An introduction to working remotely as a University of Waterloo co-op
Learning to pivot and adopt new skills while gaining work-experience from home
Learning to pivot and adopt new skills while gaining work-experience from homeBy Ryan Aldous University Relations
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, I was concerned about my job security.
I had just been accepted for a position with the Government Relations (GR) team at the University of Waterloo for my upcoming Spring co-op term, and I was worried, like many others, that my job would be cancelled before it ever began. Fortunately, the University of Waterloo and GR team were able to welcome me so I could continue my co-op journey, even if it meant everything would be done remotely.
Looking back on my Spring Term co-op experience, I realize there's many advantages that come with it being online. Of course, it would've been great to be in the same room with my team, but there’s a lot to be said for not having to commute back-and-forth from campus every day. Not only did I get an extra hour of sleep in the morning, I sometimes (okay ... often) got to pair my work shirt with sweatpants (something I would never normally do in the office).
Like any new job, I wrestled with a couple learning curves. I found that using Microsoft Teams (our platform of choice for staying connected at the University) for meetings took some getting used to, but quickly became routine. As long as my home internet connection holds, I had access to all of the information I needed to do my job — and even when my Wi-Fi gave me trouble, my team was patient and understanding. My coworkers were great too. Even if I didn't get to be with them in-person, I was supported by everyone on the team and felt immersed in the culture, that quite frankly, was just as engaging as I’d imagined an in-person experience would've been.
As part of the Waterloo Government Relations team, I had a unique opportunity to learn about the University and its various parts. As students, we're immersed in our subject areas, assignments and network with our professors. It would be easy to spend four or five years on campus and have no idea just how wide-reaching, diverse and intricate Waterloo s expertise really is. For example, part of my job was to compile stories and articles for local politicians that focused on all the great work the University was doing and put them into a newsletter. Tasks like these allowed me to highlight the contributions that faculty and students are making towards our community and the world, while developing my technical skills through the creation of digital media content.
Being online also provided me with extra time to brush up on other skills. A free resource that I often used was one of Waterloo’s online skill development courses called, “Introduction to Digital Marketing.” It’s one of five, free online courses offered by Waterloo as part of their initiative to prepare students for the digital workplace. The course taught me about the fundamentals of creating digital media content, while giving examples and resources to guide its user through successful implementation. I would highly recommend these courses to anyone who is looking to improve their skills in the ever-changing workplace environment.
Although the thought of an entirely online co-op term sounded daunting initially, I quickly realized that both students and employers still receive many of the same benefits — maybe even some new benefits that were undiscovered before (like getting to work in your sweatpants!). With the remote support from my team and the vast selection of resources the University offers its students during this transitional time, it helped me learn to adapt to this new normal, one that's providing me with transferable experiences that will benefit my future.