My Journey in the University of Waterloo’s Computer Engineering Program — 3rd Year
This is part 3 of my 4 part series where I reflect over each year of my undergraduate career over the last 6 years. If you haven’t already, you can check out my reflections on first and second year here:
My Journey at the University of Waterloo’s Computer Engineering Program — 1st Year
This is gonna be quite the long article. It was a really long journey. But with only two weeks left until I am…
My Journey at the University of Waterloo’s Computer Engineering Program — 2nd Year
This is part 2 of my 4 part series where I reflect over each year of my undergraduate career over the last 6 years. If…
Before getting into third year, I want to preface that this year was a pretty big anomaly. Between a decision I made to extend my degree as well as the pandemic it was a far different experience compared to what students usually go through. With that said let’s get into it!
3A: The Culmination of My Degree (May — August 2019)
For all intents and purposes, 3A really felt like the culmination of my degree. Finally, after many terms, school felt like it was part of my life rather than just being my only focus. This development gave time for both me and my friends to pursue other passions during the semester.
Other than the other forms of content I was making, this was also the term I decided to finally get involved with campus clubs. I decided to join UWPM and UWVR, two clubs that were involved in fields I was interested in. I really enjoyed my time in both of them and would recommend checking them out if you are interested in them!
The summer term was amazing right from the get go. The weather was warm, the Raptors were making a run in the playoffs, the final season of Game of Thrones was airing and everyone was in a good mood.
I honestly don’t remember much academically from the first half of the semester. One thing I do remember is that this was the first semester I commited to not going to lectures. I had flirted with the idea of doing it in previous semesters but never fully bought into it until this one. Throughout my degree I had found that I was really distracted in lectures and was much more productive using that time to self study. This term I decided to put that fully to the test.
Outside of school, my fondest memories from the first half of the semester are related to the Raptors Championship run. Me and some friends made a couple trips down to Toronto for the games and the feeling the feeling of finally winning was truly unmatched. The city went crazy that night and it was a night to remember.
Considering the fact that we were all preoccupied with the championship run, our midterms also went pretty well. One or two of them could’ve been better but at this point that was a given during an ECE semester.
Like 2B, coop was the biggest focus of this term. With it being our 5th coop term, we all really wanted to lock down a good position for this one. I was pretty determined to lock down a Product Management job in the US for this one. After applying to a filtered list of jobs and giving interviews, I ended up with mixed results at the end of first round. There were a couple of positions I was in contention for but unfortunately I was ranked for most of them. But finally, a week later I ended up getting a position as a Product Manager for Information Builders, a company based out of New York. Ifinally got my Product Management Internship and would be moving to the US.
After the coop hunt, the second half of the semester consisted of occasional day trips to the beach and us hanging outside enjoying the warm weather. My friends Siddharth and Vyom also spent this time filming their short film Exam Day this semester! You can check it out here:
It was around this time that we also found out that our group was going to be split going into next semester. Some members of our group ended up getting year long coop jobs and would be extending their degree by a year. This meant that this was the last term all of us were going to be together. It was a pretty sad development, especially with everything our friend group had been through, but made sense in the long term.
In the final month, as usual, we went in to write our finals and finished our 3A term. Because we knew that we were going to be split, we ended up coming to terms that this would be our last normal semester at the University. Somehow the timing was perfect, because regardless of whatever we did this was going to be our semester together. After 3A, the pandemic would change the shape of all our degrees.
That’s why for me, my experience at the University of Waterloo feels like it ended here. Everything else feels like it was a cherry on top.
For more insight onto our life in Waterloo, you can check out the vlog my friend Sid made of us during our 3A term:
- If lectures aren’t helping you then stop going to them. You should commit to whatever works best for your learning style and what you think the most effective use of your time is.
- I met the best professor I have had in my degree. Nachiket Kapre is super caring for his students and spent a lot of his own free time at the lab helping students.
- Even with product management experience, getting product jobs are tough, especially given how many people want the small openings that are there.
- Referrals are extremely powerful. This term really opened my eyes up to that.
- Enjoy the time that you have together because you never know what might happen tomorrow
- The smallest details of the world is amazing. There is so much that we do not have the ability to perceive and is beyond us.
- It is so important to have perspective and not get completely engulfed into one thing.
For me, as I have mentioned before, 3A really felt like the end of the degree. It was the last time I had my full group of friends at uWaterloo and felt like we ended up finishing the best way we could. On to New York!
