Shayla Pal

My co-op experience with the SFU Surrey - TD Community Engagement Centre

By Shayla Pal | December 18, 2020

If I were to be completely honest, I put off searching for my first SIAT (School of interactive arts and technology at SFU) co-op job for quite some time. There was something about jumping from the classroom to a company who will be working with real clients and customers that I did not feel ready for. There is a large difference between homework and work in that the latter will be critiqued and held up to the standards of a reputable industry. Aside from this, I had yet to bridge my own understanding about the relationship between a design and its impact on users.  

When I saw that there was a co-op position open at the SFU Surrey - TD Community Engagement Centre, I found myself feeling excited. I remember volunteering with the TD CEC before, particularly for Halloween. We would take the young children from elementary schools surrounding the SFU Surrey campus area and do trick or treating around our campus. It always lifted my mood so much to see how happy the children were! If my experience as a volunteer was so wonderful, then I was sure working in the office would be just as enjoyable.

I knew I was off to a great start since I was able to work with Trisha Dulku. She was someone who had led my other volunteer opportunities and I greatly admired her confidence and professionalism. My entire team was full of welcoming warmth and kindness. The great thing about working with them is that it helped me break down the walls of anxiety and fear. Suddenly, meeting new people and networking became so much less scary. I came to understand that it was about connection and reaching out to people with an open mind and heart, rather than a competition of who has the most to offer.

Eventually, I came to comprehend the gap between the designer and the user. My job allowed me to see the personal impact of community outreach every single day. The many programs run by the CEC tackle the issues faced every day in our community: accessibility, language barriers, mentorship, technology literacy, and much more. My role within the TD CEC is to assist and build technical connections through social media, manage online marketing, and create technological resources such as videos. These are all vital means of communication and the design makes a huge difference in the level of engagement.

The large and diverse group that comes together through our office allows to me try and make designs that are not only creative but powerful, colourful, and contrasting in a manner that can appeal to young children or older adults. I was lucky to be able to start building my own brand based around what I know about this office for their Instagram page, rather than follow SFU’s branding guidelines as I wanted to diversify my creativity skills. Not only did this co-op position help me push my boundaries on how I understand graphic design, but also how to build something cohesive and recognizable among an audience authentically within SFU.

Even after this position ends… I had so much fun that I know I will be back to do some volunteering. 😉