My Journey in 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 and if you haven’t already you can check out the earlier year’s posts 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…
My Journey at 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…
Fourth year was still heavily affected by the pandemic but at least ended with us being in person for the last term. This really let us have one last great experience at Waterloo!
Coop Term 8: A Much Needed Off Term (Jan — April 2021)
As alluded to earlier in my previous article, for a long time I had been highly considering taking a term off. After switching between coop and school terms for the last 5 years, I was pretty exhausted with the thought of working again. I always wanted to take a term to work on individual projects and do some more self-directed work. Eventually, after surveying different options I decided to do exactly that.
It was the best decision I could’ve made. As someone who is pretty self motivated, it was great to work on projects that I wanted to do. During the term I ended up finally competing in hackathons and won at both Hack the North and CalgaryHacks. I also got to meet a lot more people in the startup community, produce more content and work on a project with a friend.
Although it sucked with it being peak pandemic, there were some benefits. With everyone virtual there were a lot of resources that I had access to that I wouldn’t of been able to got otherwise. It also let me get in touch with a lot more people than I was previously able to be.
Overall it was the most fulfilled in terms of the work I have done during a coop term. As an added benefit at the end of the term I was able to say bye to a couple of my friends who were graduating this semester and were living in Waterloo for the semester despite it being virtual.
Taking a term off is something too many Waterloo students shy away from doing. Its an option that should be highly considered!
· I like working on self-directed projects and work best when leading a group
· It’s incredible to see where one conversation can take you. Some introductory conversations really ballooned into some great opportunities!
· I need to be more resolute on what I want. It can be easy to get influenced by others and start doubting why you want something. If you want something then do it, don’t let others come in the way.
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Spots: Grandview Overlook — Pittsburgh
Favorite Places for Food: The Milkshake Factory, Cheesecake Factory
Favorite Song: NICE OUT — Kilo Kish
Favorite Memory: Doing my first hackathon was a lot of fun. Even with everyone being virtual it was sick working with my friends to get our prototype running. Of course winning was also a nice cherry on top 😉
4A: The End is Near (May 2021 — August 2021)
April rolled around and I had finally entered fourth year! It was neither the time or place I had imagined it to be at but nonetheless was very exciting. It was also the first time I had choice on all the courses in a semester! In ECE, in addition to the mandatory core courses, we have to complete at least 5 Technical Electives, 2 Natural Science Electives and 4 Complementary Studies Electives throughout our degree. By the time 4A had arrived I had already completed 1 NSE, 1 TE and 1 CSE. With the pandemic giving me a lot more free time and with it looking like we were going to be back in person for 4B, I made the decision to take all 4 remaining Technical Electives this semester. Although it would make this semster hectic, it would make sure that my last semester let me have a lot more free time to focus building out my capstone project and have fun. This ended up being a really great idea and made my 4B semester go great!
In general, I feel as Technical Electives in 4th year are a lot easier compared to core ECE courses. A lot of them were more project based and had less of an emphasis on examinations (granted this may be because of the pandemic). It was a fairly straight forward semester for me and I did pretty well academically.
I think the most exciting part of 4A for me was being able to start work on my Final Year Capstone Project. Since the moment I started my degree, I was really looking forward to this final culmination of our degree. I formed a team and we got to brainstorming different ideas. Eventually we landed on a project centered around the creation and distribution of AR/VR objects. After finding a project consultant, having discussions with him and the team, we finally ended up on a finalized proposal for our project.
Overall the process was pretty enjoyable but I did have some criticisms in the way it was structured that I felt could’ve let it been better. I think University is far too cautious in what it lets its students too. I understand wanting to make sure that students are choosing a project that should be able to get completed in time, but it really feels like they are stopping students who want to try to be ambitious. For a University that prides itself with their motto of “Ideas Start Here” it really seemed like the overall sentiment was to just focus on doing a safer project. I think by the time 4th year rolls around students have a pretty good idea of what can or cannot be accomplished, and that the faculty should let them try really innovative projects should that be what they want to do.
Overall 4A was a nice semester with the new found flexibility that I had never gotten to experience before in ECE. With it being the beginning of my final year and the last pandemic semester, it definitely was a big one for me to get through.
- If you actually want to build something cool, choose an easy project for Capstone and focus on developing your other project outside. With consultants, paperwork and teammates getting involved you might end up working on something that is completely different than what you envisioned
- Just because a technical elective is interesting to you doesn’t mean you should necessarily take it. Given the nature of ECE courses, professors and workload, you might end up really hating your course selection if you do this. Look at the course outline and then make a call whether to stay in the course or not.
- I really enjoy building ideas out with a group of people
- Being able to hang out with friends after being in lockdown for 4 months is an unexplainable feeling
4A was a nice change of pace right as the degree started to wrap up. Having technical electives and Capstone Project was pretty refreshing and made it a lot more enjoyable compared to semesters past.
This semester was a bit odd as my friends in my original cohort graduated during this time. When I initially decided to delay my graduation by a year I was pretty sad that I would not be able to graduate with these friends. However, with the context of the pandemic, it seemed like that wouldn’t of been the case regardless. So, all in all, I am very glad that I took the year off and have zero regrets with that decision.
