From Intern to Indexer: Cameron Ouellette, Software Engineer
At Index Exchange, we welcome a number of engineering co-op students throughout the year to our Toronto, Montréal, and Kitchener-Waterloo offices. Some of these students make the transition from co-op student to full-time Indexer. We caught up with Cameron Ouellette, a software engineer at our Kitchener-Waterloo office, to learn more about his experience as a co-op student at Index and how it prepared him for the role.
Tell us a little bit about your co-op experience, throughout your academic career and at Index specifically. What sort of projects did you work on?
As part of my program at the University of Waterloo, I completed several co-op terms with multiple companies. Basically, whenever I wasn’t in school, I was working full-time in a co-op capacity. Your goal at any internship is to be a sponge – absorb as much as you can about as many systems and tech stacks as possible (with the goal of applying that knowledge in your future career).
My co-op term with Index was from September through December in 2019. I worked with the Application Platform team to upgrade our identity management capabilities, ensuring that our engineering teams can depend on a secure foundation to support the experiences they are creating.
How did your co-op placement at Index compare to your other experiences?
I completed four different co-op placements, including my stint at Index. The main difference between Index and the others was the culture. While I definitely gained valuable experience at every organisation, the culture here was distinct for several reasons.
For example, while Index is 500+ employees strong and has been in business for almost 20 years, it still has a strong startup mentality. This means that there are fewer roadblocks involved when trying to get a project off the ground and seen through. Our commitment to running an Agile workplace also makes a big difference.
Another important aspect is the people. I never met an unfriendly face, and the Product team, in particular, understands the development process on the engineering side, something that isn’t necessarily the case across the board in the tech industry.
Sounds like quite the unique co-op experience. So how did you end up making the jump to full-time Indexer? Any advice to other co-op students?
My advice to co-op students is to make the most of your placements. Foster strong relationships with your colleagues and demonstrate your value to the wider team. Also, keep in touch with any past employers so that when there is a job opening available, you’ll be top of mind. It could ultimately become a great opportunity to turn your co-op position into a full-time role.
Another key difference between your time at Index as a full-time employee versus your time as a co-op student is the shift to remote working. How have you adjusted to working from home?
Firstly, I’d like to say that I am completely on board with Index’s approach towards remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. All of our offices continue to remain closed for the foreseeable future due to public health interests and I think that overrides everything else. Not to mention that we’re also in the fortunate position where we can effectively work from home without any impact on operations.
Of course, working remotely can never replicate an in-person environment, especially for someone like me who likes to get up throughout the day and socialise with my teammates. While I did eventually get acquainted with everyone, it probably took a little longer than it would’ve if we were in the office. However, we do our best to stay connected and keep things relatively casual. For instance, my team gets together every month for a virtual social hour that I personally find helpful in getting to know my team outside of work.
What about your work from home setup? What’s that like?
I was provided with everything I needed on my first day. And this doesn’t just mean that I was sent my laptop. I was provided what would’ve been present in the office including a keyboard, mouse, and external monitor, all pieces of hardware that make my job much easier.
Upon starting, the cherry on top was learning about a stipend that was being provided to all employees to cover any additional work from home expenses. I’ve already utilised part of it to get a solid pair of headphones and also plan on getting an ergonomic chair to complete my setup.
Now that you’re a full-time engineer, give us an overview of your current role and how it differs from your previous experience.
Right now, I’m working on the Deals and Audiences team on projects related directly to the exchange. This means getting to explore and work with exciting new technologies, facing new challenges, and ultimately, impacting the business and revenue side of things.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier to start my career at Index, even if it hasn’t been during a “normal” year. Getting to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry has proven invaluable to me, both as a co-op student and a full-time employee, and I can’t wait to see where we go in the coming months and into 2021.