Celebrating a 40-year career journey that started with co-op

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

UWaterloo Math alum, Don Phillips holding a cheque with the co-op student recipient, Steven Cresswell

By: Krista Henry

For Donald Phillips, his lifetime career began with a co-op work term as a student at Waterloo. He started his first role in the late 1970s and found his passion with education technology (EdTech).

Don Phillips headshot
Donald Phillips (B’Math 82)
Chief product strategist at XAP Corporation

“I’m a work-based learning success story!” says Phillips (B’Math 82), chief product strategist at XAP Corporation. “I often tell people about my experience at the University of Waterloo’s co-op education and how successful that was, setting me up for my career.” Phillips started his career at Canada Systems Group (CSG) as a co-op student in his first work term as a systems engineer. He completed all six of his work terms at XAP and, upon graduation, earned himself a full-time position with the company in Ottawa.

Through many company acquisitions, Phillips stayed with the organization and was promoted. When the company opened an office in Kelowna, British Columbia he moved with them from his home in Ottawa. Today, XAP is an EdTech pioneer in the United States providing school districts and individual schools with online tools for students to explore careers.


 Making a difference

For Phillips, staying at XAP for 40 years was an easy decision.
“I worked with students to set life goals for their careers. I liked it because you’re helping people,” he says. “We like to say aim high, dream big and everything’s open to you. We have been doing this for a long time. While technology has changed, our goal remains to help students understand themselves. To match them with what’s possible in the world of work.”

Phillips credits his background in mathematics for part of his success. At Waterloo, he learned pure mathematics, computer science and business which provided him with a great foundation. “At my co-op job I assisted clients with technical needs and responded to RFPs (Request for Proposals). It was a great student job!” says Phillips. “Once full time, I branched into the development of career and education planning software. Soon, I managed my own team of product developers,” he adds.

Don Philips at his graduation from the University of Waterloo Math program in 1982


Supporter of co-operative experiences

The company hired many co-op students, several of which stayed on full time, to bring new innovations. When the company moved to Kelowna, finding co-op students to work in-person became more challenging. However, Phillips hopes that students will once again come onboard to assist in today’s remote work environment.

“We often talk about how to evolve our team. About how to get great ideas, especially for our target audience, which is students. Co-op students are like peers and bring in fresh ideas, more contemporary tech expertise. Hiring co-op students is doing social good. You invest in students with great employment opportunities. The quality of students that go to Waterloo provides great candidates.”

- Don Phillips (B’Math 82), Chief product strategist at XAP Corporation 

A new chapter

With his upcoming retirement in May, Phillips and his wife are looking forward to new adventures. “Waterloo set me up on a path for my career and is where I met my wife. I have nothing but thanks to everyone for our experience and what it has done for me. We still have friends at Waterloo from our program and they all continue to thrive,” he adds.

alyssa's headshot

Connect with our Co-op Specialist, Alyssa!

She can provide you with guidance and answer questions you may have about hiring from Waterloo.

Email: alyssa.kuron@uwaterloo.ca
Phone: 226-972-3821