Software Engineering 2021

Introduce yourself briefly:

Hi there! My name is Corbin, and I’m in 4A Software Engineering (graduating in April 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.

Corbin McElhanney

Waterloo Engineering in one word:


I choose 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 were 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 my Co-op experience:

I am currently on co-op at a quantum computing company jointly partnered with MIT and Harvard. Their office is in Boston, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm working remotely from my home in Calgary. My day-to-day work involves using numerical optimization to discover efficient algorithm implementations for quantum computers, as well as some analytical work in related algorithm discovery. In prior co-ops, I worked at a cybersecurity company on novel strategies to detect unwanted automation in Mountain View (near San Francisco), a 20-person startup in San Francisco developing deep learning technology for large retail stores, the GDPR compliance team under Azure at Microsoft in Redmond (near Seattle), and on power-saving features for what was at the time AMD’s latest Radeon graphics driver. One of the best parts of my co-op experiences has been the opportunities I’ve had to explore new cities. It’s incredible to be surrounded by people who go to such a wide array of companies and locations, and I feel that they are responsible for a significant part of my learning here at Waterloo.

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 (
  • Engineering Society (
  • WATonomous (UWaterloo's autonomous vehicle team)
  • Squash, badminton, running (all recreational)
  • Engineering Ambassadors

One more thing about me:

I've played violin for quite a while and continue to really enjoy music :)

Contact me:

University of Waterloo