Akansha Vaish - Co-op Q & A

BSc GIS Major

Co-op Term: Summer 2020


1.    Where did you work (Department/Organization name and location)?

I worked at the BC Ministry of Agriculture in the Resource Management Unit, located in Abbotsford, BC.


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

I worked as a GIS Analyst and worked with Soil Scientists, Nutrient Management Engineers and Water Engineer. My work involved developing Agriculture water demand model maps for all the provinces in BC, querying the Agriculture land use inventory database and creating web applications and dashboards for the nutrient management engineers. I also worked on the Nooksack Transboundary project in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and developed a custom map on fecal coliform contamination and a dashboard for the Environment compliance officer to assess potential sources of E.coli contamination in the watershed.


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

The knowledge of working with ArcGIS software was definitely an asset. I gained proficiency in working with all ESRI software, and programming, as a part of my courses at SFU. Knowledge of working with SQL and python proved really helpful in querying databases.


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

One challenge I faced during my co-op term was that I could not work with my teammates at the office, due to covid. Working and associating with the team remotely was quite challenging, especially when I got stuck while working on a project. There were lags in communication, but my supervisors were always cooperating and went above and beyond to assist me to the best of their capabilities.


5.    What was your most memorable Co-op experience?

 The most memorable Co-op experience while working with the Government was that I was given the opportunity to know and work with people beyond my Ministry. I was able to associate and build good terms with people in the Ministry of Forests as well as the Ministry of Environment. I was able to learn about their work through weekly calls, which was an asset for me.


6.    What have you learned through your Co-op experience?

One key thing I learned through Co-op experience, is the importance of networking. It is essential to build contacts as much as possible. You never know when someone can come forward to help you in the future. Also, I gained valuable skills from my supervisor through their comments on my work. A key takeaway was attention to detail and writing skills along with enhanced GIS knowledge.


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

My advice to future Co-op students is that Co-op placements are very essential for academic success. They look excellent on resumes and will definitely add innumerable skills on your resume before you graduate. Therefore, seize the opportunity when you can. Also, when applying for jobs, add a personalized cover letter, and tell the employer what you have to give to the job. Don't use template cover letters.