By: Krista Henry (she/her)

Attracting top-tier emerging tech talent isn't easy for newer companies. For Rocket Innovation Studio (RIS), partnering with the University of Waterloo gave them an "in" to fill roles with student talent.

Launched in 2019, RIS has made its mark in the Canadian fintech industry. With the help of co-op students, RIS builds customized information technology (IT) solutions for businesses. RIS hires Mathematics and Engineering co-op students as software developers each term.

Students have been a tremendous asset. They are not just working on the periphery but delivering actual software. We’ve had outstanding students! When they return to school it’s like losing a full-time team member.

Agostino DiPietro, director of software development at RIS

Agostino DiPietro headshot, director of software development at RIS

Agostino DiPietro (he/him), director of software development at RIS

From user experience to back-end and front-end infrastructure development, co-op students are contributing in a variety of ways. Students working at RIS learn throughout their work term by working on different technologies than those they’ve been exposed to in the classroom.

“The field is always changing dramatically, and I always tell students that what you’re learning now doesn’t mean that’s what we’re going to be using two-to-three years from now,” DiPietro adds.

At RIS, senior software developers mentor co-op students as they work on the same tasks as full-time developers. Co-op students from Waterloo often ramp up quickly to achieve goals and expectations.

“We set a high level of expectations on what we want them to do and reiterate with them that what they learn in school, they now must translate to the workplace,” says DiPietro. “They are working on a lot of artificial intelligence (AI) related projects for example and different cloud technologies.”

Creating a positive experience

This spring, RIS is celebrating their five-year anniversary with the RIS Olympics that will include their Waterloo co-op students and staff. The event includes team lunches and multiple games.

“It’s a whole experience working with us. And our environment is what sets us apart from all the competitors," says DiPietro.

Waterloo Computer Science co-op student Domenico Didiano (he/him) has experienced the RIS culture first-hand. Didiano has worked for the company for five consecutive work terms.

“The magnetic culture of the company is what draws me back, time and again,” says Didiano.

“Team members collaborate on more than just work. They also care about the success and well-being of their peers. I’ve grown my professional toolkit every term as I’m free to explore, learn and excel in any skill I set my sights on. Everyone works together with the support of the company to develop our professional and technical skills to move forward with our career goals."

RIS values working with co-op students and the University of Waterloo. The company’s current CEO, Varun Krishna, is a Waterloo computer engineering alum. RIS actively participates in campus activities like student presentations, career fairs and more to get in front of top candidates.

Domenico Didiano headshot, Waterloo Computer Science co-op student

Domenico Didiano (he/him), Waterloo Computer Science co-op student

Through the university, we bring in top-quality students. And the students that have worked with us have helped spread our name to other students. They act as brand advocates by talking about the work they do. When we think of Waterloo, quality is the first thing that comes to mind. My goal as we get bigger and grow, is to bring in more students.

Agostino DiPietro