Fraser working on Smart Imaging SystemCurious to know more about the team at PPO? “People at PPO” is a blog series that highlights the work our team does every day. In each post, we interview one of our team members to get an inside view of PPO and to learn about their experience working here. Join us as we tell their stories and discover how their work impacts the technology we build. 

This week, we sat down with Fraser Robinson, a hardware intern, and asked him about his work experience. He first completed a co-op term with us back in 2018 and is back this summer to work with us. Here’s what he had to say about his experience.

J: Hi Fraser! It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard great things about you.

Fraser: Hi Jenevieve, it’s nice to meet you too.

J: I heard you just graduated from university, first of which, congratulations! What did you study during your undergraduate degree and why did you choose to study it?

Fraser: I studied Mechatronics engineering at the University of Waterloo. I enjoyed learning robotics and how it touches so many different disciplines. Growing up in Nova Scotia while I wasn’t exposed to a lot of tech I knew I wanted to pursue engineering after learning about it in grade 8. I applied to several Ontario schools and was fortunate to be accepted into UW!

J: Robots are pretty neat! Switching now to PPO, what do you do here?

Fraser: I’m a mechanical designer. This usually means I have SolidWorks open all the time on my computer. When I’m not on my computer, I’m managing hardware inventory, helping out production, or performing system tests and production. I’ve also had the privilege of helping with the applications team during my previous co-op and enjoyed seeing how their team functions. I think our hardware team can learn a lot from their flexibility and decisive action amidst multiple priorities.

Fraser working on solidworks

J: That’s cool that you do a variety of things and that you’re not always on solidworks. So this is also your second term back at PPO. Why did you decide to come back?

Fraser: PPO is really fun and the people are very easy to work with. I genuinely look forward to work, and the work-life balance is exceptional. So far it’s been a good break to work here between my bachelors and master’s degree. 

J: What are you looking forward to working on this term?

Fraser: It’s a unique time and season at PPO. Back when I was a co-op student in 2018, the hardware process wasn’t as built out as it is today. Now on the hardware side, the system is standardized and we’re ramping up production so I’m excited to see the process first hand and contribute to it.

J: You mentioned that in 2018, the hardware process wasn’t as built out as it is today. Since it’s been three years since your last co-op here, what are some similarities and differences you’ve noticed between your first co-op here and your current internship?

Fraser: Some similarities are the people, work-life balance and community feel. All of these things haven’t changed much since my first co-op. Some differences are more drive, direction, systems and partners, a bigger team, and more purposeful results. When I first started, the team was smaller and we were still figuring out what worked and what didn’t work. It’s fantastic to see PPO grow to what it is today. 

J: We’ve talked a lot about your time at PPO and you might have already answered this question but, what’s your favorite thing about working here?

Fraser: I think I already mentioned that it’s fun to work here. And that’s really all because of the people. Everyone is understanding and friendly while also knowing how to challenge you. The culture comes from the top down and is organically cultivated here. It really sets the tone and it builds great teamwork. Hernan is really fun and great at letting me grow and explore what I like to work on. 

Fraser with PPO sign doing a peace sign

J: Since you’ve been through five co-op experiences, what’s one of the most important things you’ve learned? It can either be from your experience from PPO or elsewhere.

Fraser: From all of my experiences, it’s been how things are done in the real world. At each company, you learn new technical skills and I’ve been lucky to work in a variety of industries.  However, much of what I mean by how things are done in the real world is the soft skills. It’s how to manage a team, communicate with people and tell stories effectively. In one of my co-op experiences not at PPO, my manager kept changing so I had to learn to take initiative. At PPO, you work in a small and dynamic environment meaning you’re working with a lot of different people. The one skill you’ll quickly learn and one that I might have mentioned before is how to work effectively in fast-paced environments with different teams. 

J: That’s awesome! I heard in the fall you’ll be starting your master’s degree in the fall. What will you be studying?

Fraser: The details of what I’ll be studying since I’m still looking for a supervisor, but I’ll be deepening my knowledge in the intersection between humanity and technology. I’ll be studying social robotics and wearables, how people interact and use this technology, and the social good that can come from it. I’m really excited to be in a position where I make decisions that impact real problems and do social good.

J: That’s really exciting to hear you want to make decisions that impact real problems and do social good! What do you want to do when you finish your master’s?

Fraser: I’m not sure. I know that I want to do something that’s results-driven and has impact. I want to try the research field because I enjoy new technology development. The hope is that in doing my masters I’ll see if I’m more excited by the impact from broad or deep knowledge and will go from there.

J: Well it was so great to chat with you and learn about what you’ll be doing during your master’s degree. One last question before we go, what’s your favorite food?

Fraser: I’d have to say sushi. It has a lot of good flavor combos that you can’t go wrong with. My Trifecta of places I like to eat here in Waterloo are Ken’s Sushi, Jinzakaya or Kinkaku.

J: I love Ken’s Sushi for a la carte and Kinkaku for all you can eat. The fish from both places are so good! Thanks again Fraser for sharing your experience.

Fraser: You’re welcome! 

Interested in working at PPO? Check out our Careers Page for more information!