While the company owner was presenting at WeAreDevelopers, the largest developer conference in Europe, she showcased some of my code.
Derek Melchin is a third-year combined degree student studying computer science and finance. As an opportunity seeker and innovator, Derek has completed three diverse co-op work-terms.
First, Derek found a position as a software developer at a local tech company called The WNDX Group. As the only employee, Derek's manager rented him an office at a "startup incubator" in Lethbridge called Tecconnect. A startup incubator is an organization that supports new companies by providing office space and other amenities. Being part of such a small team motivated Derek and allowed him to learn specialized skills. During this first co-op, he built iPhone Apps using the RubyMotion programming language and learned how to translate between other computer languages, including Swift and Objective-C. While Derek worked, the company owner, Lori Olsen, commonly travelled the world giving presentations on App development. A significant moment Derek points out during his time at The WNDX Group is that "while Lori was presenting at WeAreDevelopers, the largest developer conference in Europe, she showcased some of my code."
As the capstone project for this first co-op, Derek designed and developed an App using augmented reality. Augmented reality gives the appearance of virtual elements being projected into the real world, such as in Snapchat filters or Pokémon Go. For his final project, Derek designed a much higher intensity, first-person survival game, and a demonstration to go along with it on YouTube.
In his second co-op work term, Derek took a very different direction as a backend developer (someone who works with the code, modelling, and server-side of a website) at the University of Lethbridge's own radio station, CKXU. As a highly motivated individual, Derek does not shy away from difficult tasks to pursue his goals. Working with another university student specializing in frontend development (focused on what customers can see), the students worked on updating the CKXU's "TPS System." The CKXU uses this system to track what plays on the radio, compose their top 40 songs list, schedule different DJs to play on the radio, and organize inventory. In this position, Derek used a completely different programming language, PHP, to revamp the system.
His most recent co-op work term took place online but was no less compelling. "A very memorable moment for me was when I was securing my co-op at QuantConnect. I was scrambling to apply for the position, interview, and coordinate with the co-op office, all while we were entering our first lockdown in March and April 2020," Derek explained. Despite some initial difficulty, Derek secured his position at QuantConnect, an algorithmic trading platform. Derek explained, "Since they are located in Seattle, and the border was closing at the time, I was able to join the team remotely. My primary responsibility was to answer user questions in our community forum. I also worked on researching and implementing algorithmic trading strategies for our Strategy Library tutorial collection." Algorithmic trading uses a computer system to trade financial securities in response to fluctuations in the market and can get complicated quickly. At QuantConnect, these financial securities included stocks, foreign exchange, cryptocurrencies, futures, options, and CFDs.
Derek's motivation shone through, and his skills improved, to the point of him on-boarding new interns and working on special projects. Some of his notable projects included improving the platform's documentation, building a neural network to forecast future returns of the S&P 500 index, and managing a public in-house quant trading fund with other interns. Derek added, "with this co-op, I mostly worked with Python and C#," more computer programming languages. In addition, "when the co-op was over, I was invited to stay part-time through school, so I currently work there as a junior on the core team." As a co-op student, Derek has been able to gain skills and connections. For three years, Derek had the goal of working as a quantitative developer. Derek is exactly where he hoped to be after completing three co-op work terms. He plans to stay with QuantConnect for the foreseeable future.
Aside from being a co-op student, Derek juggles his coursework with regular gym trips with friends and study sessions in the computer lab on campus. With Lethbridge as his hometown, Derek is excited by the opportunity available to him. He describes his university experience as "challenging, insightful, rewarding, adventurous and fun." When asked what he enjoyed most about his time in the co-op program, Derek answered, "meeting new friends and getting opportunities to meet business owners. Co-op opened networking opportunities that I can pursue down the road." Derek also appreciated the professional boost co-op gave him when he first joined the program, helping him create professional-looking cover letters and resumes. Now Derek can say he has enjoyed "working in roles that are in the field I study at school."
For future students, Derek has a piece of advice, "tailor what you're studying to the skills you want to learn, even if that means studying outside of university classes." Derek has indeed shot for the stars and landed precisely where he hoped to be, and this is not a coincidence. Derek is grateful to have the opportunity to take several co-op positions relevant to the field he is studying in school. Derek's "favourite class so far has been Writing 1000". He notes, "it's important no matter which major you're studying to know how to communicate." While computer language might look like alphabet soup to most, communication skills are essential in all fields of study. While the co-op team at the University of Lethbridge works tirelessly to support their students, Derek also points out that it is crucial to "approach the places you want to work. Don't just look at the co-op job board. Try and initiate your own co-ops if that's what you really want to do."