ECE 316 — Liang Liang Xie
ECE 327 — Nachiket Kapre
ECE 351— Derek Rayside
ECE 380— A.J. Heunis
Earth 121(Online) — John Johnston
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Course: ECE 327
Favorite Professor: Nachiket Kapre (GOAT)
Favorite Study Spot: QNC Hallway (GOAT)
Favorite Place for Food: Shinwa
Favorite Song: The Next Time Around — Little Joy
Favourite Memory: This is always tough because of all the great times in a semester but it is either between seeing the Raptors win a chip or the cabin trip that we had.
Coop Term 5: New York, New York (Sept — Dec 2019)
Living in New York was a childhood dream for me. I loved the idea of everything in the world being in a 5km radius and living in quintessential city. New York is most definitely that.
From the day I landed in New York to the day I left, it always amazed me how many things are going on all around you. In the span of 5 minutes you can go from seeing Heidi Klum, a world renowned supermodel, getting ready for halloween to watching a hobo chasing pigeons. There is nothing that isn’t happening in that city.
The biggest mistake I made during the term was choosing to live in Midtown. If you are going to live in New York , DO NOT live in Midtown. Living beside tourist attractions means that the area is dirty, expensive and old. Really old. It also means you will wake up from the most random things. Me and my friend were woken up by Jackhammers at 3am, a mariachi band, a parade, and a couple of protest to name a few. It is far better to live in Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side or Brooklyn for the term. The apartment is likely much better for the money you are spending. Even with us dropping a lot of money, our apartment in Midtown was pretty bad and ended up taking away from an otherwise amazing term.
With that said, living in New York was a lot of fun. I enjoyed all the different restaurants, attractions and things to do in the city. I think it is a great place for a coop job and for going after full time. I will leave multiple suggestions at the bottom of this if you want some of my suggestions.
Work, on the other hand, was not great. Once again, although I enjoyed the Product Management work, I did not vibe with the culture of the organization. My coworkers were nice enough but it felt like a software company stuck in the 80’s. This meant everything felt slow and no one seemed to have the motivation to really push to innovate.
This led me into a crucial decision point. On one hand, I could stick to my current plan and go back to 3B in the Winter. This would mean that I would be graduating on time but only have one more coop term to find a Product Management position at a company I had wanted to work at. It would mean that I would go into looking for full time positions with only 1 formal Product Management position under my belt.
On the other hand, I could look for another Product internship instead for the Winter term. This would mean that I could solidify myself as a PM at the cost of extending my degree by a year.
Either way, our group was splitting into two cohorts anyway so there was no pressure socially for what I should do. I ended up deciding to go with the intent of finding another Product Internship and go back to the university on time for 3B if I ended up not finding anything.
This led me to hustle like I have never before for a job. I must’ve sent at least 200 cold emails and hundreds of more Linkedin Messages. I had made it a routine to send a set amount of emails during lunch. I started compiling a massive list of recruiters and contacts to reach out to and sent emails to a variety of companies. Even after these efforts, there were very few positions out there. I started to find out how hard it was to find a job outside of WaterlooWorks, especially based in Product Management.
Around this time, I also decided to start my podcast, The Almost Dropouts. Although much more common now, at the time there weren’t many student led podcasts out there. So I decided to create on with the purpose talking about interesting trends in tech and helping younger students on tips for internships. It was one of the best decisions I made and ended up being really rewarding. I am still actively making podcasts and if you want to check it out you can find links to Spotify and Apple music using the link below:
Fast forward to the end of the semester and I was still unsure about what my next move would be. I had talked to a couple of companies but unfortunately none seemed to be working. Eventually, it came down to a Product Manager job I was interviewing with Tesla for. I had really enjoyed talking with the manager and thought I was well suited for the position but tried to keep my expectations in check especially given how other interviews went. I even ended up choosing my courses for 3B. But on Dec 2, I finally heard back that I had gotten the job. I would finally be heading to California to work at Tesla, a company who’s products I admired deeply. Two childhood dreams had finally been achieved.
- I definitely enjoy a fast paced working environment.
- WaterlooWorks is overpowered and makes job searching much easier.
- After interviews it is important to not get discouraged or excited too early. You never know what may happen. Just try your best in the interview and try shutting it out after.
- Podcasting is a really fun and interesting thing to do.
