Great Minds Think Tech: Sam Grandinetti @ Blackberry

Great Minds Think Tech: Sam Grandinetti @ Blackberry

By: Samantha Grandinetti
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It was the beginning of my second year at SFU when I was presented with a golden opportunity: I had 24 hours to decide whether or not I would accept an 8 month Co-op position at Blackberry in Ottawa as a project coordinator for the Internal Beta Testing Team  4,300 km away from my family, my friends and my life. I had never been that far away from home before, and had never lived outside of the Lower Mainland. I was intimidated – to say the least – about diving head first into a world I was relatively unfamiliar with, the tech sector. Would I fit in amongst the engineering, business and computer science students as student with little technical background or would I be in over my head with terms and processes unfamiliar to a new communicator, and a tech newbie?

I decided to take the biggest risk I ever had, and in a move that was uncharacteristic, quickly resolved myself to moving away and trying something new. Looking back on this decision two years later, I can honestly say it was the best decision I ever made. The tech industry is exciting, thriving, and innovative – meaning that every day I worked with new people, new technology and tackled new problems. I was hungry to learn everything I could from navigating the complex internal directory, to learning all about telecom infrastructure to forgetting everything I knew about embellishment from my academic writing style and producing direct, highly precise business memos and emails. The learning curve was steep and I loved every step I took towards conquering my role and supporting my team mates.

For new communicators thinking about working in the tech industry, or for students who need a little more convincing, here are my top 5 learning experiences taken from my career in high tech:

1.  Be Personable 

Blackberry is similar to a lot of tech companies, in that it is constantly looking to innovate, create, and because of this, the company employed an abundance of students and young professionals who were hard working and dedicated.  My branch of the company held about 500 staff, so every day I was shaking hands, meeting, collaborating and problem solving with new people. Since Blackberry is a global company, I also worked via web conferences, email and instant messaging with a vast array of people in Waterloo, Slough, England, Sunrise, Florida, and Jurong, Singapore. I was successful in my dealings with people because of my willingness to connect with people on a personal level, and my eagerness to make as many connections as I could. For my role, success meant equal parts skill and personality – being able to fit well in such a collaborative environment was integral to creating tester loyalty, trust, and gaining responsibility.

2.  Be Inquisitive

As a student who was new to the tech scene, I had dozens of questions every day. Being confident and willing to ask questions on a daily (even hourly) basis meant that I was continuously learning and growing in order to get ahead in my role. Sometimes, that meant grabbing donuts for the IT guys, and having them explain how to resolve a problem I was having with a device or software. Other times, it meant critically looking at a project, and asking questions about what you can do to go above and beyond your supervisor’s expectations.

3.  Be Resourceful

Being surrounded by students in engineering and computer science was intimidating at first, but it also meant that I had scores of resources for learning new things.  Sometimes, that meant booking phone conferences with a colleague so they could explain an integral component of a new piece of hardware or software that was about to ship to testers. Other times, it meant scouring the web for internet tutorials for learning basic HTML coding that would later become the basis for my final project. I learned a lot about how other teams functioned, how my team fit into the bigger picture, and a lot of tech lingo from the people I was having lunch with every day. Those SFU students I remained in contact with teach me new things about technology to this day, and I am eternally grateful for it.

4.  Be Bold 

At a company that is excited about innovation and creativity, taking a project and making it your own can bolster your reputation with your team. For example, I was handed the task of editing a pre-existing training document for incoming co-op students in my role. The existing document was about 30 pages of text that was created by the student before me. I began my editing process by thinking back to the questions I had as a new student in the role, and realized that a more interactive, module based training component was needed to be effective.  I then undertook the challenge of creating an online, interactive training site (with my newly acquired HTML skills) for Co-op students in my role all around the world. It was a new idea, of which the responsibility rested solely on me. Upon completion, it felt amazing to leave a part of me along with my team to help students kick start their role, as I had 8 months prior.

Posted on March 10, 2014