Mike Lyons, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of communication and media studies, and his students produced “On Both Sides,” a multimedia project featuring interviews with people who have lost loved ones to murder and incarceration for life. Lyons started the project with the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, a grassroots organization fighting to change harsh sentencing laws in Pennsylvania.
Communication, Collaboration and Time Management: Lessons from the Co-op Experience
Anna-Maria Berezovski '21, a computer science and Asian studies double major, is part of a pilot of a new co-op program at Saint Joseph’s College of Arts and Sciences. She worked full-time at software company SAP during the summer of 2019 and will spend another summer working there. Berezovski has also continued to work part-time for SAP during the school year. In this essay, Berezovski describes what she has learned from the co-op experience.
I began my co-op with SAP in May 2019, working for the Web Content Management Services (WCMS) team, which ensures that all of the company’s customer-facing websites stay up and running. I was given an independent project where I got to work with image detection and machine learning — two hot topics in today’s technology world. I was given the freedom to choose any format in which to do this project, so I was able to explore tons of new programming languages to find which one fit best. In the end, I ended up working with a language I had never used before and I had the support of coworkers to help guide me through using it for the first time. After that experience, I transitioned to the Customer Experience Field Services South team, a consulting team focused in the Southern U.S. There, I did a lot of data management, analysis and forecasting. My most recent work is with the branding team. I am working with fellow interns and team members on creating social media posts for @LifeAtSAP, SAP’s major public account, so we can better convey the great things happening at SAP.
All of these experiences have been and are extremely valuable to me. I honed my technical development skills while working on the independent project by working with a new programming language, as well as a new area of computer science. By working with technology I was not familiar with, I was able to expand what I know and refine my approach to learning new things. This project also taught me how to ask people for help. Working on your own can be difficult when you run into an issue you can’t solve; but a simple conversation with a co-worker can solve almost any problem. The language I was using was new to me, so I often went to my co-worker, who had experience with it, to ask how to do certain things and to help see what my bugs were and how to resolve them. I also learned from my data analysis assignment how important it is to double-check your work, especially when handling large sets of data. Finally, my experience with branding is teaching me how to best collaborate with others and use my creative side.
By working with technology I was not familiar with, I was able to expand what I know and refine my approach to learning new things."
Overall, I have had many new and exciting experiences and I have learned tons of new things. As part of SAP’s Student Training and Rotation (STAR) program [a multi-year training program for college students], we have several teams run by interns that work to better the program for current and future students. I got deeply involved with the events team — it was exciting to be able to bring interns from different departments at SAP together to do fun activities such as paintball and zip lining. By helping run this team, I had to learn to balance my regular work as well as my STAR work all in one workday. This helped me learn one of the most important lessons at work: time management. This also applies outside of work, being a full-time student and working part time has forced me to plan my schedule carefully. In order to do well at school and at work, I need to ensure that I am putting enough time into both without forgetting about my own self-care. By necessity, procrastination has become an issue of the past. This is invaluable not just now, but for life after college as well. Another lesson I have learned is the significance of having good communication skills. Without being able to convey information clearly and concisely, it can be almost impossible to get something done.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this experience is seeing how my coursework plays into what I do at work and vice versa. I love applying concepts I have learned in class to what I do at work. One example was in my software engineering class: We talked about running agile projects [which focus on using short development cycles called “sprints” to focus on continuous improvement of a product], and the next week I had a call for a new project at work and they wanted to run it as an agile project! I remember being so excited that I sent an email to my professor at that very second. Having the knowledge prior rather than having to learn on the job makes the work less stressful and allows me to spend more time applying what I know. It is also inspiring when I walk into the classroom and learn about a concept or topic that I have encountered at work because I can see how what we learn at Saint Joseph’s really does extend beyond our time here on campus.
This opportunity has been wonderful and I look forward to continuing with this work and school balance until I graduate.