Tabbed for change: Student provides innovative solutions for Geotab

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Internet of Things (IoT) with the Geotab logo

By: Namish Modi

When Tony McIntyre began a work term at Geotab, he was tasked by his manager to search for something that could help improve at the organization.

McIntyre is a Systems Design Engineering student at the University of Waterloo who has worked multiple terms at Geotab. He believed there was room for improvement when it came to connecting with colleagues.

“COVID struck, which obviously changed office dynamics quite a bit, and it actually gave the perfect business case to develop this chat room,” he explains.

McIntyre created a virtual networking interface — or chat room — using automation and bots to fill the gap that is left by not bumping into colleagues in an office setting. He began work on the project during one of his work terms, and it was fully implemented after he finished his work term. McIntyre’s ability to code gave 319 Geotab employees the option to network, further improving the organizations’ culture. The program is called Tabr, inspired by the name the organization calls its staff, Geotabbers.

“It was really great to see an idea that I brought up, just in meeting with my manager, be released to the entire office and make a really large impact in our ability to communicate.”

- Tony McIntyre, Systems Design Engineering co-op student

Geotab is a global leader in IoT (internet of things) that provides web-based analytics to help customers better manage their fleets, enhance driver safety and achieve compliance. Each term, the organization employs between 40 and 50 co-op students as part of their Campus Program, which is key to their operations. Over the past year, Geotab has hired 49 Waterloo co-op students.

A key component of the Campus Program at Geotab is providing autonomy and creative freedom to students, which results in outstanding ideas and innovation.

“Incorporating co-ops into the innovation process is the foundation of what we do at Geotab,” says Melanie Scheepers, associate vice-president of human resources at Geotab.

Geotab trophy image

McIntyre, along with several other students, excelled at Geotab by bringing a fresh perspective and highlighting why he is an asset for the future workforce. Over the past year, Geotab hired 30 former co-op students into full-time roles.

Geotab provides outstanding opportunities for students, and as a result, is the recipient of the 2020 Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) Employer Impact Award for Impact in Innovation.

“Geotab is a remarkable example of how empowering students can equip them with the confidence they need to excel and to provide innovative solutions to challenges in the workplace,” says Norah McRae, associate provost of CEE.

“By giving students the opportunity to show the results of their critical thinking, and by offering opportunities for them to implement new ideas or solutions, Geotab is helping students better prepare for their future career.”


Tabbed with impactful opportunities

Scheepers shares an example of how a Waterloo co-op student provided an innovative approach. A student was trying to better connect customers with their vehicles.  A few weeks later, that student came back with a different, improved approach which the organization agreed with and implemented.

“The fact that a student was able to get such hands-on experience to change that feature, while also working along side our senior leadership team to make it happen, was something that truly made a difference for him during his work term,” says Scheepers.

Geotab encourages students to challenge the status quo and find ways to help them improve operations during their work term. As part of their work terms, students are consistently relied upon to go beyond the status quo and look for ways to help improve operations.

In 2020, the organization launched the Geotab Student Challenge. As part of the challenge, students are placed in teams of three or four to work and find innovative solutions to existing business solutions. Students look at things like how to reduce waste and how to improve the customer experience.

One student was tasked with considering ideas for how fleet customers could access a vehicle. Normally, Geotab would use plastic NFC tags to access cars, but they recognized that most users have a smart phone. The student used background information from customer interviews/user stories to build a use case to develop Bluetooth access to the vehicles. Doing so would make things easier for customers. The new project was given the go-ahead after the student presented the idea to the CEO.

Who is hired?

Waterloo students are hired from several programs to work at Geotab, including Computer Science, Math, Science and Business, Engineering and Environment.

Two full-time employees oversee the Campus Program at the organization which includes career-building opportunities for students like resume-building and learning sessions about personal finance and time management.

“At Geotab, we place a lot of emphasis on learning and skills development. It's one of our philosophies and core values here in the organization. When a new student or team member joins Geotab, we want to make it explicit that they have opportunities to work with managers and leaders to grow as a professional.”

- Melanie Scheepers, associate vice-president of HR at Geotab.

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