Real-World Tech: My Co-Op Term at Safe Software
Co-op students have been an integral part of Safe Software for over 20 years, contributing to core FME technology and often returning as full-time software developers. Today we welcome Thomas Alain to the blog, a UFV student who has been a part of the FME Server team. He shares what it’s like to be a co-op at Safe, from orientation week to lunchtime ping pong.
After being a student for several years and creating many projects to improve my coding skills, I was really excited to start my first co-op placement at Safe Software. I had a previous part-time job at a small company as a web developer, which gave me an idea what it’s like to work in the industry, but it was a work-from-home job and it didn’t include much collaboration with other developers. At Safe Software I worked 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday at the office and had a team lead down the hall and always felt comfortable asking him questions. It was an excellent learning environment.
Starting from day one, Safe Software offered an experience that showed they care about all of their employees, including the co-ops. We started with an extensive one-week orientation process that introduced us to the company, trained us on the product we would be working on and taught us about important concepts like software copyright and source control — good things to learn for any aspiring software developer. At the end of the first week the co-ops split up and we began working with our teams. My team lead was patient and always happy to help whenever I got stuck (which was a lot at first), but I quickly began to familiarize myself with the code base and become a productive member of the team. Looking through the code was a valuable learning experience itself because I picked up good habits and learned about some bad ones I had been doing for a while. We also had weekly team meetings where everyone would discuss what they were working on and what they had accomplished the previous week. It was interesting hearing about technologies I had learned about in class, and how they were implemented in the “real world”. These experiences have given me a lot more confidence in my technical skills moving forward in my career.
Another great thing about my experience at Safe Software was the people. Throughout the interview and hiring process as well as the week one orientation I interacted with the Human Resources staff often. They were knowledgeable in everything to do with the transition from student to employee, and made the whole process straightforward. I got to hang out with the other co-ops at lunch every day and have discussions about what we were working on, what personal projects interested us and what events (such as hackathons) were worth checking out. Asher was my ping pong opponent every day, Adam helped me out with my calculus homework when I got stuck and I learned about “The Wonders of Relativity and Spacetime” in a Lunch & Learn presentation from Raj. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to go through my first co-op with, and everyone else at the company was easy to get along with too. Even the owners greeted me with a smile whenever I saw them around the office.
With only a few weeks left in my co-op placement I am surprised with how fast my time here has gone by. Finally being able to use what I have learned in class was satisfying and I have learned a lot of new things. The team at Safe Software has not only helped me improve my technical skills, but also my soft skills. Skills such as learning to communicate effectively in a business environment and working with a code base with over a million lines of code are almost impossible to acquire before graduating if you do not have work experience. I am truly grateful to have had this introduction to the software industry. Thank you to all of the Safers!
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