Matthew’s first home was a dorm residence at SFU’s Burnaby campus. His father, a business student, was living there with Matthew’s mom when he was born. The family moved to Alberta soon after, but now as a computing science student at SFU – you could say Matthew has come full-circle.
On his current co-op placement in Sunnyvale, California, Matthew’s work cube is in Intuitive Surgical’s development lab, surrounded by high-tech surgical-assisting robots. “You can use them when it’s open,” he says matter-of-factly. “A couple of weeks ago, I opened up a candy wrapper using one of the robotic arms.”
Matthew works in one of his favourite areas of computing science: big data. By collecting and storing the huge amounts of data in event logs, Matthew’s team helps ensure the surgical robots work safely on the operating table.
“I like collecting tons of data and figuring out what to do with it – it’s an interesting and complicated challenge,” he says.
“It’s a very collaborative environment and the people are really great – there are lots of really smart people. And playing with robots is fun too, of course.”
Matthew’s childhood dream was to be an astronaut. Failing that, he wanted to work for Microsoft. Although he hasn’t donned a spacesuit, he has completed co-ops with the Canadian Space Agency, where he worked in the training department of the robotic Canadarm, and Microsoft’s Big Park studio.
An avid explorer, Matthew is now in his element working and living in Sunnyvale, one of the major cities that make up the Silicon Valley, commonly acknowledged as the world’s leading tech hub.
“It’s really cool – everywhere you go, there’s a big tech company,” he says. “ There are software developers everywhere and I hang out a lot with the other interns, who hail from all over the U.S.”
With five co-op semesters at three companies under his belt, it’s safe to say that Matthew sees the benefits of the co-op program.
“Co-op gives you the opportunity to apply theoretical things you learn in class,” he says. “You gain both technical and soft skills, like working in teams and collaborating with others. It makes you a lot more hirable.”
For an adventure seeker like Matthew, national and international co-op opportunities provide a welcome chance to work abroad. “I really like to explore a new city for an extended period of time,” says Matthew. “I’ve also met a lot of cool people, forged friendships and made so many new industry contacts – that’s really invaluable.”
Update (November, 2015): After graduating in Fall 2015, Matthew landed a full-time position at Intuitive Surgical where he is now a web and mobile UI developer.