Software Engineering 2021

Corbin McElhanney

Hi there! My name is Corbin, and I’m in 2B Software Engineering (graduating in 2021). I went to high school in Calgary, Alberta, where I was an avid debater, frequent face in student government, and a recreational badminton player. I went to a K-12 school from Kindergarten through Grade 12, and came to Waterloo as the only student from my graduating class. I’ve since settled in very well here, and will alternate between work terms abroad and school terms in Waterloo until the end of my program. I’m planning to go on exchange next year (location to be determined), and will continue to explore my field through electives and the many connections I’ve formed at Waterloo.

Waterloo Engineering in one word:

Enlightening.

I chose Waterloo Engineering because:

The biggest reason I went with Waterloo was because of co-op. Other factors like having a cohort, going to a tech-focused community, and picking a program that would challenge me also played key roles, but in the end, having 6 work terms to go wherever you want is an incredible opportunity that I felt was not matched by any other program I considered. I also did as much research as I could into how industry perceived the programs I was considering, and again found Waterloo to be the clear winner. Especially in more pragmatic disciplines like Software Engineering, Waterloo’s entire program structure is built to prepare you for the real world. It’s not just co-op; it’s the classes we take, the seminars we’re invited to, and the leaders we have on campus. Everything is focused around making well-rounded people that not only know how to write code, but can provide insight into real-world software.

The best thing about my program is:

Coming out of high school, I knew with a high degree of certainty that I wanted to go into software development. While there are other programs at Waterloo that offer training in this area, Software Engineering seemed to be the most obvious choice because of the courses we take and the way the program is structured. The best part of this program so far has to be the cohort: having an entire class going through the exact same experience as you helps to ease the transition from high school. We developed very close ties with others in our cohort, and this meant we are able to learn together. During our first term, that meant learning what university life looked like. When we applied for our first jobs, it meant learning how to navigate resumes, cover letters, interviews, and businesses. By now, it’s about learning how the larger tech ecosystem is growing and evolving, and where we see ourselves fitting into that picture.

About Co-op:

I did my last co-op at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond (near Seattle). I worked on a small, relatively new team under Azure Big Data that was tasked with creating tools to track data privacy across all data stores within the Microsoft ecosystem. I had a blast there: my work was highly relevant to many of the central questions the tech industry faces today, and I had the opportunity to learn how one of the biggest players in the field is grappling with those dilemmas. Microsoft did a great job of making the interns feel welcomed in Seattle, and I also spent pretty much all my weekends exploring the city and surrounding areas with friends from Microsoft and other students from Waterloo who had come to Seattle. You realize very quickly that four months is not a lot of time to explore a totally new city, but there was always plenty to keep us entertained.

I wish I had known before I came:

One of the most important pieces of advice I received when I got here was to join clubs – liberally at first. I felt well-prepared mentally for the transition to university because I had heard so much about it from so many different people, but when the reality hits you it can still be very overwhelming. For me, I felt lost without the social network I had grown used to at home. You’ll have lots of spare time in the few days before classes start, and while everyone around me was meeting up with friends from high school or older siblings, I had pretty much nothing. One piece of advice that’s always given in situations like these is to join clubs. I followed that advice, and continued to join and leave clubs for about 6 months until I found something I was truly passionate about. After that, I haven’t looked back, and now I feel just as established in Waterloo as I ever did in Calgary.

Outside the classroom, I’m involved with:

  • Hack the North (https://hackthenorth.com)
  • Engineering Society (https://www.engsoc.uwaterloo.ca/)
  • Squash, badminton, running (all recreational)
  • Engineering Ambassadors

One more thing about me:

Before I left high school I was converted from TF2 to Overwatch :)

Contact me: cmcelhanney@uwaterloo.ca

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo