It was really cool to see the next generation of children being interested in technology and that interest is probably going to grow as technology becomes bigger and bigger.
For Cassady Campos, moving from his parents' home in Calgary to Lethbridge, where he didn't know a single person was "a huge decision right out of high school, but it turned out to be a perfect one." Like many students, for Cassady, moving out was a catalyst for self-growth and renewed focus. Now, four years later, and thanks in part to his co-op experience, this computer science student feels prepared for the future.
Cassady completed two co-op work terms in the summers of his second and third year, working as a software developer for the Calgary-based tech company Arcurve. "What I was doing at Arcurve was building web apps. For example, one app I built this past summer was for oil and gas companies to monitor their logistics, including deliveries, the amount of fuel at different gas stations and the type of fuel being transferred. Anywhere that needed fuel, we were monitoring and tracking."
Another task Cassady tackled was automated testing and development. Development encompasses the discussions held between business and quality assurance analysts to develop new website features, for example, buttons on a website. Cassady describes the automated testing side as "trying to break everything! So, for that button I made, I would try to break it and create an automated test for it." By writing 'test scripts,' Cassady could mimic a user pressing that button or signing into a website. This automated test takes the load off of someone who would need to test website features to ensure they continue working manually. Automatic features can also check for issues more frequently. "I am a really big advocate for automation," Cassady says, adding that for mundane tasks like checking for broken links, having a computer take over can free up workers for jobs that require a human eye. "Something as simple as a sign-in button can take down your whole website if people can't access it."
While Cassady gained incredible work experience through co-op, what he didn’t expect was the chance to participate in meaningful volunteer work as a part of his co-op involvement. "At Arcurve during the summer, the interns throw a 'responsibility project.' It was up to us to decide what we wanted to do and plan it. For my first co-op work term, we did a student workshop at the Calgary Public Library downtown, where we taught kids the basics of programming." This unforgettable experience allowed Cassady to pass his knowledge and enthusiasm for technology onto youth. "We had Lego mazes and we would use computer logic to solve them. We even brought miniature micro-computers in that could be hooked up to LED lights and then controlled with a smartphone to turn them on and off."
Each intern developed an activity for the library workshop. "I designed colouring sheets that are basically a grid, and you would use binary math to colour them in," he added. Cassady joked, "It sounds really nerdy, I know, but it was for the younger kids. When you mix creative platforms like colouring with a technology-related task to create patterns or pictures, it gets them much more involved. More effective than sticking them on a computer and trying to get them to learn that way," he explained.
Cassady found it meaningful to give children the opportunity to be innovative and creative with technology. "It was really cool to see the next generation of children being interested in technology and that interest is probably going to grow as technology becomes bigger and bigger," he highlights.
Due to COVID, last summer's project looked a little different, but Cassady organized an internal corporate competition with his fellow interns to help employees feel connected online. "It is difficult to get to know new employees when you're not physically in the office. So, we organized a competition where you'd complete different challenges and submit photos of yourself completing them. Winners would get gift certificates from local businesses around Calgary." This project brought the team closer together and allowed Cassady to support and connect with local business owners as he curated prize items. "When I started this job, I didn't expect to put on these workshops or to drive around and speak to the owners of local 'mom and pop shops,' so it was a unique experience. I have the co-op to thank for that," he divulged.
Despite the workshops being purposeful and fun, what Cassady valued most was "getting the inside scoop on how software is built and how it's getting to the customer. In school, we would typically have smaller projects, individually or with two or three others. Being placed on an actual software development team and getting to know all these different roles like business analyst, project managers, senior and junior developers was so interesting." Cassady learned how these different roles all play a part in creating and delivering software to the user. "Really, if one of these roles aren't there, the entire software development lifecycle is broken," he explained.
Cassady aspires to be a software developer, mainly in web development. He explains, "I like the idea of creating websites and connecting people around the world almost instantaneously." He encourages any student interested in co-op to "get into the co-op program as early as possible, so you have access to the job board, and you can figure out what you want to do after you graduate."
Finding support through the co-op office was an integral step for Cassady. "Every time I've received a return offer, I go back to my co-op coordinator and thank them for helping me through all the steps that got me here," he added. Cassady is grateful for the resources and advantages found within the program, advising others to "use the one-on-one interview preparation the co-op office offers. The only other job I had was as a barista, so working a software job is pretty different." Don't be shy if your resume is sparse. As a university student, co-op will help you get a foot in the door. “Co-op has introduced me to companies I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to find without the co-op program. I've done a whole lot of networking."
As he nears graduation, Cassady implores current and future students to "utilize all the support systems and help we get at the U of L. Utilize the co-op program and take advantage of the small class sizes to get to know your professors. Also, don't forget to take advantage of student deals. Things like discounts, bank accounts, promotions, even Amazon Prime." Cassady is a disciplined student, but when he isn't studying in the computer lab, he enjoys wing-night Wednesday at the Zoo along with gym trips and badminton with friends, "It’s in our student fees already, so we might as well use it,” he notes. The U of L opens many doors for students, but each student must decide for themselves which ones to walk through.
Learn more about co-op and work-integrated learning at uLethbridge!