Editorial: My Journey and Struggles With Co-op

Donovan Maudsley - Editor-In-Chief
Posted on: January 15, 2017

Hello again, and welcome to the Winter 2017 edition of the Iron Warrior. I know that the Winter term can be a little depressing; you can go a long time without seeing the Sun, everything is frozen over, and just as the weather starts getting better, Nesting Season begins. I assure you, though, that the time will fly by and soon we’ll be playing softball on the V1 Green again.

I’m very excited to be the Editor-In-Chief this term, even though I’ve heard that 3B Mechanical is cruel and unforgiving. Even though we’re only a few weeks into the term, I’ve had a lot of fun sitting in the editor’s chair. I have excellent staff members all around me: Bryan, Hasan and Ratan all helped immensely with this issue, and I’m excited to work with the new staff writers. I also want to send a quick shout out to the B-Soc Exec team for crushing their first updates.

I want to take a second to talk about my newspaper history.  Two years ago, the first issue of the Winter 2015 paper contained my first published article, a recap of the Super Bowl game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots (that final play, my God). My first draft of this article was over 2000 words long, and had to be almost entirely re-written by more experienced writers. My articles and columns have come a long way since then. I’ve written about antibiotics, mass extinctions, Netflix Original Series, and elections in 3 different countries. Today I’m the one doing the editing for new writers rather than being edited. I even drew a comic once.

I’m very proud of this issue of the Iron Warrior. I think it’s one of the better ones in recent memory. One of my priorities as the Editor-In-Chief is to devote more time and attention to Waterloo and specifically Waterloo Engineering. To that end, I’ve introduced a new feature by Gabrielle Klemt this issue focusing on Engineering Society events. If you’re at an event in the future and you see Gabrielle, be sure to say hi! We’ve also got a special piece on what going on an engineering exchange is like by my close friend Tristan Kuehn. Tristan is taking his 3B term at the Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany, and is (SPOILER ALERT) enjoying it.

On top of our new features, many of the columns you know and love are back! Elizabeth is back to analyse the Raptors in the Benchwarmer Report. Bryan takes up the torch from Cameron in his cooking column Half-Baked. Tiffany tells us all about Andrew Lloyd Weber in Discover Broadway. Caitlin once again entrances us with 5 Things You Don’t Want To Know about mad science. Ratan also tells us all about the strange and fantastical podcast Hello From the Magic Tavern in Ra(Tan) Lines. Somewhat funny story, Ratan was sitting on the fence last term about writing a column until we came up with that name. Last but definitely not least, crossword lovers can rejoice because Cameron has returned with his Social Medias themed Iron Crossword!

I wanted to take the time in my editorial to talk to the 1Bs who are going out on co-op for the first time. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is not to panic about finding a placement. It’s January. The Spring term doesn’t start until May, so you’ve got plenty of time. I went out for my first co-op term after 1A (Fall ’13 seems so long ago), and I was just as stressed as you are about finding a placement. I worried and stressed and worried some more, but really that didn’t help me. During Hell Week I spent way more time Jobmining than I spent sleeping. I think I must have put together at least 60 individualized cover letters. I didn’t even get an interview until two weeks into the continuous round, and I bombed it. At this point my roommate Tristan had already had a job lined up for a while. He was focusing on finding an apartment in Ottawa and I was still scrambling. I think I had two more interviews, and as I finished them I became more and more confident. Exams were right around the corner and I was beginning to come to grips with the possibility of going home for the co-op term when I got one more interview. It was scheduled late in the day on the last day of interviews. I prepared as well I could, then went in and told them exactly why I was a great fit for the job. I realized as I left that I was the last student being interviewed in the building that year. I got the job and spent the Winter 2014 term in Richmond Hill.

I realized after a few interviews that really they’re just conversations. They can be nerve wracking, but I just come back to my high school biology teacher’s motto: “Why be stressed when you can be not stressed”. The first time I heard him say it I thought it was just gibberish, but a few years later I’ve made sense of it. Why should you let yourself worry for nothing? If you’re calm and collected you’re going to have a better conversation, and a better interview. They want to hire you, or else they wouldn’t have scheduled an interview with you. If you take a few breaths and collect your thoughts you’ll do terrific. Even if you don’t do great though, don’t worry.

I missed a co-op term back in Spring 2015, and had an absolute blast. I was interviewing for my third co-op placement when I hit a roadblock. I did my first two in manufacturing-heavy environments. While I enjoyed the terms as a whole, I didn’t find the work very enjoyable. I had resolved to try and find a position in design, but I just wasn’t getting interviews. Over that term I had three interviews and none of them worked out. I ended up officially taking the term off. I worked three part time jobs: teaching guitar, working as a security guard, and doing organizational work at my stepfather’s jewelry store. In addition to those jobs I read a few books and articles on design practices and general engineering, and played a whole lot of Xbox. I spent a lot of time with my family, and friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in years. I also got paid to go to a few concerts that I would have paid to see. On the whole I had a really great term.

A lot of people in my class were in the same place that I was that term. A lot of the upper-year positions went to more experienced students, while the entry-level positions went to first years. I have a friend that worked at a lumber yard that term, and another who went out to British Columbia to mountain bike with his brother. My class’s employment rate that term was laughably low, but none of us really worried about it. We just burned the term and moved forward as best we could.

When I got back in the Fall term that year, I doubled down on looking for a design job, only applying to jobs which explicitly stated they had design work to be done. I applied a fresh attitude to my job search, and before long I had one of the most ridiculous days in the history of the University of Waterloo. It was only fitting that it also happened during Hell Week.

I kicked off the morning with back-to-back half-hour long interviews, followed by a ten minute break. During this “break” though I had to book it from the Tatham Center to E5 for my Thermodynamics 1 midterm (which I bombed, but that’s another story). I stayed for the whole exam, and then had ten minutes to book it right back to the Tatham Center for my third half-hour long interview of the day. I made it with a minute to spare and went to splash some cold water in my half glazed-over eyes before my interview. I told the two interviewers, one a Waterloo Mechatronics alumni and the other an engineer from Carleton, about my day thus far and they both laughed. We traded stories about undergrad before getting into my qualifications at all. I ended up getting the offer for that job, and found myself doing machine design work for a die making company in Kitchener. I learned about engineering design and ping pong at that placement.

I guess what I’m trying to say with my overly-long summary of my co-op experience is that you have to try and take it all in stride. You might not hear anything for two months and then end up with four interviews in a week. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Also you don’t have to worry about the horror that was Jobmine. That website crashed more often than an amateur demolition derby-ist.  On my most recent co-op term my boss told me about his co-op experience. He was a member of the first class to use Jobmine. Only time will tell how much better Waterloo Works is, but I hope for your sakes it is terrific.

Well, that does it for my first editorial. If you have a co-op hunting experience you want to share, disagree with anything we publish, or just want to rant at me for whatever reason, I cordially invite you to email me at iwarrior@uwaterloo.ca. Please remember to tip the carrier owl.