ECE 452 — Mei Naggapan
ECE 457A— Otman Basir
ECE 458 — Behkish Nassirzadeh
ECE 498A— Sagar Naik
MSCI 452 — Jim Bookbinder
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Course: ECE 458
Favorite Professor: Behkish Nassirzadeh
Favorite Study Spot: Panera Bread
Favorite Place for Food: Warraich Meats — Etobicoke
Favorite Song: Nightcall — Kavinsky
Favourite Memory: Meeting my friends when they graduated. After almost 6 months in isolation it was a pretty surreal feeling.
Coop Term 9: Last Coop Term! (Sept — Dec 2021)
Finally we ended up at my last coop term where I ended up as a Product Manager Intern working at Cisco Meraki. When I first got the job there was a possibility of me going back to the Bay Area, with Covid cases were falling and vaccinations increasing. However, a couple of weeks later, it was confirmed that the position would be remote. Thus, for a change of pace, me and 3 other friends decided to live in Montreal for the semester.
As much as being remote sucked, one of the biggest advantages was the ability to work from anywhere. It was really cool being able to experience Montreal with my friend and, although hampered by Covid, was a really good time.
In terms of the coop itself, I really enjoyed my time at Cisco Meraki. The company had really amazing benefits for their employees and I was able to lead several high level projects. The University recruiting team worked hard to put together fun events for us to participate in and everyone at the company was very supportive. I would highly recommend it as a place to work!
Finally as December rolled around (and Omicron started going crazy), I ended my last coop term!
- Networking is a lot more complicated than you might think and there is a lot going on behind the scenes to give you internet access
- Being able to get the right people in the right room is critical in making sure that projects are driven to completion
- Montreal is a cool place with very chilled out people. I would highly checking it out especially when its warm.
- It’s worth investing money for experiences.
Overall, this was one of my favourite coop terms. Things were slowly opening up after lockdown, I got to experience a new city and I had an amazing coop experience! Onto the last semester, 4B!
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Spot: Mont Royal Lookout
Favorite Places for Food: L’ Avenue, holychoco, India Rosa, Juliet & Chocolat
Favorite Song: GOT IT GOOD — Kayatranada
Favourite Memory: Either in between Halloween in Montreal or going clubbing for the first time in two years. Being able to go out especially after 2 years of lockdown felt like unreal.
4B: That’s all folks (January 2022 — April 2022)
With all of that we finally made it to 4B, the last semester and the end of my degree. 4B started off remote because of Omicron, but eventually ended up being in person. I moved back to Waterloo for the first time in almost 3 years and couldn't help but feel great to be back. It was nice to know that we were finishing things off as we started them.
Because I did all my technical electives earlier on, this semester was very relaxed. My course load consisted of just 3 CSE’s and one NSE which let me focus the bulk of my time into my capstone project.
Where 4A is focused on designing, 4B is all about actually implementing your capstone project. This implementation phase can take a lot of time and is definitely something you should work on throughout the semester. I would recommend have weekly syncs with your capstone team and setting up milestones for your project. This makes sure that everyone is up to date with the work that needs to be done and that you have ample time for any last minute changes that have to be made.
Being able to go to class, meet up with friends and have a somewhat-normal university experience after the pandemic made it feel like thing had come full circle. We got to enjoy a lot of old favorites while still being able to try new places that popped up in the time we were gone. My friends, Vyom and Siddharth, also premiered their second film, When I Break, at the Princess Theatre. It was great to see a lot of old faces and see them finally get to see their hard work on the big screen.
You can check out the film below:
A month before our symposium, the ECE department told us that we would have the choice to participate in a virtual or in person symposium. A lot of other ECE groups ended up choosing virtual, but I convince my group to do it in person. One of the reasons I was excited to come to Waterloo to begin with was some of the projects I had seen at the capstone symposium. During my first visit to the university in March 2016, I was shown some of the projects the 4th year ECE’s had done at the time. It was truly inspiring and really excited me about what some of the innovative work happening at Waterloo. Showing our project at the symposium felt like a responsibility for me to pay it back to the next generation of engineering students at the university.
We signed up for in person and finally on March 17th, the ECE symposium rolled around. We showed up around 8:45 in the morning and stayed till around 4:30pm in the afternoon. It was great talking to a lot of people that day and showing them the project that we had been working on for the last couple of months. I think what was especially cool with our project is that they could actually try it out in production. Anyone could come to our booth and get a small virtual souvenir to take away.
You can check out our project below:
After wrapping up the symposium, I went straight back home as March 17 was also St. Pattys Day(thanks ECE) and my roommates had been hosting a party at our place that day. I found out later thatour project had actually won the People’s Choice Award. It was pretty special moment and was the perfect cherry on top for what was a pretty amazing day.
After St. Pattys day, I wrapped up a couple of projects, had a couple more get-togethers and finally left the University of Waterloo on April 10 for the last time as a student. My degree was unofficially complete.
