City Studies and Human Geography
The Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA)
Why did you choose U of T Scarborough's Co-op program?
I chose Co-op at U of T Scarborough because I wanted a meaningful way to gain experience in my field of study, and I wanted to make sure that my time in university is spent obtaining hands-on experience along with gaining theoretical knowledge. As well, I wanted to ease the pressure of applying for my first job after graduating by having some work experience through Co-op already on my resume.
What was your first work term experience like?
My first work term with the GTAA was incredibly valuable. It allowed me to fine-tune transferable interpersonal skills that can be used in any field; these skills aren't always picked up in a classroom and frequently are only developed through on-the-job experience. As a result, I feel even more prepared to apply for my next co-op position.
Do you have any specific interests that lead you to apply for this job?
I'm a student in the City Studies program, so being able to get a real-life look at cities around the world is very exciting to me, because I'm able to witness infrastructure theories and architecture brought to life. I've always been passionate about urban life and traveling. This position allowed me to participate and contribute to industry research on various cities worldwide. I've used Toronto Pearson International Airport many times to travel to different destinations, so being a part of the airport staff was an incredible experience. Although I wasn't working inside the terminals, I did have the opportunity to go on a tour of the airport including air traffic control and the baggage delivery section, which was very interesting.
What was your role with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority?
My job was with the Air Service Development team which develops and manages the inner workings of the airport, ensuring that Toronto Pearson stays competitive with the world’s top-ranking airports. As a team, our goal was to develop a high connectivity rate with as many airport destinations as possible with minimal stop-overs in order to increase passenger traffic to Toronto Pearson. To accomplish this, we actively reached out to airline companies to propose a business case with the client, offered incentives, and analyzed market data to highlight why Toronto Pearson is a great choice as an airline destination.
I reported to a route manager who oversaw the qualitative aspects of the business case. I wanted to combine my passion for cities and culture with the experience of working at the airport; I learned that my program can be applied to many fields outside of the traditional city planning career path. Over the course of my work term, I put my research skills to good use and worked with the route manager to tease out high-level trends that created stronger connections between destinations around the world.
While some of my assignments included working on the GTAA’s business case presentations, there were many other areas where I was able to assist once I got my bearings. Eventually, I assisted the data manager in developing a series of spreadsheets that organized the company’s quantitative data. Using my newfound skills in Microsoft Excel—and a little bit of help from my colleagues—I compiled a spreadsheet that tracked the airline and route productivity to give a more well-rounded view of their performance.
Were you able to apply any of your academic knowledge to your workplace experience?
Yes - I was responsible for completing research on the cultural ties between cities as well as geography-based statistics on the specific destination.
Did this Co-op work term change anything about the way you thought about the industry, or provide any new perspectives on what you’d like to do after you graduate?
Absolutely! I was initially concerned that this role was bit of a leap from my goal of getting into infrastructure planning in Toronto. After learning more about the GTAA, I soon realized that aviation services was not the only function taking place at Pearson. There were many different departments on the floor that I was working, so I was able to take the time and get to know the ins and outs of the different jobs which was incredibly eye-opening. I was able to connect with colleagues in transit planning, stakeholder relations, and property leasing departments and to help me see how each department brings value to the overall operation.
Did you learn anything else valuable from this work term that you’ll bring forward to other employers/work experiences/life experiences, etc?
In general, I think the most valuable lesson was how to participate in a professional team working together to produce one project. I saw the importance of collaboration and communication and how, when used effectively in a team, those qualities ensure everyone is on the same page.
What advice can you give to students who are seeking their first work term?
I think the key element of co-op work terms is making the most of the connections available to you. Try your best not to be shy, and ask lots of questions; most people will be happy to give you advice!