Surrey company takes value of student co-op experience to heart – National Co-op Week March 19-23
Applying their computing science skills in the workplace may be new to SFU students Irene Abrea and Arseni Borisovs, but it’s by no means a first for their hiring company, Safe Software. The Surrey-based company has hired more than 150 SFU co-op students since the Surrey campus opened 15 years ago and currently has a team of eight SFU co-op students embedded in its staff roster.
The company was co-founded 25 years ago by SFU computing science alumnus Don Murray, who was also a benefactor of the co-op work experience. Together with Dale Lutz, a colleague from the University of Alberta, they vowed to continue offering co-op opportunities to students wishing to add that experience to their resumes. At the same time, the duo would also benefit from a wide-open talent pool as they worked to advance their business.
Their decision has paid off for everyone. More than half of Safe Software's development team is comprised of former co-op students and some are now overseeing new co-op hires. Meanwhile the company, which started as a small two-person bid to facilitate map exchanges between forestry companies and the provincial government, provides data integration solutions for a growing clientele.
With more than 150 employees, Safe Software plans to move into a new office later this year in Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard located just off King George Boulevard to allow for more room for growth.
Safe Software's FME product line is used by organizations around the world to convert, transform and automate data via its Desktop, Server and Cloud product range.
“As a former SFU co-op student, it’s wonderful being a part of an organization that recognizes the value of co-op,” says Samantha Ng, who graduated from the Beedie School of Business in 2016.
“Campus recruitment continues to help us identify bright talent for our full-time job opportunities and the co-op program has certainly bolstered Safe’s track record of successful hiring outcomes.”
Student Jon Ip is a prime example of the diversity of fields from which students are recruited. Ip is from SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology and in his fifth co-op term (and the second at Safe) working as a video editor with the company’s marketing team. He is responsible for assembling raw film interviews with FME users, taken from Safe’s corporate conference and events, and editing them into a complete customer story that is shared across social media.
“I’ve worked for a number of different co-op employers,” says Ip, who expects to graduate later this year. “At Safe, it feels like everyone is collaborating together for the company vision. There’s no shortage of help when you need it, and tons of appreciation.”
Borisovs, whose work involves making improvements to Excel formatting, and Abrea, part of the Cloud team and the FME Hub, also note a comfortable atmosphere and flexibility in the daily schedule.
“Safe Software embodies the philosophy of co-operative education and community engagement with SFU,” says Shauna Tonsaker, SFU’s Co-op Education director. “They are providing our students with the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge and learn new skills in a supportive workplace every semester, demonstrating their commitment to experiential learning.
Students integrate their experience at Safe Software back into the classroom, leading to richer discussion and greater engagement in their studies.”
The number of co-ops in Surrey has been on a steady rise since 2013, with more than 400 placements in Surrey in 2017, accounting for over 10 percent of all SFU co-ops. Top employers include the Canada Revenue Agency, SFU (Surrey campus), the RCMP (E Division headquarters) and Fraser Health – followed by Safe Software, the top-hiring private company. The City of Surrey and the Downtown Business Improvement Association are also among the larger routine co-op employers.