Working in the Corporate World as an International student

Working in the Corporate World as an International student

By: Chetachi Ekezie
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Being an international student who plans on building a life and career here in Canada after graduation, it is important that I make decisions that could positively affect my future and help me smoothly transition from academics to a corporate environment. I believe that the SFU co-op program gives an opportunity to students to see what life after graduation could be like; they learn how to interact professionally in a corporate environment while using skills gained from their academic experiences.

After high school, I had to choose between Toronto and Vancouver. I chose Vancouver because of the balmy weather. According to my research online, it was the hottest place in Canada, and I was looking for a climate somewhat like Nigeria (although it’s still very different). When I finished my first year at Columbia College, which is an international college located in downtown Vancouver, I was advised by the school’s counsellor to apply to SFU as it was one of the top-ranking schools in the country. At the time it ranked 5th place in Canada.

I applied to the faculty of Arts & Science, began pursuing an Economics degree with a minor in Business, when I transferred to SFU from Columbia college in my 2nd year, I had seen posters about the Co-op program around SFU and I became curious and decided to read about it online. I did not proceed to join the program back then because I didn’t understand the value and had no friends at the time who were interested as well. However, I finally applied to join the co-op join towards the end of my 3rd year which is pretty late, but better late than never because I had realized how invaluable it would be for me. I felt that way because I was almost done with my degree and I needed a plan, and work experience for life after graduation.

So far, I’ve completed 2 co-op terms working as Operations support for the first term, and Finance support for the second term at Allocadia. For my first co-op term working in the Finance and Operations department at Allocadia, as the Operations support, I worked mostly with the Sales Operations manager on a long-term project over the span of five weeks to organize data into Salesforce. I did a lot of data cleansing and quality control to ensure the data was accurate and reliable for use within the company. I also had various short-term projects which included updating the software vendor contract information, computer inventory and phone inventory. While completing these projects I had the opportunity to work with colleagues in other departments. It made my experience even more exciting because I’m a curious person and I had expressed interest in being a part of various projects. I’m grateful for the opportunity because it allowed me to consider potential options for graduate school and gain new skills like data cleansing while improving old skills like analysis and problem-solving.

My second co-op term was in the Finance department, assisting the VP of Finance and Controller and it was an eye-opening experience for me. Over the last four months, I’ve worked on a lot of exciting projects which have mainly helped strengthen my research skills and my ability to pay attention to detail. I worked on projects where I researched on sales tax for SaaS products for finance, and employment laws and regulations concerning termination & final pay in the States. The research was used by the HR department when considering US employees. I also assisted the marketing team in transferring content from the current company website to Box, an online storage application which they later used to transfer data to the new company website. I continued the upkeep of the software vendor list through the last four months. I especially liked the US research projects because it helped me enhance my research and analytical skills. 

The highlight of my experience was working with an amazing team, I remember my first week I was nervous due to the new environment but that changed after interacting with everyone. I loved the professional yet fun work environment at Allocadia. Another highlight would be meeting my fellow co-op students from SFU; this helped me transition smoothly because I felt like I had had people who I could relate to.

I think this experience is very useful for everyone, including Canadian citizens because it gives us real-life experience and the chance to actually use the skills obtained in school. It also prepares us for the corporate world while adding bling to our resume which is an advantage. I feel like it has prepared me for life after graduation because it gave me an idea of how the corporate world works. I would have been clueless if not for this experience. So yes, I believe it’s advisable to join the co-op program.

My most memorable moment is when I won an iPhone Xmax at the Christmas party during a raffle. I was so shocked because I didn’t even want to play, I just did because I had a ticket. It was completely unexpected and I was pleasantly surprised.

I hope to get a job after I graduate and maybe work a few years, then apply for permanent residency, afterwards, I may or may not go to graduate school. However, I would love to travel when I’m done with my undergraduate degree and before I start working full time.

Chetachi Ekezie has worked for 8 months with Allocadia located in Vancouver BC as the Finance/Operations support. She assisted by updating the company’s software vendor list, computer and phone inventory as well. She also have completed various researches for my team like; sales tax for SaaS products in the US, and employment laws regarding employee termination, final pay and resignation

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Posted on August 04, 2020