I have seen first hand how Co-op programs can play a crucial role in helping students to carve out a successful career in software development and engineering. The chance to get out of the bedroom and classroom and finally be paid to apply your skills in the real world is an invaluable experience. It can also be incredibly exciting and life-changing too.
But it can also be scary; for many Co-ops the unfamiliar territory opens the door to a swarm of what ifs? What if you don’t get the support and opportunities necessary to grow? What if you feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated? What if it’s eight months of wasted time? Making the right decision about during a co-op program and picking the right company is a big decision and shouldn’t be made lightly.
About Tasktop’s Co-op program
As an Engineering Manager, former Co-op (at two other companies), and current leader of Tasktop’s Co-op program, I have long grappled with these whats ifs. However, with the support of the company, I’ve looked to directly address them through a meticulously thought out Co-op program that focuses on comfort, happiness, fulfilment and, of course, personal and professional growth.
With up to six students starting on the same day, we designed a 10-day on-boarding program to make them feel welcome, ensure their machines are setup properly, meet people from various departments, and learn the overall goals, processes and terminology used by the company. The students are then assigned to various teams across the engineering department.
Knowing that Co-op students learn best when you have someone to guide them, we dedicate a mentor for each student. We set clear guidelines and expectations for the mentor to make sure that they can help their Co-op students succeed in their roles. Someone has always got your back if you need it.
Part of the team from the get-go
Everyone who joins the company is instantly a Tasktopian. Co-op students are treated like our regular employees and they work on the same code base and go through the same process as the rest of the team every day. They participate in code reviews, as well as get involved in team decision-making. The entire team is there to support the Co-op students and encouraged to help one another in the team if they can.
Regular feedback from management
Our managers do regular one-on-ones with their Co-ops. We carry out monthly, mid-term, and final check-ins with the Co-ops to make sure that they are comfortable working at Tasktop and to address any concerns they might have while working with us.
Q&As with VP of Engineering
We also host Co-op Q&A sessions where students have the chance to ask our hugely experienced and knowledgeable VP of Engineering, Dave Wong, any questions regarding to their study/careers.
A work environment that is creative, fun and collaborative with code jams, forums and happy hours
There are also company events such as Tasktop Jam, Tasktop Forum and Happy Hour (free beer!), which are always hugely popular with our co-ops. We always aim to create a healthy, fun, collaborative environment where the co-op students can maximize their learning experience as well as be supported as part of the team. While it’s a sad moment when they leave us to go back to school, there’s so much joy when they come back to visit us during Happy Hour or even better – come back as a full time employee!
What our Co-ops have to say…
I’m delighted to announce our approach is yielding positive results and helping us to continuously refine it. Typically, Tasktop takes on 10-15 Co-ops every eight months, representing approximately 10 percent of our engineering team. We have also seen nine former Co-ops return to the company in a full-time capacity. We spoke to some co-ops past and present about their individual experiences.
Click play below to listen to an interview with a former Co-op student, Victoria Chang:
“Tasktop provides vast opportunities and has a great culture with a positive environment. As a former Co-op, I was able to get hands-on experience from every aspect in software development while receiving the support I needed. The fundamentals that I’ve learned and the new things that I’m continuing to learn from Tasktop has definitely helped me in professional development.” – Mandy Fung, former co-op and now Software Engineer 1, Tasktop
“I started as a Co-op at Tasktop in 2011, and the company has changed a lot in the intervening years, but the thing that kept me coming back for more through my degree and as a full time employee has remained largely intact. That one thing is the company’s openness to having everyone contribute at any level. Whether it be working shoulder to shoulder on a team with multiple PhDs and Masters degrees as a 19 year old Co-op, or being given the reigns to our internal lecture series “Tasktop Forum” shortly after joining the company full time, Tasktop has always been open and proactive with giving real responsibility and opportunity to everyone. That’s what let me know that Tasktop was the right place for me as a student and as a full time engineer.” – Jaxsun McCarthy Huggan, former co-op and now Software Engineer 2, Tasktop
“Out of all the different places I have Co-oped at, Tasktop stood out to me for a few big reasons. The training given did an excellent job of getting me familiar with the codebase, and throughout my entire Co-op term whenever I had a question the answer was quickly forthcoming. The processes ran mostly smoothly allowing me to focus on programming and things I wanted to focus on, rather than meeting, reports, or other miscellaneous overheads. And most of all I found that I liked to work with everyone here, and that the company atmosphere and Friday Happy Hours were great.” – Louis Belleville, former co-op and now Software Engineer 1, Tasktop
“As a Co-op at Tasktop, I was given a comprehensive hands-on experience that I believe I would not have received at a larger company. I felt that I was given a large degree of freedom to work on projects that made a difference for our developer teams and was given an opportunity to get a breadth of experience in multiple tools and technologies. Additionally, the mentorship I received from some of the other developers on my team was second to none, as they were extremely helpful and patient with all of my questions along the way.
I returned to Tasktop because I knew I would be returning to engaging work in a growing company with a positive work culture. Many of my peers come from unique professional backgrounds outside of software development and I believe that contributes to a refreshing array of perspectives and personalities in the office. With happy hour at 4pm every Friday, there is a strong emphasis on social atmosphere and work-life balance that I enjoy.“ – Tim van der Kooi, former co-op and now Software Engineer 1, Tasktop
“Working as an Co-op at Tasktop on the integrations team was an amazing experience to say the least. Tasktop has a great open work culture and I was never treated as an Co-op but as another fellow team member. I was given the freedom to experiment and make mistakes while always having someone I could depend on to guide me in the right direction. Everyone in the company was happy to contribute and help me grow as a software developer and as a person. I would highly recommend any future Co-ops to come experience Tasktop.” – Tony Kong, UBC Science Co-op Student
“Working at Tasktop has been a great learning experience so far and I am very happy to be working here. At Tasktop, you are surrounded by people who are both knowledgeable and helpful, and the company provides a working environment that makes it easy to learn and be productive. I highly recommend Tasktop to prospective Co-op students learning software development.” – Griffin Tench, BCIT Computing Science Co-op Student
“My experience as a Co-op at Tasktop was great. I learned many valuable new skills and greatly built on the object-oriented programming knowledge I had acquired through school. Along with that, the weekly Happy Hour and other social events provided great opportunities to meet other Co-ops and people in the company. Overall, it was a very worthwhile experience and I would recommend it to any student as a co-op placement.” – Shannon Benson, UBC BCS Co-Op Student
“The endless opportunities to challenge myself at Tasktop helped to develop both my technical and soft skills. Coupled with Tasktopians’ eagerness to share their knowledge, whether it is related to software development or gravitational waves, Tasktop is an empowering environment that promotes wellness, growth, and innovation.” – Ryan Koon, UBC Science Co-op Student
“At Tasktop, I’ve gotten to work in an environment where I’ve felt like another one of the team, where my opinion is heard and respected, and where I am able to learn with the support of my team members and mentors. I’ve been able to gain experience in a variety of areas, as I am included in all parts of the engineering process from daily scrums and weekly retros to new feature development and verification.” – Kiko Blake, SFU Computing Science Co-op Student
Speak to us today!
For more information about our Co-op program, please contact your school’s Co-op coordinator or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.