While the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced offices to physically close, students in the Ted Rogers Co-op program have still been able to gain valuable work experience with remote work placements at some of Canada’s leading organizations.

The Business Career Hub (BCH), which runs the Ted Rogers Co-op Program, has been working hard during this challenging time to help students secure jobs. The team has done so by hiring more people in Business Development to source new positions, and creating a Consulting group of co-op students to assist businesses with navigating the pandemic. The BCH also expanded its Bootcamp programming to ensure students have the important industry skills they need to be “job-ready.”

In addition, to better support co-op students during their work terms, the Co-op Case Management Form has been updated to include a “COVID-19 and Related Concerns” option to effectively capture any issues that may arise. Cases are submitted and added privately to the Salesforce CRM to be actioned by management and staff within eight business hours to ensure timely follow-up with students.

By adding this option, the Ted Rogers Co-op team is able to more effectively identify and report on these cases and understand the impact COVID-19 may be having on co-op, as well as the safety and well-being of students and employer partners.

Here is what a few Ted Rogers Co-op students said about their work placements during the pandemic:

Raisa Ahmed – Finance
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

I am a senior Finance Co-op student and started my first work term as a Junior Accountant at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), which provides the only Doctor of Naturopathy degree program in Canada. It was a four-month co-op placement which I extended to the Fall term as a part-time employee, mainly because of how much I enjoyed working there.

My primary responsibilities dealt with providing support for processing Accounts Payables, Receivables and recording General Ledger Entries, including month end journals, reconciliations and helping with audit. I was also tasked with completing a special project regarding CCNM’s Student Relief Fund, which provided financial aid for students who have been negatively affected by COVID-19.

My work term has been an excellent learning experience. At every step, I learned new things which broadened my technical skills, starting from implementing different formulas in Excel and trying to automate processes, to learning new software (MS Dynamics NAV). This co-op position also developed key interpersonal skills, such as being able to prioritize tasks to meet multiple deadlines, and building independence and confidence in my own abilities. This was a key skill that I had to develop for my special project, which I completed by myself.

Adjusting to a remote working environment forced me to figure out creative ways to communicate with my colleagues, which has helped improve my virtual communication skills. Considering there was a huge barrier to creating bonds with my colleagues, I adapted to make sure I was able to fit into CCNM’s virtual work environment by maintaining constant and clear communication with my teammates. This was a little difficult to establish considering I am a quiet individual and work was remote, but it has made me realize that stepping out of my comfort zone allowed me to identify my own strengths and weaknesses.

Working remotely now seems like second nature to me because of how much I was able to adapt to such a new working environment and I am sure that everyone else in my department, as well as everyone in other remote co-op positions, had to overcome this barrier too because adaptability has now become a key underrated skill post COVID-19.

Nabil El-Haswa – Business Technology Management
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

Nabil El-Haswa

During my last co-op term, I worked at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as an IT Analyst within the Central Deskside Support Division. In this role, I was responsible for a wide range of tasks to support our clients to provide them with the smooth technological experience which can elevate their workflow.

After the third month of my eight-month co-op term, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the lockdown began. This is when I realized the importance of a strong IT infrastructure and how essential my team was in supporting it.

I was assigned to build as many laptops as I possibly could to set the stage for the new normal for every employee within our office, which was working from home until further notice. To be able to keep up with the inevitable demand for laptops that clients and the CRA would need to keep functioning, I worked all workday, every day, for about a week setting up around 30 laptops a day to ensure as many people could work from home. As a result, I helped to ensure that over 1,200 clients were able to successfully work remotely.

Once we were no longer able to enter the office, a large amount of my time was spent providing technical support to our clients. A lot of support was needed, and this support proved to be much harder to provide remotely because a problem that I could solve within a few minutes in the office, would now take at least double the time from home.  

Overall this experience taught me how to adapt to a completely unexpected situation, as I transitioned from a strictly on-site job, to a remote one while still being able to complete my work effectively and help a large number of clients with their technical issues. I also learned the importance technology can have on our everyday lives. I am not only thankful, but proud, that I chose a program that emphasizes this, and had the chance to see it first-hand during this unique co-op term.

If it was not for the efficient and knowledgeable IT department I was a part of, our clients would not have been able to get their work done under the circumstances. Some of these clients included those working on the CERB initiative that has helped thousands of Canadians remain a float during these tough times. As a result of this experience, I have gained a new found motivation to excel in my studies and career, as I have seen the importance and difference it can make.

Miranda Silver – Economics and Management Science (Finance minor)
Johnson & Johnson

Miranda Silver

My first co-op experience was working as an IT Business Analyst in the Consumer sector at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) from January to September 2020. My role had a very heavy project management/leadership aspect focused on using IT processes and resources to drive business outcomes for our Sales and Customer Development teams. As someone who does not have an academic background focused in IT, I had a lot to learn within my department, and was excited for the challenge and opportunity ahead.

Suddenly, approximately two months into my work term, my entire department began working from home due to precautions around Covid-19. Being so green in my role, I knew that the learning curve I was facing was about to become much steeper as I no longer was able to go to my manager’s desk when I needed help or had questions. On top of this, it had limited the amount of involvement I had within company activities outside of my role due to them all being in person. I also faced the additional challenge of having to adjust to online courses at school, which I was doing at the same time.

Initially the circumstances were quite discouraging especially since I was unable to have the same face-to-face interactions with my colleagues, and it felt as though I was missing out on other opportunities I otherwise would have had at J&J. Despite this initial outlook, I was determined to make the most of my experience and positively contribute to the company.

I jumped in and took the initiative to independently lead new upcoming projects, specifically within expanding e-Commerce visibility and creating a new Sales & Forecasting dashboard. As I gained confidence and further adjusted to my role, I began creating my own process improvement initiatives, which would help to correct inefficiencies around my role. I also became more involved and led various morale boosting activities within the company, such as heading up numerous co-op student initiatives across various sectors.

In addition to positively contributing to J&J in a virtual setting, I was also able to achieve a competitive grade in my school courses. I found that working from home had increased my independence, resourcefulness, written and verbal communication skills and ability to adapt to stressful/ambiguous situations, and enabled me to learn IT and Business processes on my own.

These challenges also demonstrated the strength of the J&J community, as I always felt support from my manager and colleagues, and never felt alone during this uncertain time. Although I saw numerous unique challenges throughout my work term, I believe that I would not have had the same kind of personal and professional growth had my work term been “typical.”

Posted by Debra Rughoo

Debra Rughoo is a Writing and Content Specialist at the Ted Rogers School of Management.