Co-op Q&A: Cassandra Smith

Cassie Smith (centre, green) with members of the Community Energy and Emissions Plan Steering Committee

Where did you work?

The City of Campbell River, Community Planning and Development Services Department

What was your role (what type of work did you do)? What were some of your responsibilities?

Climate and Energy Specialist. I worked mostly on energy-related projects, primarily, the development of a home energy retrofit rebate program, and the revision of our Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) and its Implementation Strategy. There was a steering committee which I organized and liaised with. I worked closely with the project advisors and we met with key staff from City departments to get a big-picture understanding of the City’s work towards the actions items in the CEEP. Furthermore, I acted as a City liaison for the Youth Action Committee, which serves as a youth voice to Council. I also got brought in on other projects in my department - such as marketing for and working at consultation events for the Official Community Plan (OCP) review, and our Environmental Protection Bylaw educational materials.

How did the skills/knowledge developed in the classroom apply to your job? What did you learn?

Having background knowledge about policy, urban planning, government structure and energy all helped with this role. Also, being able to organize my thoughts around major projects was an important skill. Presentation and report writing skills were also highly beneficial.

Can you share a challenge you faced in your Co-op and how you overcame it?

Getting my colleagues to not just look at me as a student, but as a capable peer. This took asking lots of questions to learn quickly and using every opportunity to grow and expand my work tasks. I also made sure to stay on top of anything asked of me. When I got to start working on different projects with a variety of people, I got show them I was capable and reliable.

What was your most memorable Co-op experience?

Getting to fly back to Vancouver for a home energy retrofit program workshop with other municipalities from across B.C. I even got to speak about my program with the group. A lot of the attendees were people I had met over the phone and email and it was a great networking opportunity and I felt like I was playing with the big dogs in the municipal energy conservation world… sounds nerdy but it was exciting.

What have you learned through your Co-op experience?

I have learned how municipalities work – the politics, the way things are organized, the schedules, the structure, and even what various departments contribute to make their City function and succeed. I have also learned a lot about Community Energy and Emissions Plans in particular, and struggles municipalities face with implementing action on these documents. I’ve learned about public consultations and advertising and project planning. Really I’ve learned so, so much. It’s been great.

What advice do you have for future Co-op students?

Work hard, have fun and make friends. Getting along with your colleagues makes all the difference. Ask questions and have confidence in your abilities when you’re new – you were chosen for a reason! Never be afraid to ask questions. You’re there to learn!