Note: I’ve been sitting on this post for nearly a month now, tweaking it and sanitizing it to make it convey how strongly I feel, but at the same time respect the people I care for. I feel that it is ready now.
I worked on what may become a darn popular web site.
I pulled several 60 hour+ weeks (consecutively).
I fell in love with the big city.
I was surrounded by damned smart and fun people.
I met an amazing person.
My initial thoughts on working at Indigo went something along the lines of, Oh great… this is glamorous. I visited the office prior to my start date and found an old, nondescript building that had but a Chapters banner hanging on the front. Unimpressed would be an understatement. What can I say, I’m influenced by first impressions and this one wasn’t good.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that I’d be working in Toronto, which was lumped into the places to avoid category, in my big-cities-are-bad mentality. Having grown up in Charlottetown, spending an extended period of time in a crowded, bustling place didn’t appeal to me in the least. I figured it was expensive, noisy, and dangerous – again, a function of that first impressions thing of mine.
Coupling the above two thoughts, it was one semester I wasn’t looking forward to.
In a way, I’m glad I commuted 2 hours each way for the first two weeks, even though it was killer (physically/mentally). It eased me into the city atmosphere for the day, but I didn’t have to spend all my time there, yet. However, seeing as working overtime would be too difficult with the commute and that I was simply spending too much time on the road, I bit the money wad and rented a studio in a condo, that was sort of out of the way (if you count a 20 minute walk to the heart of the financial center ‘out of the way’). Pardon the explicit foreshadowing, but if I did it all again, I’d move 20 minutes closer.
I think my job title was UI Developer Co-op, but I ended up delving further back into the code-base than simply HTML, CSS, and JS, just as I wanted. Probably an indication of my being partial to business, I also got involved in requirements review, was as proactive as was possible, and worked directly with the business team which, I later found out from my team lead, he frowned upon slightly. (On the other hand, this did give me the opportunity to be involved in requirements planning which as a co-op I normally wouldn’t expect.)
Yeah, I’ll admit it, I suck up a bit, and whether it’s intentional or not doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I’m really glad my team lead was blunt about it (he was two things: extremely smart and completely to the point on everything). I hadn’t realized it in this case, and I consciously watched my actions with business from that point on. Hey, office politics are an integral part of the co-op experience as much as whatever work one actually does. May as well learn it now.
I worked like a madman. It helped that nearly everyone else at the office was a part of my madman family. I worked past midnight on many occasions, but was (surprisingly) never the last person in the office. The flexibility offered by the team director was beyond description, but I’ll try anyways. I could roll in whenever I wanted. Although I never took advantage of this to its maximum extent (I’m too structured for that unfortunately), some of the others did, skipping the day and arriving after most people had left for the evening. I didn’t bat an eye when I decided to stroll around downtown mid-afternoon on a weekday for a couple hours to do some photography. The freedom and trust placed in us was, well, liberating. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find another workplace like it.
I overcame my fear of the city. In fact, my feelings of Toronto quickly progressed from anxiety to neutrality to adoration. There were countless choices for food within a couple blocks of the office (so much so that it was hellishly difficult to choose anything). The Toronto Symphony Orchestra was but a 5 minute walk away and musical theatres lined the street. It doesn’t get much better than that, as I soon found out. I went to a few phenomenal TSO concerts and saw the musicals Spamalot and The Sound of Music. What’s more, I didn’t feel like I was going to be stabbed, shot or mugged at any point, even when walking around well past midnight.
And the people. The work was already pretty good, but the environment, the people, made the job. I looked forward to going to work almost every morning. There’s something to be said about enjoying the work – it doesn’t feel like a chore you do to get by. It didn’t feel like working with co-workers. It was as though I were amongst friends. Generally, there was no fakery – people were blunt when they needed to be and felt comfortable giving and taking social jabs. I think it would be best described as comfortable.
That comfortable atmosphere also afforded me the chance to interact with some people beyond simply work, but to a level of friendship. One of my fellow co-ops was especially a blast to work with. We seemed to be on the same wavelength. He was more of a back-end developer and more often than not, we’d write our code individually and it would just work together on the first try. I’ve been keeping in touch and hope to do so for the foreseeable future.
And that amazing person. She’s one of the most phenomenal people I’ve met in my short (as she reminded me on more than one occasion) life. Although not significantly older, in the presence of her maturity, I felt rather innocent and naive (not necessarily in a negative way). I attribute it not to immaturity on my part but a vast amount of life experience on hers. Having gone through a similar university program to what I’m currently undertaking, I learned a lot of what to expect over this last year and a bit. I also garnered invaluable lessons in life. I hope to keep in contact for as long as I can, but even beyond that, I won’t soon forget her.
I’m certain even many years down the road, this semester will still stand out in the grand scheme of things. The experience encompassed everything from office politics to deep personal interactions to, oh right, learning a heck of a lot about web design and development. The contacts I’ve made are ones I hope to keep beyond using just as career-building tools.
Oh, and the project I worked on?