Student Experiences Startup Life

Working at a startup means that you and your small team are the only people responsible for your success. Startups in the Velocity Garage recognize this and often hire co-op students to help develop their businesses, and to give these students practical work experience. Kevin Peng, a grade 12 student at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School joined the PetroPredict team for the month of July. PetroPredict is building technology for early life detection of integrity issues in oil fields before having to run workovers, well logs, or other physical tests on wells. 

Kevin is passionate about programming and aspires to work in software development and design, and he is always looking for ways to challenge himself. He wrote an insightful blog post on his experience with PetroPredict, and we were fortunate enough for him to share his writing with us: 

High school is a time of choice. Students are bombarded with choices; choices that will affect their future and the paths that they take. I am a student going into grade 12, a big year for choices. I am facing perhaps the most important choice that I will make in my life thus far. That is, what university to attend and what program to go into. This will greatly affect my success, happiness and career in the future. But how can one decide what they like if they haven’t been exposed to their field of interest? We simply cannot make educated decisions without exposure to one’s field of interest. Mine happens to be the field of software engineering, and my exposure to it had been limited to a grade 11 computer science course and a couple of CS contests. I liked it and enjoyed it, but how could I possibly decide to go into software engineering with such little exposure, without knowing whether I would truly enjoy it for the rest of my life? That’s when I heard about a great opportunity: summer school co-op. It was the ideal opportunity for me; I would spend the summer learning about my field of interest while gaining applicable knowledge.

I joined the amazing PetroPredict team for the month of July with Andrew, Dominic, Jay, Ksenia and Nicou. I was developing a program that would be able to read a csv file (a table of data) and reformat the data. It sanitizes each piece of data by removing blank spaces and replacing it with underscores, removing symbols, brackets and setting all strings to lowercase. The program would also be able to export the data to a PostgreSQL database and also create a Django model. I also had some design projects including the interface design for a web application and a company banner design. Andrew and Jay provided mentorship to me and taught me a lot about coding, collaborating and the process of creating a start-up. I realized how much hard work is put into developing a start-up company; it’s truly an inspiration.

Before this placement, the largest program that I had ever written was a small game written in Java as a school project. Now looking back, it was messy, poorly documented and lacked readability. I’ve now learned exactly how important readability is when writing a program, and the importance of modular design. I also learned how to collaborate using git.

Aside from technical learning, I also learned a lot about myself and my interests in future careers. I loved the environment in the Velocity Garage, with a great community and network. I realized that I definitely want to work in an environment that allows for interaction with others, and I also liked project-based work rather than hourly/shift based workflow. Being at a relatively small company gave me a sense of accomplishment; that I actually had an impact on the company itself. I definitely enjoyed working in a start-up environment and would do it again in a future co-op placement.

My placement at PetroPredict was an amazing experience. I gained a lot of important knowledge that would have been overlooked at school, and it gave me a good understanding of what software engineering might be like. I was lucky to get a placement with PetroPredict. My experience was filled with learning and solidified my choices for university and career path.

I feel confident now, being exposed to the field of software development and I can now make my choices with a lot more confidence and understanding.


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  1. […] a couple of hours by taking Udacity’s course. This fun iterative approach allowed him to have agreat summer co-op experience and enabled to complete a technically difficult […]

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