What is It Like to Work at Your Own School?

What is It Like to Work at Your Own School?

By: Oliver Taw
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Have you ever heard your friends or classmates telling you “I want to work at this school after I graduate”?  

Me neither. Or at least, none of my friends did. In fact, it was the opposite; they would tell me that they are sick of being in school after all these years. However, for me, I’ve always wanted to work for my own school and I’ll tell you why.

I was already in my final year of undergrad studying media arts and design in the lovely School of Interactive Arts and Technology, and I only had 1 course left before graduation. Then I decided to look for co-op jobs before I graduate and luckily, I got an offer from SFU’s Environmental Health and Safety Department as an interactive training developer. But before even starting my new co-op job, the global pandemic COVID-19 happened, and I was told that I would be working remotely from home.

On my first day, I met my supervisor via Zoom call and he gave me a brief introduction of what the department is as well as what I’ll be expected to do. I was told that I would be responsible for creating and designing training materials for staff, researchers, new employees.

This is where all the fun begins. Since our team consisted of different people with different roles, I had the opportunity to work with different materials and subjects every time. I found that a lot of the training materials were outdated and could benefit from being organized better – since some of the training materials/presentations were over ten years old. Coming from a design background, I would completely change the slide design and the visual elements in the presentation which would be seen by staff, contractors, and students. Being a student, I empathize with how boring or tedious a presentation can be if the training material consists of just walls of text. So, whenever I created a new training material I would try to make the training as clean and concise as possible by either cutting down the words on a screen and adding visuals or some tasks that the user can interact with.


Examples of some of the training modules that I’ve helped create

Another thing that I found interesting about my job is that I get to know the latest news on what the university is doing. Since I work in the Environmental Health and Safety department, we would always discuss what rules and regulations are being implemented and what protocols will be coming later. Every day, I found out new and interesting plans that we will be doing down the line. And again, as a student working at the school, I can appreciate what the school is doing for the students. And if they decide to do it differently, I can at least understand why they had to do it. 

I think for most of the students in my field, working in an office might not be an ideal job for them. But personally, I enjoy working for the organization that I’m a part of, and maybe that is why I give it my best in the work that I do. I am really fortunate to have an awesome and dedicated supervisor and colleagues like Miles, Justin, and Carol, just to name a few. With their help and guidance, I was able to grow a lot as a person and a designer and most importantly as a team player.

The good thing about working for your school is that you can identify yourself with both the students and the employee. Some days we’ll be swamped with a lot of tasks and different meetings in a day and on other days, we may be much more relaxed. These are some of the experiences that I’ve gotten during the time in EHS and I am very grateful for all the opportunities and knowledge I have gained through this co-op. Now that I’ve extended my co-op term, I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey will take me on!

Beyond the Article

Posted on September 04, 2020