5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Software Co-op Position
by November 25, 2013

Filed under: Company News

College (or university, for us Canadians) is a magical time. There probably won’t be any other chance in my life for me to try, and fail at, as many things as I have in the last 3-odd years. While I may regret thinking I could play basketball or solve partial differential equations, there is one decision that I’m very glad I chose to make: joining a co-op.

In case that term is more reminiscent of credit unions than anything related to university, I’ll give you a brief rundown. Co-op, or cooperative education if you want to be fancy, is a program offered at many schools that allows students to supplement their academics with work at companies in relevant industries. For around 4 to 8 month chunks, students like me get the chance to leave the drudgery of exams behind, and pretend to be a real person with a real job.

I’m currently wrapping up month 7 of my time at AppNeta, and it’s been a blast so far. My co-workers have been fantastic, and having my own desk and keys makes me feel immensely important. Since I’ve been at it for a while, I figured I could share some of my experiences with the rest of you in internet-land, in the hopes that they might prove useful. Without further ado, here is my list of 5 ways to make the most out of a software Co-op position:

1. Ask Questions!

I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly shy person, but at the beginning of my time at AppNeta, I had the impression that if I interrupted my co-workers to ask for their help, the entire workflow of the company would be disrupted and I’d be immediately fired. Needless to say, I quickly realized this wasn’t the case, and I’ve since learned a lot more from my fellow employees than I ever did from aimlessly browsing StackOverflow.

2. Don’t Ask Questions!

The above being said, sometimes the best way to learn (and to not embarrass yourself) is to mess around and figure out if you can solve a problem on your own. I’ll admit that I was a bit overzealous with my question asking at first, to the point where I was essentially the developer equivalent of Dr. Dre, with all my code being ghostwritten for me. I think I’m striking a pretty good balance now though, and it’s quite satisfying being able to say that I created something all by myself.software co-op

3. Do Your Homework!

Oddly enough, I’ve probably spent more time at libraries during my co-op term than I ever did while at school. One of the joys and challenges of my work has been the fact that I’m using tools and technologies that I’d never been exposed to before, and I’ve had to catch up pretty quickly. I started the term thinking that JavaScript was just Java written in cursive, but after some online tutorials and a book or two, I’m now at a pretty decent level of fluency. Seriously though, it’ll make your life way easier if you put in a small amount of extra time.

4. Treat it Like an Interview!

Although it’s tempting to think of your co-op as little more than a chance to laugh at your friends while they struggle with their course loads, it does have a pretty singular (and important) purpose: to help you find a job. Since the work takes place at actual companies, there’s always the chance that you’ll impress your employers enough for them to hire you in the future. With that in mind, keep your appearance and attitude professional, and try your best to stay on task!

5. Don’t be Afraid to Have Fun!

One of the joys of software companies is the fact that things can sometimes be a bit more casual than your average office. AppNeta is no exception, and during my time here I’ve been able to partake in everything from Beer Fridays and foosball tournaments to post-it pixel art battles with the office across the street. As much as it’s important to be professional, don’t be afraid to have fun with your co-workers; it’s also a great way to get to know them better!software co-op

Well, there you have it. Nothing too revolutionary, but I feel like I could have benefitted from being told some of these things before I started work. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should get back to discovering the exciting world of Backbone.js. Until next time, internet!