- New York is sick but I don’t think I could live there for an extended amount of time. By the end of the semester, I ened up missing being able to drive and move around freely.
- It is very important to make sure wherever you are living is good. Even if costs you a lot more in rent, it is worth paying extra.
The coop term was great as it finally let me live in New York and ended with me making a pretty pivotal decision. I also started my new venture in podcasting with opened up a lot more other avenues.
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Spots: Main Street Park, Central Park, The Oculus, Brooklyn Bridge, The High Line
Favorite Places for Food: Laut, Junior’s Cheesecake, The Donut Pub, Juliana’s Pizza, Tonchin Ramen
Favorite Song: A Day in the Life — The Beatles
Favorite Memory: Going around the city with all the friends and family who visited this term. We discovered some great food, places to see and made some great memories. It is too hard to pick one out of that collection.
Coop Term 6 (Sort of?): California Dreamin’ (Jan — April 2020)
Technically it wasn’t on a coop term for this semester as on paper I was taking it off. However for simplicity sake, I am going to just regard all internships and coops the same and say that this is my 6th coop term.
Just like New York, I had always wanted to live in California. I love the beach, warm weather and tech so it just made a lot of sense for me. In January 2020, I was finally able to do just that.
I really only have positive things to say about this coop term pre-pandemic. Since the day I started to the day I flew back to Toronto, I had a lot of fun both at work and hanging out with my friends outside.
Working at Tesla was a dream come true. It was great to be able to contribute on a product that I was excited about and be able to be part of such an innovative company. One thing I loved about Tesla was how much it allowed it’s interns to take on responsibility and make meaningful contributions. It was also quite fast paced giving me exactly what I like about in companies. Overall I have zero complaints and was pretty happy throughout the internship.
Outside of work, I was lucky as I had some friends from Waterloo and new friends that I ended up making at Tesla. We took full advantage of being in California and made trips to the beach, to the mountains, to Six Flags and ultimately Las Vegas.
It was all great until March 11 when the world froze. I remember standing outside of the Tesla office scrolling through r/NBA and finding out about the games all being suspended. Later after coming home, I found out that Tom Hanks also got the virus. One or two days later we got notice that everyone was to work from home and two days after that I was on a flight to Toronto. It is still wild to me because we had gone to Las Vegas the weekend before and everything was normal. It is still crazy how quickly everything elevated. If you want to check out that trip, my friend Sid recorded the whole thing here:
I ended up finishing my internship in Toronto remote from everyone. It was a pretty unexpected way to end the semester and I will go over more pandemic focused thoughts in the next coop term.
- I need to work on a product that I enjoy. For some people coworkers and culture is enough but I definitely need product as a major factor as well.
- I was finally able to validate myself as a Product Manager and ensure I can stay competitive for future roles.
- California is a sick place and I could definitely seeing myself move permanently.
- I started to think more about my own motivations and driving factors. The article I wrote at the time sums up some of my thoughts.
The Self vs The Selfless
This article is a lot different than the stuff I usually write here and is just meant to be a discussion of some ideas…
This coop term might very well be my favorite of all the terms. Being able to experience California, Tesla and meet so many great people are memories I will cherish forever. I wish the pandemic never happened but appreciate that I was able to do this before.
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Spot: Sutro Bath at Sunset
Favorite Place for Food: Cheesecake Factory
Favorite Song: Blinding Lights — The Weeknd
Favorite Memory: Lots of great memories again for this term but Las Vegas was definitely the highlight. It was an amazing weekend, a lot of fun and the last time we could do a trip like that for the next year and a half
Coop Term 7 (Sort of?): Pandemic Blues (May — August 2020)
Most of these pandemic terms are going to be very similar and honestly there will not be as much to talk about. When I first landed in Toronto on March 14, I thought that the virus would blow over in a couple of weeks. I even left some of my stuff in California for when I come back. Little did I know that I was very wrong and that would be the last time I would be there.
Starting on the coop itself, after flying back to Toronto, I started to look into my next move. I ended up interviewing for a couple of companies but eventually deciding to take an offer to be a Program Manager for the Tesla Energy Team. All my experience was in Product Management so I thought trying Program Management could be really interesting. I had a great time during the coop term and appreciated all the effort my manager put in to support me despite it being remote.
