What was the interview process like?
I first talked with Dave Voeller, who told me what kind of projects previous co-ops have worked on and what kind of work I might be doing. I took a standard aptitude test, and then I talked with Shari Fischer about my previous experience and other general information.
What did you do?
For much of my co-op I worked on a project in which I interpreted binary data sent serially between two hardware modules. Part of this project involved me creating a LabVIEW program that effectively simulates one of the modules as accurately as possible. I was also essentially in charge of managing and addressing questions from engineers about a piece of commercial software we use internally. In addition to these ongoing tasks, I was given several smaller programming projects as they were needed.
Would you do it again?
Definitely. It was a fantastic experience.
What did you like?
I enjoyed most of the projects I worked on, and they were all appropriate for someone with my experience with regards to educational value, difficulty, etc. It is also rewarding to know that the work I did was helpful to the company; most of the work I did was on projects that the engineers will continue to work on or will be used in some way later on. The atmosphere in the garage was somewhat relaxed so that effectively eliminated any sort of intimidation that one might experience being in a business environment.
What did you not like?
I did not get as much direct experience with hardware or embedded firmware as I had initially hoped. I was also occasionally given tasks in which I would repetitively test something, which could get boring. Co-ops do not get any paid time off (this includes holidays), and I was pretty much on my own when finding a place to stay.
Did you learn anything?
I learned a great deal more than I expected I would during this co-op. I learned a significant amount about LabVIEW, which I understand is used heavily in the industry. I also became familiar with serial communication and communication protocols. From experience, I also found out how important documenting your work is – if you don’t document something you did, it’s very likely you won’t remember it when you come back to it a month later (and someone else is even less likely to understand it). In addition, I learned how extremely important it is to make sure a product works correctly before it is shipped.
Did the experience help you in your career?
I expect that it will have a significant positive impact on my future career.
Did it help you in any job interviews?
I haven’t had any interviews since this co-op but I expect having this amount of experience will tremendously help in future interviews.
What was the dress code?
Co-ops were allowed to wear business casual all year – khakis and a collared shirt.
Was the work more individual or group work and how does it compare with what
you are doing today?
The work itself was mostly individual, but a good chunk of the tasks I received were part of larger projects that several engineers were working on, so I was able to ask for assistance from the other engineers when I needed it.
What are the pros/cons of working in Saint Louis? (Maybe compare it to where you
There is a lot to do, though I unfortunately did not take advantage of my free time in St. Louis to visit local attractions. It is also close enough to home to go home to KC on the weekend if I needed to, and I was able to go to Rolla a few weekends as well during the fall semester. The metro area is a little too big and busy for my taste; it doesn’t seem like it should be that much bigger than Kansas City, but it really is a completely different experience.
What were your living arrangements during co-op?
I rented an apartment in the Kensington Square apartment complex in Florissant, about 8 miles north of Hunter. The rate was decent and the relatively large size of the apartment was convenient when my family was passing through St. Louis or when they came for a visit. I also did not have to get on the Interstate, so traffic was not too bad.
How was the supervision?
It was excellent – Once I was given a task, I was left alone to work on it without any nagging or someone constantly looking over my shoulder, yet Dave and the other engineers checked in appropriately to see how I was doing. Plus the full-time engineers were always willing to help when I got stuck or had any questions.