Summer co-op, WFH style

Monday, August 31, 2020
by Jessica S., AFM

Acclimating to a new virtual reality while working for the Boston Consulting Group

My name is Jessica and I’m a 4A student in Accounting and Financial Management program (AFM). My past co-op experiences have been wide-ranging, including audit, investment banking, and working at a hedge fund. This summer, I was supposed to work at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as a summer associate, getting exposure to the types of cases that I would be working on if I went back full-time. However, when COVID-19 hit, I wasn’t sure if I would even have a co-op employer. I’m grateful that BCG decided to honour their commitment and took it a step further to offer a second option —the Social Impact Ambassadorship, where I would have the opportunity to work directly with a not-for-profit organization (NPO). 

Jessica, School of Accounting and Finance
After getting to know more about Up With Women, the charity I ended up working with, it was an easy choice and it’s been an experience that will stay with me forever. I’ve never worked with an NPO before, so this coupled with being on-boarded remotely served up a few challenges. That being said, here are my top five tips for excelling in a co-op job while working from home (WFH).

  1. Set up a 1-1 chat with your manager every week. This may get pushed back, but always try to reschedule it right away! I found that having a dedicated time for me to ask my manager questions allowed me to stay on track and receive guidance about the direction I was moving in.
  2. Always Google something on your own before asking! Often, others have had the exact same issue as you (whether it be trying to index match or changing a setting in MailChimp). That way when you do need to reach out for help, you have a list of things you’ve already tried yourself. Of course, balance is key: if it takes you half a day to research a problem, but someone else could help you solve it in 10 minutes, ask for help!
  3. Try to leave 5-10 minutes in between calls if you can. For example, I found that having meetings straight through from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. made me feel very tired later in the afternoon. Since I know I’m susceptible to after-lunch lethargy, I try to have meetings in the morning or around 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to keep me focused!
  4. Set up a good workspace. My desk at home had plenty of light and having a second monitor did wonders for my productivity.
  5. Join in (or even plan) team social events! Even though it’s really not the same, it was still fun to do virtual drinks or play Codenames with my colleagues and peers at BCG. Zoom pauses and people talking over one another can be super awkward, but it’s all a learning process that is part of our new normal.

And finally, the biggest thing that I learned overall is that it pays dividends to be human and to be unapologetically myself. I made mistakes and had trouble acclimating to a new work environment; it goes without saying that working at a charity moves at a different pace than a hedge fund (where I had a previous co-op work term)! However, I was honest with my good intentions and managed to build a strong relationship with my team despite the challenges of COVID-19, which ultimately resulted in a fulfilling experience.

Check out my recent Medium post for more learnings from my co-op work term!