Enabling students to become well-rounded professionals is a big part of how an American technology company is making a name for itself with University of Waterloo co-op students.
San Francisco-based Splunk, which describes itself as the Data-to-Everything Platform, offers co-op students the opportunity for growth through real-work experience, professional development and work-life balance.
“For us, it’s about helping (students) grow their career and setting them up in a good way,” says Jesse Chor, head of mobile engineering at Splunk. “It’s a long-term view, we want to create opportunities for them to come back full-time and give something exciting. I think the biggest thing we focus on is well-roundedness. When we have a student, we look at the résumé, we look at what’s missing, what were terms that have done in the past. It’s really rounding them out, so they have a more filled-out skill set.”
A leader in big data, machine learning and edge computing, Splunk gives businesses a complete view of their data outcomes in real time. But what sets them apart at Waterloo is the exceptional experience they offer their co-op students.
Splunk is the first-ever Impact on Student Experience winner as part of the Waterloo Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) Employer Impact Awards. This award winner was chosen through votes from Waterloo students.
“The fact that University of Waterloo students voted for Splunk to win this award shows just how much impact our student voices can make – and how much co-op employers like Splunk encourage them to be strong, capable and career ready talent with the potential to be future global leaders,” says Ross Johnston, executive director of Co-operative Education.
Workshops on topics such as career development and even taxes are also a part of the student experience, according to Chor.
“We do a lot of things where hopefully it’s a very essential skill, especially in today’s environment,” says Chor. “We help students really grow more in common areas that they might need down the road.”
“(Co-op students) bring a lot of energy and a new dynamic environment. There's also the diversity aspect, it's great bringing people from different backgrounds, different cultures. Being able to come learn, but also help us learn from them is huge.”
The organization aims to empower its younger workforce by trusting them with critical projects and or missions that aligns with their previous experiences and skills.
“When I thought about it, I’d split the work environment for a co-op into two really unique aspects, the first is opportunity,” says Dylan Conway, a Systems Design Engineering graduate. “You know Splunk really trusts you, despite being a student, despite being in year one, two, three, four or five. They really value your input and take the time to listen and incorporate your feedback.” Conway is now a full-time employee at Splunk.
“I think what makes Splunk really different is just the quality of people working there, everyone is so on board with us,” says Jim Zhu, a fellow full-time employee and Computer Science graduate. “(Splunk) is committed to helping us succeed and working with us to make ourselves like better. Everyone on our entire team is super smart and they're always so focused on helping us improve our skills, and really sharing the knowledge that they've gained through their experiences to helping us succeed as interns.”
Waterloo and Splunk
“I think being from Waterloo, (I’m) biased, but Waterloo is absolutely the best in the world,” Chor says.
Splunk provides a culture and environment that supports a rich learning experience, which is a key driver for success as co-op students prepare to graduate and enter the workforce.
“I look at who’s going to have my job one day, and how do I get them there,” says Chor on developing students. “I’m really excited about our full-time conversions, which is our first batch of co-op students. They’re already helping is recruit the next generation of co-op students.”
Splunk also focuses on giving its students a more well-rounded portfolio of skills when they have completed their work terms.
Q & A with Jesse Chor, head of mobile engineering, Splunk
Why does Splunk come to Waterloo to hire co-op students?
I think being from Waterloo (I’m) biased but Waterloo is absolutely the best in the world. So we go to schools, you name it, we've been there and I think it is the killer combination of maybe the Canadian humility, but also the hungriness to learn and be able to back it up into real things. It's unique to Waterloo to have that skillset and the critical mass and the caliber of students, so it's kind of all those things. But in my opinion, Waterloo is second to none. More importantly, it's like are we creating the right environment, experience and opportunity for them to make it attractive because let's face it, it's very competitive. The students have a lot of choices. For us, it's really making sure that we have all the right things for them, and to be a desirable place for them to join.
How does Splunk enable co-op students to learn and develop their skills?
I think it is kind of the other way around. We want to get out of their way. I think we give them the right opportunity and intersection of things for them to do and give them the right support.
For us, it's more about finding opportunities for students to really be invested in what they're interested in, and then it's like “okay you got the space to own and come back with something.” It's more like we turn around the students and give them the support they need to seize the opportunity.
What does Splunk hope co-op students take away from their work term?
I really look at myself like when I look back at my co-op work terms, it's kind of this highlight reel of things I really liked, and, you know, I really want to bring those elements to Splunk. When we created this program from scratch two years ago, we really thought about what we can do to bring opportunities so students can really flourish. What I hope is when students look back and think Splunk was just an amazing place an amazing time for them to be a part of, and hopefully that they have very fond memories. Or even better, they come join us full-time. that's what I'm really aiming for.
How do Waterloo co-op students make Splunk more innovative or future-proof?
I really look at myself like when I look back at my co-op work terms, it's kind of this highlight reel of things I really liked, and, you know, I really want to bring those elements to Splunk. When we created this program from scratch two years ago, we really thought about what we can do to create opportunities so students can really flourish. What I hope is when students look back and think, Splunk was just an amazing place and an amazing time for them to be a part of, and hopefully they have very fond memories. Or even better, they come join us full-time. That's what I'm really aiming for.
What was something a Waterloo student has done for Splunk that had a significant impact?
I look at who's going to have my job one day and how do I get them there. I’m excited about our recent full-time conversions, which is our first batch of co-op students. They're already helping us recruit the next generation of co-op students to join and so I can already see the path of how.
For me, that’s the true impact of really maintaining the co-op spirit and growing its reputation and job opportunities. That’s the impact I’m seeing, basically people on the path to eventually having my job, or maybe even being my future manager, I’m super excited about that perspective.
Why is it so important for Splunk to provide valuable experience to its co-op students?
(Co-op students) bring a lot of energy and a new dynamic environment. There's also the diversity aspect, it's great bringing together people from different backgrounds and different cultures. Being able to come learn, but also help us learn from them is huge. I think a more important aspect is probably the fact that they are the future of our company. When you think about the future leaders and where they are going to come from and how we can improve them and help them grow, its co-op programs that are the best way to go.
What opportunities does Splunk offer its co-op students to further help their careers?
Career development growth and support is important, and we think about that from a very early stage. So when co-ops first start, we actually have a program where we talk about early career track growth and explain the trade-offs between people who are on this accelerated path and move up really fast, or people on a more slow and steady path. We do a lot of workshops on career development. We also try to strike work-life balance. So even things like taxes and career counselling, we do a lot that too.
We at Splunk do not file taxes for (students), but we have a lot of nice alumni that help basically with workshops and talks about taxes, and there’s some unique things about a Canadian working in an American company.
It’s not just about your career necessarily, but it’s more how do you be more of a well-rounded person in other areas like public speaking.
How does giving students creative freedom help foster innovation at Splunk?
I think the way to spark freedom and creativity is through restraints.
By giving serious challenges and opportunities, that kind of forces innovation. For example, if you had any infinite resources, infinite opportunity, you’re like “I don’t know where to start,” are kind of in the glut.
Whereas when you have a constraint like “this has to be done by the end of your work term.” If you sequence it back, there's a series of milestones and steps you need to do, which really kind of forces focus. Like most innovations, it's really challenges that squeeze the neat out of it and yield some amazing things. So, I think having the right constraints and opportunity in that intersection is what yields a lot of the great innovations that we see.