Interview: Junior Developer, Jeff Manke, takes us through the ins and outs of his Co-op Experience with LlamaZOO Interactive
Did you know LlamaZOO offers Co-op positions? Co-op experiences give students the chance to apply their classroom-learned-knowledge to real life work experiences, which could in turn lead to full-time employment. It is a beautiful bridge between the classroom and the workplace, and an opportunity for students to explore (and discover) their true passions.
We’ve interviewed one of our Technical Co-op Llamas, Jeff Manke, to give you an inside look at what a Co-op experience with LlamaZOO is really like. No frills!
Former Co-op, now full-time Llama, Jeff Manke, had a humble beginning. Born in Edmonton, he was raised in Nottingham near Sherwood Park before he moved to Campbell River here in BC. He now lives in beautiful Victoria and is pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Economics from the University of Victoria. On his days off he enjoys hiking nearby trails such as East Sooke Park, and playing games at our local Interactivity Board Game Cafe. As you’ll discover in this interview, Jeff has a warm heart, fiery passion for AR/VR development, bone dry sense of humour, and “concise” way of speaking that makes him a truly unique Llama.
Recently uncovered facts about Jeff to break the ice of this interview:
- Jeff was born and raised near (or possibly IN) Sherwood Park. Sherwood Forest is a royal forest in Nottinghamshire, England, famous by its historic association with the legend of Robin Hood… coincidence? We think not.
- Jeff is OBSESSED with butter chicken and mayonnaise. **Not together, Jeff would later specify.
- Jeff has an unknown food allergy which surreptitiously arose one day after eating a roast beef and pickle sandwich. Was it the beef? Was it the pickle? Was it a combination?? We just don’t know.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
Could you tell me one fun fact about yourself?
I enjoy work.
What sort of obstacles did you face when finding your co-op placement?
Well, specific to me, at the time I was going to begin my placement there was a new government that had just come into power, so the whole funding program was up in the air. This meant I had to wait 8 months to get placed with LlamaZOO, because we couldn’t get a grant, and I needed to then wait for the new co-op semester. Aside from that, the Uvic Job Board was definitely a challenge to decipher.
When did you begin your co-op with LlamaZOO?
I began September 1st, 2017 on a 4 month term on a NSERC grant. After that I kind of decided I didn’t want to go back to school full-time and LlamaZOO offered me a permanent position. So I now work full-time for LlamaZOO while also taking 2 classes per semester to finish school.
What is your current position with the company?
I am a Junior Developer. I work mainly in Unity developing back end frameworks for their 3D applications, and I used to do a lot of UI stuff as well.
What is your background in?
I am working towards my double major in computer science and economics. My prior work experience that is most applicable, was IT at CRA. Working at LlamaZOO was my first official co-op.
How did you find LlamaZOO, and why was it appealing to you?
I found the posting on the Uvic job board and saw “VR” and that hooked me. I did VR/AR stuff as a hobby before, hand-making some simulations and games. So I already had a strong interest for the area.
Do you have any interview tips for our students out there?
For LlamaZOO specifically, I would say have Unity experience. And be confident!
How has your overall experience with LlamaZOO been? What would you say a challenge and benefit from the experience has been? How were you treated?
Like any job, it can be stressful at times. There can be late nights and times of frustration, but overall it is such a fun experience here at the ZOO. It is a fantastic work environment full of collaboration, positivity, and humour. I worked at another tech company where everyone would always just have their heads down in their work and never spoke to each other, which made things awkward and detracted from productivity and overall company culture.
“It is a fantastic work environment full of collaboration, positivity, and humour.”
A challenge I would say was the limited time for training, you really need to be a self starter. In a startup, they can’t afford to have someone shadow someone else because everyone is always busy, however, there was always someone willing to help if I needed it. Oh and the hololens, that was also a challenge at first.
A benefit would definitely have to be the amount of practice I got with real-world software architecture that they just don’t teach you in the classroom. It was much better programming knowledge.
I have been treated very well, and you get beer and stuff which is nice.
What is your favourite part about working at LlamaZOO?
The people. There’s not a single person in the office I dislike.
K ya, maybe Devan, that guy is always out to get somebody.
“That guy is always out to get somebody.”
I also love the fact that they don’t restrict the type of software you have to use. You can use any tool you want, which offers a lot of freedom.
Can you offer any advice to aspiring Llamas or other Co-op students in the field?
The most important thing I would say is to do stuff at home. Don’t just rely on what you’re learning in the classroom; if you’re doing programming, school is not enough, you need to be self motivated and do projects at home.
“Don’t just rely on what you’re learning in the classroom; if you’re doing programming, school is not enough.”
Any last remarks?
Working with AR and VR is THE most fun thing ever.
Well, there you have it! Not only can you expect to utilize what you’ve been taught in the classroom in your Co-op, you will likely expand that knowledge and continue to learn valuable technical skills, professional expectations, and how to operate in a fast-paced startup environment. Here at the ZOO we offer Technical Co-ops as well as Business Co-ops. We encourage you to explore your options for Co-op as it could potentially lead to a future career, exposure to groundbreaking innovation, and if you’re really lucky, you might just meet someone like Jeff.
Things to remember for a successful Co-op:
- Be confident, LIKE JEFF
- Don’t just rely on classes, do your own projects from home LIKE JEFF
- Have major love for the work you’re doing, LIKE JEFF
At LlamaZOO we develop interactive and immersive 3D communications, training, and digital twin visualization software for enterprise, specializing in mining, and other natural resource industries.
We are world-leading experts in spatial data fusion – combining large datasets into one centralized repository, making access to and understanding of critical data easier and faster, for both internal and external stakeholders.
If you’re interested in learning more about any of our solutions, or exploring project possibilities for your own company, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org