How a first time business co-op can make an impact at an innovative technology company
A career in the tech industry is what all the cool kids are pursuing these days (and not just the cool kids – the best and the brightest geeks and gamers too).
Who can blame them? Tech companies (and startups in particular) offer the exciting opportunity to rapidly grow one’s expertise, authority, and pay checks faster than almost anywhere else. Plus, with a startup your individual actions can directly lead to a company-wide (even worldwide) impact.
Tech is booming – and despite significantly increased enrollment in computer science programs everywhere, there is still not enough technical talent to fill the demand from employers.
But what about business students?
What if you’re a business student looking for a co-op, or a recent marketing graduate looking for a job, and you want to enjoy your own slice of the tech industry pie? What if you have no experience in the tech industry, no technical skills to speak of (other than that blog you wrote as a school project), no knowledge of intimidating sounding computer lingo, and no clue what AR/VR actually are?
What if you’re essentially an experience-less, knowledge-less, connection-less business student who barely knows what they want for dinner let alone what they want to do with their life? – is there still hope for a career in tech?
This post tells the story of a business student who proved that there is. Her name is Anna Mazza, the (soon-to-be former) Marketing and Business Administration Co-op with award-winning AR/VR tech company LlamaZOO Interactive.
Interview with Marketing and Business Administration Co-op: Anna Mazza
Tell me who you are in one sentence
Omnipotent, but an apathetic underachiever.
Tell me three fun facts about yourself
- I can blink and sneeze at the same time.
- Children trust me.
- Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
Actual footage of me on day 3.
If you’re considering seeking a co-op opportunity, read on, because this post is nothing if not informative.
What is your current position with the company?
I am the Marketing and Business Administration Co-op. But the team likes to refer to me as Queen Anna… not sure why. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What type of tasks do you work on?
It’s a very wide variety of tasks I’ve gotten the chance to work on. Some of my tasks have included writing blogs, creating company documents such as an employee handbook, working in wordpress to create a new “about us” page for the website, research tasks, writing a whitepaper, managing the company social media, and more!
Why did you seek a co-op opportunity?
It was mandatory for my program. BUT I like to believe if it hadn’t been mandatory I would’ve still sought a co-op position as they’re extremely beneficial when it comes to gaining professional experience and actually discovering what you’re passionate about. I’ve been able to better understand what motivates me – whether that be a pep talk from Draymond Green, or the satisfaction of finishing a blog post – and this new understanding has helped me better assess my interests and drivers.
How did you find your placement?
The Gustavson School of Business bachelor of Commerce program at UVic includes 3 mandatory co-op terms that you can either find and arrange yourself, or you can find through an online portal called Learning in Motion (LIM), which is how I found mine.
I was very excited to see the LlamaZOO job posting online, and from there I really tried to tailor my cover letter and resume to appeal to the company. Once I had sent those off, my last plea for attention was speaking with Devan and Charlotte from LlamaZOO at a Uvic networking event. I believe this is what made them say “WE MUST HIRE THAT GIRL”, or whatever they discussed after meeting me… I imagine it went something like this:
Devan: “Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW. There’s just something about that young lady, she HAS IT. I’m almost scared to hire her, she’s too good…”
Charlotte: “Jolly good show! She’s a bloody good candidate for the job, and a spiffy dresser!”
And then I was hired.
What were some challenges you faced finding your placement?
One of the things I found challenging was writing cover letters. Writing a letter about yourself to try and persuade strangers of your above average organizational skills was a bit foreign to me. I found it tricky sometimes to remain true to my voice while also trying to sound very professional. In the end though, it was a great skill to work on and develop.
I would recommend to anyone else who struggles with this:
1) try to write a very rough draft of what you want to say, with the tone and voice you want it to have (don’t worry about grammar or spelling at this point).
2) get a friend, parent, teacher, or co-op coordinator to edit and help you develop the structure and content from there.
This way you can create a cogent cover letter that still shows your personality, without getting caught up in silly details.
