Charmaine Yung is a computer science co-op student who is currently completing her third work term at Blaise Transit
, an AI-based software platform that allows transit operators to run on-demand bus services using their existing vehicles. Despite working from home, she’s found a way to thrive in her current work term and has some valuable advice for any students who will be starting their co-op work terms soon.
Tell me about you; what’s your program and why did you choose to study it?
“I'm majoring in computer science (CS), which was what I came to university to study. I came in thinking, like many other first year CS students, that computer science was all about studying programming. I've been interested in programming since I was in elementary school, and I wanted to do it for a living. I quickly learned that CS was not about programming at all, but thankfully I am interested in what computer science is actually about.”
Tell me about the work terms you’ve completed. What drew you to them? Was it what you expected?
“I'm in 4th year, so I've completed two work terms so far and am on my third. They were all with tech startups; what drew me to them was the learning opportunities. At a startup, there's fewer employees which makes all the work I did meaningful. They can't afford to hire people to do anything but work on the client-facing products, after all. I applied knowing that I would learn, but I did not expect just how much. I learned so much more than I thought I would, which was really wonderful.”
Are there any skills that you felt were pertinent to your role?
“The main skill that was helpful was the ability (and willingness) to learn. When companies hire co-op students, they don't expect you to know everything, and know that they’ll have to train you and teach you things. You’ll get the most out of your work term if you're willing to learn.“
Is there anything else you feel added to your success in these roles?
“Good teammates. Having a good mentor who's willing to help you along your way is very conducive to learning. You can always look things up, but you often don't really get the ‘why’ from Q&A sites like Stack Overflow; a good mentor can fill in those blanks. It’s also important to have good teammates. It's hard to thrive in a hostile environment, so I'm really thankful that I've had amazing teammates who have been kind to me, and more importantly, trust me to do good work.”
How has COVID affected your work term?
“The main way it’s affected my work term is by having to work from home. The communication issues are more or less solved with technology, but there's no replacement for the social interaction. At my previous work term, I made friends with the other interns and we became good enough friends that we did activities together after work. However, when you’re working from home, you miss out on all those mini interactions at lunch, at company events, when getting to the office in the elevator, etc.”
What advice can you share with younger co-op students?
“Throughout your work term, be sure to log what you did. I like to include the title of the task and a list of steps that I took along the way. Be sure to keep this log somewhere that you won't lose after your work term, because this is immensely helpful when you're updating your resume and you need to recall the different tasks you did.”