Aaron Tan's Blog

07 Oct 2017

Thoughts after a month at Waterloo

So, it’s Thanksgiving break and reading week, which gives me time to breathe – and update this blog! One month of Waterloo, one month of Stream 4, new friends and new clubs! In this blog post, I’m gonna go into a few tips for coöp application process and interviews, then thoughts about life at Waterloo in general.

Coöp and Interviews

On the advice of upper-year students and as indicated by the previous blog post, I applied to 50 jobs in the first round, and applied to jobs that interested me in the second round (which amounted to exactly zero). Up to this point, it has netted me eight interviews, which I’ve been told is a lot for a first-year student with not that much experience.

What I’ve learned from this:

  • If you’re using a browser other than Chrome, just switch to Chrome when you’re using WaterlooWorks for the extensions! I’m using WaterlooWorks Now, which gives me several handy features like Glassdoor integration, the ability to view the job posting without having to navigate away from the page, and the ability to add interviews directly to a variety of Calendar sources (including Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, etc.)
  • Resume critiques are super helpful! Go to the WEEF TA one, join your program’s Facebook page so you can see when events are happening, and have good friends that will tell you. I got great advice from Asif and Matthew, second year CE students, and also from Stephen, the WEEF TA who looked at mine. I also went to the Google Resume Critique event, where I got a free Google t-shirt, a steak burrito, and a free metal water bottle in addition to some great tips.
  • Employers appreciate cover letters. Out of the four interviews that I wrote cover letters for (in the first week), all of them mentioned how they appreciated that I wrote and they liked my tone and attitude. My cover letters were customized to some extent - demonstrating interest in the industry and the company, and also using words and skills directly from the job posting - and the interviewers really liked it.
  • Read the instructions for your interviews! Phone/webcam interviews have a different procedure compared to in-person interviews. For phone/webcam, you go directly to the call centre, but the in-person interviews make you wait in the lobby until your name shows up on the screen. Don’t miss your interview because you forgot to read the details!
  • QA positions will usually not have a technical portion but they will ask how you would test something. For my Thalmic interview, the interviewer drew a webpage on the wall and asked me all the ways that it could fail. Be as thorough as you can and relate your tests to the expected functionality of the page, no matter how basic.
  • Dev jobs sometimes make you code on a whiteboard, and some of them send out coding challenges after the fact. My buddy Clement got an interview with AMD where they told him to code on the whiteboard, whereas my interview with Fitbit started off with them telling me that they thought that whiteboard coding was pointless and they would send me a challenge in an email. The more time your interview is expected to last, the more likely it is an in-person technical interview.
  • Do your research. WaterlooWorks tells you the name of the company (duh) and sometimes the interviewer’s name. Check up on their press releases. Read up on their new products and what they do. Maybe even stalk your interviewer on LinkedIn and ask about stuff that they’ve done in the past.
  • Engage with the interviewer as much as you can. You shouldn’t just be interested in the job, but the company and the interviewer too! Ask about what they think of the company, or their daily routine, or what company perks they take advantage of. It sets you apart from other applicants who might just be there because they’re interested in finding something that gives them money, and also establishes a rapport between you and the person behind the interviewer mask.

One thing that still confuses me is how you’re supposed to dress. For phone interviews, you could literally go in pyjamas and the interviewer would be none the wiser. For Skype and in-person, is it business casual? Is it business formal? Is it just casual? Seems like all the ones that I’ve interviewed with are in super casual company t-shirts, but CECA tells me that I need to go in business wear…

Stream 4 vs Stream 8

The general idea has been hashed over so many times, but so far in the term I don’t think that it really makes a difference.

Advantages of Stream 4:

  • Less competition for jobs
  • More work experience earlier
  • A break from school (if you’re into that)

Disadvantages of Stream 4:

  • Sleep, Social, Work - choose two of three is definitely true when you’re applying for jobs while trying to balance the workload.
  • Won’t see a lot of people later on (but that’s true of Stream 8 too, so…)
  • Won’t see the cool kids in SE and CS :(

New people and new clubs

NRB is super lit. Cafeteria, piano, gym, and study areas… Only problem is that the food is super expensive. Makes me sort of glad that I’m living off campus but have friends to let me in (thanks Kash!). Plus ping-pong tables.

Party Games Club is a blast, and apparently Savannah Bell is a genius so that’s cool too. Met new people and played Captain Sonar, Cash’n’Guns, Secret Hitler, and Codenames. I loved Captain Sonar and can’t wait to try that again!

Joined WatSat, and hoping to get on the Command team. Seems like it’ll get me some embedded experience and more comfort writing code in C in a production environment - perfect for a computer engineer.

People have been recommending that I join cheese club. (Thanks, Ellen and Dora.) I’m not. Cheese is disgusting.

All in all, it’s been a great first month. I’m running out of positive adjectives to describe my experiences, so lemme just run over to thesaurus.com…

It has been a











aaron at 22:55