The pandemic was an interesting time. Being locked down for the first time was tough especially since I am pretty extroverted. It led to me growing out my hair and becoming pretty lethargic at home. Of course, this was nothing compared to what so many other people went through at the time and I was lucky enough that my friends and family were all healthy.
To combat some of this loneliness, I ended up posting more content on different platforms. This term I started posting Youtube Videos and making a habit of posting on Linkedin. I also joined communities like Augment and met some really interesting people. 2020 was when I produced the most content.
Hello everyone! Welcome to my Youtube channel where I plan to talk about Tech, Internships, and some of my other…
Eventually after moving back home to Calgary in May thing started settling down. Moving home meant that I was still able to meet friends outside on walks and for outdoor activities. Hair cuts also opened up and I was finally able to get rid of my bear look. Things started to get a lot better right in time for 3B.
- I learned about the key differences between Program and Product Management.
- I really enjoyed working at the young scrappy environment that Tesla Energy was
- I am not a big fan of fully remote roles. I definitely prefer in person or a hybrid remote model
- If there is a pandemic don’t leave half your stuff in California
- Throughout the pandemic, what has been emphasized most to me is the importance of having others that love and care for you. The relationships you maintain with your family and friends are highly important.
Overall, even with the pandemic, I really enjoyed this coop term and made the best of my time there. After this semester I went onto 3B and got my first taste of online learning 😫
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Spot: Moraine Lake
Favorite Places for Food: XO Ice Cream
Favorite Song: West Coast — Lana Del Rey
Favorite Memory: All the hikes I did in the Rockies was really nice and made Calgary a great place to be during the pandemic.
3B: First Taste of Online Learning (Sept — Dec 2020)
Finally, one year after the end of 3A, I was back in school to complete my third year! It wasn't what I envisioned my 3B term to be like but was nonetheless finally here.
To begin the semester, I had gotten pretty worried that I was going to fail 318 because I had not done Calculus in over 12 months. So the first month of the semester went into revising some of my old calculus knowledge. Beyond that the rest of the semester was pretty easy.
Some of the courses had their labs converted into an online version and some were pretty brutal. The software was always finicky so alot of times I spent hours just trying to debug some of the issues it was having. It was not a lot of fun.
Otherwise, structure wise, online learning might have actually worked better for me. Since I like self studying anyway, it was nice to have recorded lectures and notes for me to refer back to. Also many of the profs converted finals and midterms to quizzes which took off a lot of pressure that we had. Despite this, there were a lot of drawbacks to it being online. The quality of the teaching dropped a lot and the profs seemed to be giving us pretty delayed responses. There was also the social aspect that I was missing at the time.
The coop hunt never ends and just like every other term, I started looking for my next coop position this semester. Although I gave a couple of interviews, by this point, I was pretty burnt out after doing this for so long and started to consider taking a coop term off. Eventually, I ended up deciding to exactly that.
Honestly beyond this there is not much else I have to say from this time. The pandemic was getting a lot worse with winter and social gatherings started to become forbidden. There wasn’t much to do so I ended up focusing on school, creating content and playing Warzone with some friends.
- The structure of online school is not bad for me but I definitely missed the feeling of being on campus.
- Revising old knowledge can be daunting at first but sort of feels like riding a bike. It didn't take long for me to get the hang of things again.
- Taking breaks out of the house is really important especially in a pandemic. My daily walks kept me sane.
- Warzone dubs are hard to get.
3B was an interesting term as it let me experience a fully virtual education for the first time. Given it’s timing in the pandemic, there isn’t really much I have to take away from this time.
ECE 240 — Christopher Wilson
ECE 318 — Oussama Damen
ECE 356 — Wojciech Golab
ECE 358 — Albert Wasef
ECE 390 — Haytham Ahmed
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Course: ECE 358
Favorite Professor: Wojciech Golab
Favorite Study Spot: At home because where was I gonna go
Favorite Place for Food: Senoire’s Pizza
Favorite Song: Too Late — The Weeknd
Favourite Memory: Getting my PS5 on my birthday. The fact that I was able to cop one and get it on my birthday was pretty impeccable.
And with that my third year was complete! 3rd year was the longest year I have had at Waterloo and had a very large range of experiences. It had both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows from my time in Waterloo.
Now onto 4th year! You can check it out here:
My Journey at the University of Waterloo’s Computer Engineering Program — 4th Year
With much delay, I decided to finally get to fourth year and finish this series! This is part 4 out of 4 of this series…
Thanks for reading,