In our first interview, we sat down with University of Waterloo student Rachel Bobb. Rachel is an Applications Technician Co-op student at PPO this term. She’s not only completed one, but two co-op terms with us. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.
J: It’s so great to finally meet you! And welcome back to PPO.
Rachel: Thanks! Very excited to be back again working at PPO.
J: Tell me, what do you study at university? Why did you decide to study it?
Rachel: I’m a third-year biology student minoring in biotechnology. I was very much inspired by TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Bones to pursue a career in science. I was watching what the characters did on those shows and thought “that’s so cool, I want to do that.” It also helps that I did well in bio and rarely had any confusion with it.
J: Same. When I was in high school, I thought that I wanted to go into forensic science because I watched a lot of CSI and Criminal Minds. It wasn’t until I did titrations in chemistry class that I learned being a scientist isn’t for me. You mentioned you’re doing a biotechnology minor. Could you talk about why you pursued that minor?
Rachel: I was initially looking at doing something in a lab like a radiologist or a technician. I also didn’t want to pursue something with a long study commitment like a doctor or a surgeon. So I found the biotechnology minor. This minor will give me broader skills and access to different career options.
J: That’s pretty neat. Let’s talk about your experience with co-op. Could you tell me about what you do at PPO?
Rachel: Yeah! So, I work with the applications team. We’re responsible for collecting data on the products we put through our System. That data is then used by the software team so that they can build machine learning algorithms. Most of the work I do is like the glue that holds the applications team together. I prepare workspaces and equipment, create and organize spreadsheets, gather materials needed, help plan and execute feasibility studies, and help the applications team capture information when we work with the system.
J: Wow it sounds like you do a lot of hard work with the applications team! So this is your second term back at PPO. Why did you decide to come back?
Rachel: During my first co-op term, I really liked the work I was doing. The work wasn’t confusing or too technical that I couldn’t follow it. I came back for another term because I could see where I could grow and improve. Since it’s my second term back, I have a better sense of what I’m doing. I can take on projects on my own and help complete them from start to finish. There are so many projects going on that I can project manage a few during my 4-month work term. I’m also looking forward to working with the people at PPO again. Since it’s a small team and company, you really get to know people, learn from them and build close relationships. I especially like working with the applications team. I really liked working with them and felt like I received good guidance which is rare to find at other companies. Not to mention the team is mostly women.
J: That’s so great to hear that you liked the work you were doing at PPO that you came back a second time! What’s your favorite thing about working at PPO?
Rachel: The people. Everyone is happy to go to work. No one dreads coming to work every day, and it makes my day enjoyable. The people, in general, are good and fun to work with. If you’re looking to work with great people and get hands-on technicial experience that’s easy to understand, this is a great place to do your co-op.
J: It sounds like you enjoy your co-op experience here. What are some things you learned at co-op that you wouldn’t have learned in the classroom?
Rachel: How to cut chicken *laughs*. Aside from that, it’s working with a team in a workplace setting. In school, there’s an “every man for themselves” mentality whereas at work it shifts to “what can I do to make this better for everyone.” At work, you have a clearer understanding of how your role plays an important part in the project. In school, roles in a group project aren’t always clearly defined. This makes it hard to work with people at times. Also at work, you start to think about how your work impacts others’ which is something you don’t learn in school.
J: Now that you’ve gone through a few co-op terms, what do you plan to do after you graduate?
Rachel: Before I started any co-op work terms, I thought I wanted to do medical school right after. But after working a few co-op terms, I think I want to do data-based work. Maybe something in public health? I’m not entirely sure. I want to do work that builds towards a final result and something where I’m collaborating with others. Right now, I’m thinking about a master’s in biostatistics. But again I’m not entirely sure and that might change when I graduate.
J: I’m sure whatever path you choose, you’ll do great! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with PPO. One last question before we wrap up, what’s your favorite food?
Rachel: I LOVE SHAWARMA. Someone says shawarma, I’m there. I love ordering chicken, tahini sauce and spinach. My favorite place here in Waterloo is Shawarma Royale on King Street. It’s the best, it’s so good, I would highly recommend it.
J: *laughs* I know shawarma is a contentious topic here in Kitchener-Waterloo. Especially since there’s a big rivalry between Shawarma Plus and Mozy’s. I haven’t tried Shawarma Royale, so I’ll have to check it out next time I get shawarma. Thanks again Rachel for sharing your experience of working at PPO.
Rachel: Thank you!
Interested in working at PPO? Check out our Careers Page for more information!