By Naz Kittani.
In the late 1980s, Microsoft Canada began hiring University of Waterloo co-op students. Not surprisingly, they mostly hired students from STEM programs on campus. But within just a few years of recruiting from Waterloo, the tech giant did something different.
They hired a Waterloo Faculty of Arts student.
Since then, Microsoft Canada has continued to hire Waterloo co-op students from diverse academic backgrounds.
Tina Wilton, a fourth-year Arts and Business student majoring in speech communication did a co-op work term at Microsoft. As a marketing associate on the developer experience team, she says she was encouraged to apply her creativity to her everyday work. “This role allowed for a lot of creative freedom and helped me to develop a more strategic mindset,” says Wilton.
It isn’t just artistic creativity that can benefit traditionally tech industries. Chirag Sheth, a fourth-year Science and Business student, also had the opportunity to bring his unique skillset to the Microsoft office. “I think many people get discouraged that they don’t have a technical background and therefore can’t work at a technical company,” says Chirag. “In my experience, passion and the ability to problem-solve are just as important.”
Even Bill Gates himself has sung the praises of Waterloo talent. In a 2005 visit to campus, Gates said that some years the company has hired more people from Waterloo than any other university in the world.
What was the best part of working at Microsoft? Both students agree that it was their team at Microsoft who made their work terms extraordinary.
“My favourite part was the community of both co-op students and full-time staff. I had the opportunity to work with so many great people, each of them contributing to my personal and professional growth,” says Sheth.
Wilton echoes these sentiments. “My team quickly became like a family to me,” she says. “Some of my favourite moments were spent hanging out with my team and working on projects together.”
As they both prepare to move forward in their career post-graduation, Wilton and Sheth credit co-op for their confidence in the future. “Co-op has made me realize what I want to do for the rest of my life,” says Wilton. “Each co-op placement has brought me closer to my ideal position.”