make progress on their tasks. The students contributed by building new internal tools for our company and adding high-demand features in our first game Wisecrack.
This outrageous party game works by asking and answering questions anonymously and picking your favourite response. Each player takes turns asking questions as the judge, and everyone gets 45 seconds to put in their most entertaining answer. We got lots of feedback that the 45 second timer counting down the time to submit your answer can be stressful, but we didn't want to lose the fast-paced nature of the game. We worked with Kevin and Sarthak to solve this issue, and they fixed it completely with their contributions. Here are some highlights:
- Sarthak added the 'Collect answers' feature, which gives the judge the ability to wait past the 45 seconds timer for their friends to finish typing, so everyone gets a chance to get in on the fun!
- Kevin created the 'Change your answer' feature, allowing people to edit their answers after they've already submitted in case of a mistake or a last minute improvement!
As a result, our players are enjoying the game more with the power to perfect their funny responses. As BETS employers, we're thankful for this program as it connects us with talent in a way we're unable to support otherwise. It's no surprise this program works effectively, as even people early in their University of Waterloo journey are already well equipped to learn on the job. It was bittersweet when they moved on to their next placement. We wish them the best in the rest of their co-op career.
From the students' side: Sarthak
As someone who's played thousands of hours of video games growing up, it was inevitable that I dreamed about working for a game company. After all the stress of completing my first academic term at the University of Waterloo, finding out that I had been matched with Gamelynx for my first rotation as a BETS student simply blew my mind. I got to know the founders of Gamelynx, Alexander and Carter during Ignition Week and immediately assumed that they would be the coolest employers. My assumption was totally correct.
They started me off by giving me a bunch of documentation and a couple of courses to help me familiarize myself with the languages they use for development. After just a week, me and my co-worker, Kevin, started digging around the codebase. Our first tasks were to update the Readme file with steps on how to start up your own local version of the website. By then, coding wasn't the only thing I was learning; I was also learning how to use a new operating system as I had to install Ubuntu. Since all of it was new to me, I learned a lot through Google searches.
Even though this is not a conventional way to learn programming, it does bring an added sense of achievement. It may be harder to code right away when you’re learning something new, but as soon as you're done with your very first task, you have dug deep enough into the code to see how the other things work, and drawing out similar logic from that is not that hard. As a Computer Engineering student, I had very little exposure to web related technologies, and most of what I knew had been self-taught. In my work at Gamelynx, I continually applied more of my knowledge as I learned more.
Apart from all the coding, I learned a lot about board games. We occasionally play board games on Friday evenings for “research,” thinking about the limitations of the physical version of the game that could be overcame using our platform. Now, I don't simply look at a game's visuals and gameplay; I also think about the thought that went into certain features and decisions.
My ten weeks with Gamelynx have been wonderful, and I didn't think I would enjoy working as much as this. If I hadn’t made the decision to take the BETS position, I probably wouldn't have had the chance to work at the Velocity Garage and network, learn, and improve upon my weaknesses like I can right now. We recently released our very first patch notes for Wisecrack (one of our games), and I'm delighted to have been a part of it
It makes me happy that I can tell people that my first ever job was with a game company.
From the students' side: Kevin
With no previous experience working with most of the languages and tools that Gamelynx used, my onboarding included a lot of learning. I read documentation, did some code academy courses, and setup my development environment. Through the process, Carter and Alexander were a great help. They have a great work culture that encourages questions, and they checked up on my progress often and were available to help.
I soon got into the codebase and started working on some small features, which helped me hone my skills as a developer. I started off with very small tasks but gradually moved onto larger, more impactful tasks. The first task that I worked on from scratch was an admin page for Wisecrack. It was a great chance for me to use everything I had learned up to that point. I got to learn UI design while gaining practice with the development tools and languages I was using. I felt quite proud with the finished product, and I believe I’ve come a long way as a software developer from a non-coding background.
The Gamelynx team is what really made the experience special. We played board games as a team and contributed to team meetings about possible future games. I had a great time with Gamelynx: the team was helpful and generous, and the experience helped me grow as a developer.
Get involved with the BETS program as a student or employer.