Me at my workstation at the office

Where did you work?

From May 2017 – December 2017 I worked for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada/INAC (now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada/ CIRNAC and formerly Aboriginal Affairs and Norther Development Canada/AANDC) up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

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

CIRNAC as it is now known is the branch of the federal government that works with the Provinces/Territories and Indigenous groups across the country on treaty negotiation. Within this branch is a department known as TAG or Treaties and Aboriginal Government.

My job title was GIS Coop Student, not exactly fancy or extravagant title by any means but it represented exactly what I would be doing for the 8 months I spent up at the Yellowknife office. My role was to support the local office in developing a variety of maps in order help further the treaty process.

My primary responsibility was GIS map development. My job was to take data that was created for a smaller map scale, apply that data to maps of a larger scale and fix inconsistencies that arose from the scale change. Some of my other responsibilities included attending meetings and taking notes in lieu of my supervisor or manager, liaising with colleagues at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and a number of indigenous groups to gather input they may have had on the maps our office was creating, and helping with any other task that my supervisor or manager needed assistance with.

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

As I am taking the Spatial Information Science Certificate, a lot of my GIS skills/knowledge that I had learned (ability to use programs such as ArcGIS, knowledge in general GIS theory) from GIS classes I had previously taken: Geog 150 (Digital Earth), Geog 255 (Geographic Information Science I), Geog 355 (Geographic Information Science II) were directly applicable to what I did in my job and I wouldn’t have been able to perform my job without them. Through my Co-op I learned how to better manage my time, how to manage and organize projects and how to manage relationships with 3rd parties.

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

My biggest piece of advice for new/future Co-op students is that you need to be willing to step out and try new things. My first two years in the Co-op program resulted with me not being able to find a summer Co-op placement. I think a big part of that was limiting myself to only applying to Co-op jobs that were located within the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Local jobs are the ones that always receive the most applicants so by limiting myself to just the Vancouver area openings I was minimizing my chances of finding a job (which can be hard enough when you are looking for your first Co-op). On my third attempt I decided that location wasn’t going to be an issue for me and I applied to any job I thought was interesting (so long as I felt I had relevant schooling and experience) even if they were located far from home. When applying into the Co-op program I never imagined that I would end up in Yellowknife on my first placement, but I did and I will never regret it. I had an amazing time up there, did a bunch of new and interesting things and made bunch of new friends.