How having a technical job as a High School student benefited me.

Ah High School, those were the days, the days of a set schedule with nothing funny going on. That was only a year ago, however I don’t miss it at all, except for one aspect of it. The CO-OP experience. My high school was one of the few that offers a co-op program for mere high school students. I jumped at the opportunity to get my foot in the door, and hopefully gain experience in some type of programming area. So let’s get this post going shall we?

Who am I?

I am currently a first year student at a University working toward a Bachelor of Computing with a major in Computer Science. I have had a strong interest in computers, specifically programming since I was 10 years old and have always wanted to enter this field, and that statement is still true to this day. I am 18 years old and am more motivated than ever to get going. I contribute and participate in open source projects and very much enjoy seeking out new local based projects to contribute to.

Ultimately gaining experience is a valuable skill in my opinion and is something I try to obtain whenever possible.

What did I do?

I worked at the University of Waterloo as a Web Developer in the Computer Science department. This seems like a more professional job, and one that is not something you would typically see a normal high school co-op student doing. And you’re right, it isn’t. Looking at what my peers did they did not get to experience doing such a technical job as their co-op as employers simply lack the trust that a high school student may know what they are doing. Or, in most cases, the student just REALLY doesn’t know much, which in most cases is true as we are just high school students. Not only did I work here in an unpaid co op position for a semester (unpaid as our school would not allow us to be paid, not because Waterloo wouldn’t pay me), but I also worked two summers after the co-op position as they were pleased with my work.

What did I get to work on as a high school student?

You may think that because I was a high school student I was stuck with doing menial tasks and things that were rudimentary. This however was not the case. I started off by learning about MVC frameworks, specifically Yii. Yes, I did end up spending a majority of my time working in PHP and Javascript, and quite enjoyed working in these languages. MVC systems were hard to understand at first, and still are rather daunting to me as I have yet to get a deeper understanding of programming from schooling. I was still able however to decently understand and work in them.

I worked on an internal inventory system, an application to handle in-house subscriptions and lastly a project to handle Computer Science prof recruiting. Overall these applications were rather large, many of them requiring hours of debugging and coding for specific features and bugs.

What did I learn?

This ultimately is the most important aspect of this whole post. What did I learn, what experience did I gain, and what did I get out of this whole experience and opportunity? Well to keep it simple: a lot! Okay… I will expand:

I learned about Model View Controllers (MVC’s) which I think will be a very important process to understand and utilize in the future. I am now able to put on my resume that I have experience working with MVC’s with PHP and Javascript intensively which is a huge plus when I am going to be competing with other Computer Science students fresh out of University. When I come out of University I will come out of University with a lot of experience under my belt in paid positions and will have a step ahead of many people who did not get this kind of opportunity like I did.

Conclusion

Overall I would not have had a job in a technical field as a high school student if I did not land this amazing co-op job while in high school. No one would accept me when I applied as I had little experience and was only a high school student. No one wants to mentor and give these kinds of people chances, yet this is a crucial part of a student is getting experience early.

 

I look forward to comments and discussions about this blog post. I am passionate about what I did and am happy to hear what others think. Check out my Github page if interested, or check out my “About” page on my website.

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