Co-op: An Experience of a Lifetime

Student Co-op Placement CST Consultants In

By: Imran Ali

There are many lessons to be learned at university both inside and outside of the classroom. During my time at Ryerson University, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Co-op program, which is designed for students to receive work experience in their respective field.

I’d heard so many great things about the program, however, I still wasn’t convinced. “Co-op can’t be that life changing,” was what I told myself in my second year. Boy, was I ever wrong.

You see, Co-op is not about what grade you got in economics or how many pages you’ve written for the essay due next Friday - it is about what you can bring to the table. Sure, knowledge is a key factor in success, but the attitude and the drive to succeed is not necessarily something you learn in a multitude of three hour lectures or during examinations.

My Co-op placement as a Junior IT Analyst at CST Consultants Inc., entails supporting end-users of internal programs in our Head Office and executing daily operations involving IT support. This placement has been an amazing introduction to the large field of Information Technology and understanding the interdisciplines within IT (Business Analysis/Testing, Development, Database Administration etc.)

Throughout my experience here at CST, I have learned three valuable lessons that I will remember forever:

Have a Positive Attitude

I strongly believe that the most defining factor to fulfilling your goals in this life, has to do with the attitude you have towards your goals. From the wise words of Irving Berlin, “Life is 10% what you make it, and 90% how you take it.”

If you have the right attitude and mindset, there are no limits to what you can achieve! Having a positive attitude and drive to succeed in the workplace kept me energetic, sharp, and attentive. Even on the days when my body is physically tired, I make sure that my mind is mentally prepared for the day ahead. It’s amazing how quickly your body will follow suit with your frame of mind!

Network, Network, Network

You will be a student amongst professionals in your industry. A Co-op placement puts you in an amazing position to connect with people who’ve been through what you have, and who can guide you with their experience and knowledge. I am lucky enough to be a part of a company where the executives interact with employees on a frequent basis. This creates an inclusive environment where you can voice your opinions and input no matter which department you are in or what role you play within CST.

Put your best foot forward and take the initiative to connect and speak with these professionals who have an abundance of knowledge and experiences. Don’t limit yourself to those in your department or field. I’ve spoken with people who aren’t necessarily in my chosen industry and have learned just as much from them as I have from my colleagues in my department.

Learn as Much as You Can

This is what co-op is all about. Taking your professional experience with you when you go back to school will be so valuable in terms of putting your post-secondary education into perspective. You will gain a greater understanding as to why your program requires specific courses and how they’re related to your field.

Group members will look to you and ask, “Hey, is there any chance you learned this in Co-op?” You won’t be able to stop yourself from grinning when you say, “Oh yes. I did.”

Overall, the opportunity to be part of a Co-op program has been an invaluable, hands-on experience which has given me insight on the day-to-day challenges in the workplace environment. I’ve learned things that I’ve never been taught in my program (for example: Bash scripting in Linux) and had a team to help me out with the learning curve. Over the course of the placement, I was trusted with more tasks such as writing up documentation for the implementation of new programs or setup procedures for internal department use. It’s been such an incredible journey from when I began my Co-op placement in May 2016 and how much I’ve learned and grown until now, 8 months later. I can still vividly remember my first day here at CST being introduced to everyone … oh how time flies!

If your school has a Co-op program within your degree of choice, take it. Next thing you know, it’ll be you writing a blog about how amazing your co-op experience has been!

Imran Ali is a third year student at Ryerson University studying Business Technology Management and has enjoyed his Co-op placement at CST Consultants as a Junior IT Analyst. In the future, Imran hopes to bridge the gap between business, IT, and information security. In his spare time, Imran enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing billiards, and watching his favorite TV shows!