Through its reputation and ability to provide impactful work, Google remains a local staple employer for University of Waterloo co-op students and an essential part of a booming downtown tech core.
“Waterloo anchors Canada’s tech corridor,” says Kaitlyn Barnett (BSc’ 14), a Google campus outreach program manager. “Being in Kitchener-Waterloo is super valuable. We need to be here to attract and retain talent in Canada. It’s key to Google Waterloo’s success.”
Google’s Waterloo offices are its biggest centre in Canada. Google Waterloo engineers have helped develop notable products like Chrome and Gmail. Since opening in downtown Kitchener, there have been 211 work terms for Waterloo co-op students. Worldwide since 2004, there have been more than 1,000 Waterloo work terms at Google.
Construction is underway for a fourth Google building in Waterloo Region, with an 11-storey building on the corner of Breithaupt Street and Moore Avenue in downtown Kitchener.
The first Google office in the region was located at David Johnston Research & Technology Park at the University of Waterloo’s north campus. In 2011, Google moved to the Tannery in Kitchener and eventually moved to its primary location on Breithaupt Street.
Barnett believes that the University of Waterloo, which houses one of the bigger engineering and computer science programs and with one of the world’s largest co-op programs, makes it a good source of talent. “Waterloo Region, through its booming startup industry and hubs like Communitech and the Accelerator Centre, makes the area appealing for Google,” says Barnett. She was a Waterloo co-op student herself.
“(Google Waterloo) is a key engineering site for Canada, so it attracts a lot of talent,” says Barnett. “I think having proximity to the University of Waterloo and sourcing talent from the school helps us to build a pipeline of talent.”
Google hosts developmental workshops, alumni panels and interview workshops with Waterloo students that help retain and attract future-ready talent.
“You hear amazing things about Google from literally anybody you talk to anywhere,” says Hima Sheth, a second-year Computer Science student working as a software developer intern in spring 2022 at Google Waterloo. “I think Google’s reputation as such a huge engineering organization is a huge factor when picking a co-op role.”
Barnett, speaking from personal experience, says, “the co-op program is hugely beneficial and gives students an edge when searching for jobs in the workforce post-graduation.”
“There are so many professional development skills that come out of being a co-op student that I attribute immensely to my career trajectory,” Barnett says.
What do Waterloo students bring to Google?
As Google Waterloo offices continue to grow, so do the opportunities for co-op students.
This spring, more than 20 students were working for Google locally. Currently, students are working in a hybrid model, with some days spent in the office and other days remote.
“I think students are happy to be back on site,” says Kerri Kudsia, intern staffing partner at Google Waterloo.
Kudsia found Waterloo students to be adaptive and willing to shift to remote work when it was necessary in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“I think hybrid offers flexibility. We have seen the success of hybrid as a key factor to how the future of the workforce is going,” Barnett says. “Of course, still having that in-person component allows for collaboration and community building.”
Waterloo’s standout students take on several roles at Google Waterloo, including software developers, engineers, UX engineers and technical research interns.
Luna Xiaowan Lu (BCS’ 16) worked as a co-op student at multiple Google offices and is now a full-time software developer at the Waterloo Google office.
Lu says: “There are many benefits of working at Google as a co-op student, including learning a standard way to do things which helped prepare me for a career at the organization.”
Through her work at Google, Lu became a better coder overall while working with more complex servers. The company culture, which is welcoming and helpful, persuaded her to pursue a full-time role at the organization.
“Once I had Google on my resume, it made it a lot easier for me to find future co-op jobs,” says Lu, who also had co-op work terms at research labs and startup organizations. “The environment at Google was supportive and helped me become a much more positive student in general.”
Lu believes having a variety of work projects makes Google appealing. She worked on Cloud infrastructure in one co-op term and on Google ads in another co-op term.
Sheth agrees that working on projects that have a real impact makes co-op terms that much better. In her role, Sheth writes design documents and works on the web side of her product.
“The sheer responsibility they trust you with is pretty amazing,” Sheth says. “I’ve learned to appreciate aspects of development like coding quality and readability, and it has opened my eyes a little bit more about what problems exist in the world and what problems people are trying to solve.”