- Make sure you keep enough time in 4B to work on your Capstone project. My strategy of having all technical electives in 4A really paid off for me and is one I really endorse.
- It can be really easy to forget why you signed yourself up to do this degree. The moments where you can clearly see why can be few and it is really important to capitalize on such opportunities.
- Life is pretty beautiful when it comes full circle
- There is no point worrying about it being the end. Enjoy things for what they are and recognize things having to eventually end is what makes it special.
4B was the perfect ending to a life changing degree. Being able to go back in person, reconnect with old friends and be able to re live my university life when it felt like we wouldn't be able to was amazing.
BET 320 — David Rose
ECE 405 — Michael Reimer
ECE 498B — Sagar Naik
MSCI 211 — Umair Shah
MSCI 454 — Peter Carr
Favorites during the term:
Favorite Course: ECE 498B
Favorite Professor: David Rose
Favorite Study Spot: Engineering 6 Fifth Floor or Physics Lounge
Favorite Place for Food: Shinwa (it’s goated guys)
Favorite Song: Is There Someone Else? — The Weeknd
Favourite Memory: The Capstone Symposium and St. Patty’s Day was an amazing day.
Iron Ring Ceremony (April 23 2022)
The Iron Ring Ceremony usually happens in February, but because of Covid they ended up moving it to a virtual ceremony in June. At the beginning of April, the University announced that they would be having a hybrid event on April 23 for students who would like to come in person to participate. Although it was nice to have some type of in person ceremony, the last minute announcement as well as the hybrid nature really took away a lot of the magic from the ceremony. I hope I can attend one in the future in person to get the full experience
Grad Trip (End of April — May 2022)
For a long time me and my friends planned on going on a graduation trip. We eventually ended up deciding to go on a three week trip to London, Singapore, Bali and Thailand. The trip was absolutely amazing and I had a great time at all 4 of those places!
Graduation Ceremony (June 18 2022)
On June 18th, we finally had our graduation ceremony. Being able to have convocation in person with friends and family was great and felt like the right way to culminate our time at uWaterloo. I was able to briefly meet Vivek Goel, have one final Shinwa and say my goodbyes to the university.
Starting my New Job and Move to California (July 2 2022)
Pretty soon after graduating I started work as a Product Manager at Strateos, a bio-tech startup working on offering cloud lab automation as a service. As alluded to earlier, I have always been fascinated with startups and was pretty interested in working at one post-graduation. The work Strateos is doing is really interesting and I am super excited to contribute to the platform. I ended up moving to the Bay Area and am currently living with my roommates and best friends that I had in Waterloo. Funny how things work out! 😊
Overall Favorites for the Whole Degree
Favorite Course: ECE 250 (I wasn’t a fan of how the course was taught but liked the content)
Favorite Professor: Nachiket Kapre
Favorite Study Spot: QNC Hallway
Favorite Place for Food: Shinwa
Favorite Song: The Party and the After Party — The Weeknd
Favourite Memory: With a lot of recency bias but The Capstone Symposium and St. Patty’s Day was the perfect way to end my degree.
Which bring us to today where I close the Waterloo Chapter of my life. When I entered the university I was an ambitious kid looking to learn how one can make an impact on the world. Leaving university, I am an ambitious adult trying to make one. I am armed with extensive problem solving skills and a network of some of the most smart and qualified colleagues in the world. I know that I may not always be the most knowledgable person but can approach an unfamiliar situation and start making an impact immediately. Through its many trials and tribulations, the University has given me the tools I need for the next step in my life.
Through sheer luck I have also been able to make friends with some of the most capable yet caring people I have ever known. There are a lot of friends I made across the journey but in particular I want to recognize the Waterloo Boys. My friends, Vyom, Zulphkar, Siddharth, Vaibhav, Sarthak, Devi and Bosco, were integral in making sure I got to this point. It is truly amazing to see where we were when we first started and what we are today. I am excited for what is to come.
A lot of people ask me if would I do it all again? Go through ECE at the University of Waterloo all over again. For me that answer is a resounding yes. I will admit there were a lot of low points in the middle and times that questioned my will to see this through. But every single experience shaped me towards the person I am today, and I would not want to change anything at all.
If you are entering the University of Waterloo, I’d probably advise you to go do SYDE. I think it's a lot better program in terms of structure, the cohort as a whole is much stronger and the department seems more empathetic. But I do no regret my decision to do ECE at all.
Regardless of whatever you choose, remember that your time at uWaterloo will be defined how you want it to be. Invest time in whats important to you and don’t pass up on opportunities in front of you. You never know where one thing might lead up to.
Just because this is the end of my uWaterloo journey doesn’t mean I am done helping out it’s students. If you ever need any help or advice please feel free to book a tim with me and I am happy to have a coffee chat.
Happy to chat about tech, internships, any opportunities you may have or anything else!
With that I thank Mr.Goose for letting me survive many Lazeez’s, eventually pass 240, make it out of the prison that is MC, and have an amazing last 6 years.
Thanks for reading,