Do you have any interview tips for co-op seeking students?
Just to be prepared. Preparation is key people! You should walk into that interview and be able to confidently speak about the company, the industry, and who’s interviewing you. If you can confidently speak on these things, as well as confidently speak about yourself, you will do amazing and be able to answer all their questions in a professional, well articulated manner.
However, I would also say don’t go as far as to look into anyone’s personal life. Don’t have lurked your interviewer’s Instagram and bring up things like “wow that vacation you took last winter looked really fun” or “I’m sorry to hear about your cat”, because it’s unprofessional… and kinda weird…
Have you enjoyed your time with the company? Favourite part? Least favourite part?
Yes. Very much. The most enjoyable part for me has been the wonderful people that make up this company. They are all such hardworking, hilarious, supportive people that made work fun to show up to everyday. I was nervous to start my first real “office” job and they made it a really smooth transition for me.
My least favourite aspect of work I guess would be that sometimes tasks were somewhat repetitive or dull. Not often would I feel this way, but on occasion I wasn’t as excited about some tasks as others. But, it was important that I learn them as they are valuable skills and its important to be able to find motivation to do things you’re not innately passionate about. It can’t ALL be fun and games okay!
What interested you in working for a tech startup? And has that changed over the term?
I wouldn’t at all call myself a tech junkie or enthusiast like some of the people I work with, but I do appreciate the industry. I’ve seen through programs at school, such as CanAssist for example, some of the revolutionary ways technology can transform people’s lives. It astonishes me the worlds that can be created by technology, and more so, virtual reality. Perhaps not knowing too much about the industry made it seem even more magical, but I was essentially blown away by everything I saw, wanted to learn more, and wanted to be a part of the team that got to promote this amazing content.
I believe my interest in the tech sector has only grown. My lack of technical knowledge led me to shy away from positions I felt I wouldn’t know much about, but it’s actually been much easier and much more rewarding than I thought to research and learn about Victoria’s flourishing tech industry, and now also have contributed to it.
What tips do you have for future students who might fill this role?
For this position, I would say try to absorb as much knowledge at the beginning as you can. The company works on some pretty complex, ambiguous projects that without a technical background or knowledge of the industries they work in, might be hard to understand. In order to be able to market and promote the company you have to know what it is they do, so spend as much time as you can really studying the company and the industries because it will help give you confidence later to be able to write about it.
Anything that surprised you?
One day I turned around at my desk and my colleague Jeff was half an inch away from my face… presumably he had been there for a while…. That was a big surprise.
Another surprise was how flat the organizational structure was. It was very cool to be able to talk directly with the co-founders essentially whenever I needed to. The team dynamic is very strong with this company, and it shows in their ability to continuously deliver on projects.
And a last surprise was how much autonomy I was given over my own work. Aside from school work, I’ve never really gotten the opportunity to pick my own projects and be able to exercise my creativity, which has been something I’ve loved.
What is the MAIN thing you’ve learned during this co-op that you think will help at your next professional role?
Aside from learning how to sleep with one eye open at my desk (you can’t trust anyone around here), I’m very grateful I got the chance to develop my ability to use tools such as WordPress, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and Google Drive because these are very valuable skills. However, I think most importantly I’ve developed a confidence in myself to be able to make decisions and be proactive in a professional, fast-paced environment.
What’s the best joke you learned during the term?
What you’re about to see is less of a joke and more of a traumatic sequence of horror… But funny none the less Enjoy!
Hopefully this was helpful in some way to someone. Enjoy the slideshow, those faces will haunt you forever.
So apparently that’s what it’s like working for LlamaZOO. We’re a diverse team of playful, fearless individuals based out of beautiful Victoria and Vancouver BC. Our office space is equipped with a rooftop patio for team BBQs, a gaming lounge (for mario kart battles), bike storage, showers, and pets! Not only does our team develop groundbreaking, disruptive projects, we do it while having fun.