Aakriti Arora describes her own SFU experience as transformational: from “an average student,” she says, to a quality assurance (QA) analyst with a top worldwide company. Along the way, she has built her confidence, expanded her skill-set and made a whole new network of friends.

She joined TIO Networks – a bill payment services provider for major telecom, wireless, cable and utility network operators – in January 2014, initially for an eight-month co-op placement. She subsequently landed a part-time job in the same role, working two days a week while she completes her studies.

“I have seen the company grow before my eyes,” says Aakriti. “When I joined the QA team, I was the first student hired and the only woman; now the team has doubled, and we have three more women in our team of eight.”

Aakriti is responsible for ensuring quality requirements are met by developing and writing test cases for new software. She uses her growing expertise of the company’s numerous products to suggest improvements in software specifications.

“During my co-op placement, my daily routine was performing integration and testing on mobile and web applications,” she says. “I would report bugs and assign them to development team, and I also wrote database SQL queries and learn about the database transactions.”

“I like to figure out bugs and enjoy the responsibility of preparing software for delivery. You are delivering a verified product to a customer. When you actually build something you’re like, ‘wow, I did it.’”

A good fit, both professionally and personally, Aakriti quickly got involved in TIO Networks’ social activities for employees. As a founding member of ConnecTIOn, a group of six employees who organize health and wellness programs, she has organized birthday celebrations, the staff Christmas party and many other events, like barbeques, curling and trips to Grouse Mountain.

“Through this group, I have worked with people from many other teams like the finance and sales departments,” she says. “You share a personal bond and they take care of me.”

Interestingly, tio means uncle in Spanish, which Aakriti says she can relate to. As an international student, Aakriti lived with her uncle for two and a half years when she moved from her home in Delhi, India to Vancouver in 2011.  

Although it was a major life change, Aakriti says she adjusted quickly to her new life in Canada. It helped that, with her father’s support, she already had a work-study placement organized before she even started first term at SFU. 

“Every semester I had a work-study, so that helped me a lot financially,” she says. She also got a taste for various roles outside her field, which helped her develop well-rounded skills and experiences.

Aakriti completed her first work-study with an SFU professor in fine arts, who was writing a book about dance. “It’s totally removed from what I study, but dance is a passion for me,” she says. (She is part of the SFU Bollywood team, and even performed in the Canada Day Parade.) She worked with children for her second and third work-studies: at the childcare centre, and then at elementary schools.

As for the future, Aakriti hopes to continue developing her expertise and moving towards her goal, and that means exploring more co-op opportunities.

“Learning and gaining skills through the work-study program and co-op was a really big opportunity for me because not all universities offer this,” she says.

 “I learned a lot from the different scenarios I have encountered and I have seen myself grow in the past three years, in my software and hardware skills but also as a person.”