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1. Where did you work?
TransLink (Infrastructure Program Management Department)
2. What type of work did you do during your co-op placement? What were some of your responsibilities?
I worked for TransLink within the Infrastructure Program Management Department. My official title at TransLink was “Student Transportation Planner – GIS” but I can basically be seen as a GIS Technician. My role at TransLink has had me doing all kinds of work. I have had to create data inventories, create map styles & designs, perform updates on existing maps, create web maps and the list goes on. I am basically responsible for assisting my supervisor in providing GIS services for workers all over TransLink. Most of my work has required me to use ArcGIS, Microsoft Excel, and Google Earth.
3. How did the skills/knowledge developed in the classroom apply to your job? What did you learn?
My position mainly made use of the skills and knowledge that I learned in two of my Geography classes: GEOG 255 (Geographic Information Science I) & GEOG 383 (Regional Development & Planning). In GEOG 255, I learned basic concepts and theories of GIS and how to use GIS-related software (mainly ArcGIS). During my time at TransLink, I have made heavy use of ArcGIS. I was also able to hone my ability with ArcGIS during a previous co-op placement.
GEOG 383 taught me about the concepts of regional governance and the regional authorities (of which, TransLink is an example of). I also learned about the organizational structure of TransLink, what its responsibilities are, and how decisions are made. It really saved my supervisor from doing a lot of explaining back when I first started.
4. What was your most memorable co-op experience?
With the opening of the Evergreen Extension, TransLink hosted an employee-only viewing of the extension about a week ahead of the actual opening. Employees were even allowed to bring a limited number of guests or family members. It was really cool to know that I was one of the first among the general public to be on the Evergreen Extension. I even got a commemorative coin just for attending the event!
Another memorable experience was when I got to tour the Burnaby Transit Centre (one of the facilities where our buses are stored and maintained). It was really interesting to be able to see the insides of the buses and learn about all the work that’s necessary to keep them running every day of the week
5. Any words of advice for future co-op students?
My first piece of advice is to start early! I applied for co-op during my first year at SFU and I got my first job offer before I had even completed 20 credits worth of courses. I wouldn’t say that I was the most qualified for the position at the time (before I got the offer, I was previously an ice cream vendor and a data entry technician). Starting early exposes you the hiring process that companies typically go through sooner. You can also figure out what you need to do to make yourself more employable while you’re still young. This can be done by reading through job descriptions so that you can figure out what skills and qualifications employers want you to have.
Secondly, even if you don’t think that you’ll qualify for a position, apply for that job anyway! The more interviews you go through, the more experience you get from it and the better you’ll get at going through interviews.
Lastly, for those of you who are currently on work terms, don’t ever stop trying to develop yourself! A lot of people hunker down and take it easy after they get a co-op job. Personally, I think that being on a work term is a great time for you to develop yourself (and your resume) even further. Try volunteering or taking classes (or external classes) as you go progress through your work terms.