Recruiting from down the street: Arts students excel in Waterloo-born tech organization BlackBerry

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

team photo of Blackberry co-op students

What Maddie Whibbs enjoys most about her role at BlackBerry is the ability to give students at her alma mater a stab at impactful work experiences.

By: Namish Modi (he/him)

Whibbs (BA ‘14), who didn’t have the option to pursue a co-op degree during her time as a Warrior, was thrilled when she heard about the co-op program being expanded for all Honours Arts students at the University of Waterloo.

“I think this is such a huge asset to the program,” says Whibbs, talent acquisition lead at BlackBerry.

From bridging gaps with the technical sector to tremendous interpersonal skills, Arts students continue to be standouts at the Waterloo-born company, which has longstanding ties with the university.

Whibbs feels a strong connection to Waterloo and enjoys giving well-earned opportunities to the school’s students.

“I don’t feel like I give (Waterloo students) a chance, just being a Waterloo student is an advantage to them,” says Whibbs. “There’s my bias coming through, but it’s a great school.”

“The coolest part of my job is to give students an opportunity to start them off with their new job.”

Despite being a tech company, Whibbs says Arts students are a fantastic fit at the organization because of their ability to communicate, be adaptable and display flexibility.

She adds that those soft skills are helped by Waterloo’s curriculum as well as the flexibility associated with the program. In Honours Arts, a high number of elective courses allows students to chart their own path.

“You can teach tech, you can teach how to use a program, or how to use a coding language,” Whibbs adds. “What you can’t teach are some of the soft skills. Professional communication, negotiation; you can’t teach those, especially in a four-month window. I think that’s what Arts students bring to the table, and I think that’s what makes them a true asset to a tech company like BlackBerry.”

Arts students have found success in roles such as technical writer, sales and strategy, customer support and human resources. 

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They’re successful in many different areas — they are diverse and bring a diverse skill set to the table. That’s what sets Arts students apart.



Like most companies, BlackBerry’s student employees are working remotely amid COVID-19.

Arts students’ ability to communicate and manage time effectively has made for a smoother transition to working virtually.

“Yes, yes, yes,” says Whibbs, enthusiastically, when asked about Arts students and their ability to work effectively without that daily in-person interaction. Meanwhile, these strong communication skills are further exhibited in the students’ ability to thrive in roles such as technical writer.

They’re able to translate more complex language into simpler terms, which Whibbs says, is an important gap to fill especially in tech-heavy companies.

“They’re able to read documents, do the research, find out what the tech lingo is trying to get across to our end users and then rephrase it in a way with their strong communication skills, so that the average user or end-user to our system can understand it.”

Learn more about the impact Waterloo Arts students can make at your organization.

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