Crossing Vancouver's Borders

Crossing Vancouver's Borders

By: coopcom
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Crossing Vancouver's Borders

By: Aldrich Tan | SIAT & CS co-op Marketing & Promotions Assistant

Mary Hui is a 3rd year SIAT Student in Media Arts who has completed two co-op workterms, both in and out of BC. Because she has vast experience with different work environments, SIAT co-op sat down with Mary to see what she took away from her workterms.

1. Tell us about your last two co-op Positions.

My first co-op term was at the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario. As a National Webmaster, my primary role was to create and update pages in the CBS website using HTML, CSS and some Javascript. The work environment was very warm and light hearted and even though we were placed inside individual cubicles, my coworkers were all very friendly. Some of my daily tasks included updating content on the website and following up with hospital staff across Canada.

My second work term was at IBM in Victoria, BC. Because IBM is a more traditional and goal driven company, they had higher expectations of how efficiently you worked as an individual and as a team. This motivated me to become better and learn more and more about visual design, in order to match clients' needs for each project. As a Junior Visual
Designer, I worked with my supervisor and the Senior Visual Designer to hammer out user interface experiences and construct wireframes based on use cases of the clients. Inside the office, I shared a cubicle fort with 3 other co-op students whom I had weekly lunch outings and other social events with.

The overall work culture was very different from CBS, there were many guidelines and regulations to review in order to succeed at this job. It's definitely an eye opener to what life at a big corporation looks like.

2. Was the transition to work out of town difficult? What obstacles did you come across?

I love travelling. But I've never travelled by myself before my first co-op job. In Ottawa, I lived in a 100 year old Victorian house with 10 other people, all graduated professionals, as well as 4 dogs. It was a strange transition from a family of 4 to a house of 15, but it was a cool experience learning about their culture. I had to be very independent, buying groceries and cooking meals on my own. The only issue I had was that it was very lonely, as my family and friends were back in Vancouver, despite the fact that we had the internet to communicate. To cope with this, I kept busy with recreational activities and tried to be productive with my portfolio and ongoing projects.

With IBM in Victoria, life after work was fun since I had a group of co-op students to hang around with and go to the occasional movie and pub night with.

Life after work was fun since I had a group of coop students to hang out with. We would have our occasional movie and pub nights. The most memorable moment was in February when the Olympics took place. While on the ferry, we witnessed our Alex Bilodeau's first Canadian Gold on Home soil! Everyone on the boat was cheering and the atmosphere was absolutely phenomenal! Other than watching the Olympics, I would spend time with friends and find out how much horrible my cooking was compared to the delicious love-invested meals back home.

3. When you came back to school after CBS, how were things different for you in your approach to academics? How were they different when you went back to work after that school term?

After CBS, I felt an urgency to learn and grow. Sitting around, not doing anything is not acceptable anymore. I remember my classmates saying to me that the course load is too much or that the material is probably not going to be relevant for the job they want. This may be true for some, but in many cases, course materials offered in SIAT are actually very applicable to the work field. This is why taking co-op is a great way to get an idea of where you want to go after SIAT, since you will find out what you like or didn't like in a job. You will choose the course you'd like to take or target your next job based on that
real-world experience. In addition, I also wanted to take courses that could help me excel at my next co-op job, and jobs in the future. Coming back from CBS, my confidence in my ability to tackle school projects grew immensely. I've always been very shy so communicating with people was an issue. But since I had to present a progress report to the marketing team managers on a weekly basis at CBS, I became very comfortable with speaking and voicing out my ideas to my peers at school.

4. Any suggestions or advice for prospective students?

Don't be afraid to try new things!

Beyond the Article

You can check out how you can major or minor in Interactive Arts and Technology at the SFU SIAT website.

Posted on October 31, 2010