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Chris Schaaf (January 2015 - August 2015)

Name:  Chris Schaaf

School: Missouri University of Science and Technology

Major: Computer Engineering

Co-op period: January 2015 - August 2015

Co-op Experience

What was the interview process like?

I attended the Fall 2014 Career Fair and spoke to Megan Pieper and a previous co-op – Joel Bierbaum and gave my resume to Megan. She later contacted me to set up an interview in St. Louis. During the interview I was given a short aptitude test and then met Dave Voeller. He ran through my resume and experience, and talked about previous projects they had worked on and what I might be doing if I got the job. I received an offer about a month later.

Most students just want some experience but they don't exactly know what type of experience they want.  Please describe some of the work you did and what type of skills you needed.  It is important to note what you could apply from school and what you learned on the job.

I was certainly a little worried about lack of experience; I had done very little out-of-class work with programming. You can learn as you go very easily. Most of what we did as far as software was in C# or C++, and there was also quite a bit of research, testing, and reaching out to companies for support or quotes. Our first project involved some vision processing and it was my first real use of C#. I learned quite a bit about troubleshooting code issues with a brand new language and library, as well as how things fit into version control software (Team Foundation Server) within Visual Studio.

Our other project mostly involved research, development, and testing.  That showed me how the structure of long-term projects work, and how every step in development fits together. It puts things into perspective why each step is necessary, especially working around the QA guys.

What experience do you think will be the most useful for you in the future?

It's hard to pick just one thing. I'd have to say the experience I've gotten in working on a large project with professional engineers. To see how everything fits together in the development process and beyond is invaluable.

How do you think the overall experience will help you in your career?

Besides the knowledge I've gained and connections I've made, it's given me a very good idea of where I want to go from here. I've been struggling with the "what exactly do I want to do" question, but having worked here I think I have a much better idea of that.

How do you think the overall experience will help you in your next job interview?

Not only does it look great on a resume, but I now have an answer for almost any typical interview question, and can demonstrate my knowledge of more software and methods than I could before this.

What aspect of the work did you enjoy the most?

The fact that we were able to work on projects that would see it into production was very cool. I also love cars but am pretty bad at working on them, so being able to develop products in the same general industry really interested me. Plus you get a look into Hunter's equipment and how to use most of it. I enjoyed diving into a new project with no idea on how to do it.

What aspect of the work did you not enjoy?

The testing portion of the work can be kind of tedious. The long-term project was usually interesting but sometimes became "more of the same" and was tough to keep myself motivated. I've found that I may prefer slightly shorter term projects.

Did you learn anything?

Of course I learned quite a bit about C#/C++, and using several libraries within them. There was also Team Foundation Server and the Agile development workflow, and just the general exposure to a corporate environment. I've always been bad about asking for help and this job has certainly forced me to get better at that.

What was the dress code?

Button-down or polo with slacks.

Student often want to know if they will work alone or in a group.  Was the work you did more individual or group work and how does it compare with what you have done in school or at another job?

The projects we spent the most time on were group-based, but easily split up into individual tasks. Even with programming we often reached out for troubleshooting advice, so expect to communicate with everyone else. That's easy to do though – you're around them for eight hours every day, unlike school projects.

What are the pros/cons of working in Saint Louis? (Maybe compare it to other places you have been)

I'll admit I'm more of a Royals fan, so that's been a drawback. Other than that I love the city. There's no shortage of things to do here, and a lot of history. It's a much different feel than Kansas City.

What were your living arrangements during co-op?  This question is especially important for those that are not from St. Louis.

I lived with a few of my fraternity's alumni while I was here. Luckily they had an open room. I was in University City, with a 15 minute commute.

How was the supervision?

Very good, you're not micromanaged but Dave and others will check in often enough to see how you are progressing on your projects. They're all very accessible and willing to help if you're stuck on something. If you're having issues on a project, you definitely find someone in the building that can help.

Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself, Hunter Engineering, the coop program or the work?

It's a great company with great people. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to work here and would recommend it to anyone.