Lessons Learned by a Co-op Student
Motivation itself is interesting to think about — personal motivation and ambition, and how the motivation of groups can spur individuals to work well together.
Working at TrustPoint Innovation Technologies was my first co-op experience with a private company, so there was a lot for me to learn when I started. It can be tough to stay motivated when you know you have such a large hill to climb, but finding something that really interests you can make it a lot easier.
Big pictures and contributing to big ideas are easy ways to motivate people, but getting people on board with an idea is the easy part. The difficult part is to keep people motivated when they're bogged down in detail and working away on individual pieces of the puzzle.
At TrustPoint Innovation, the big picture is enhancing security for distributed devices and machine-to-machine communication, and it was always good to keep that in mind, since it brought about interesting questions:
NFC is an exciting technology with tons of applications, but how do we make it secure and efficient? Why limit ourselves to just NFC? Embedded devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are making huge strides, and there are important problems to address in secure communications. What specific problems can our team's expertise tackle? What niches are viable, and where do we excel? What are specific interesting problems we want to solve?
With so many different avenues to take, it can be tough making a choice to change focus and still have teams feel that same sense of purpose in their work. When a project is completed, what problem do you tackle next? Is it worth me making this project as perfect as it can be, or should I move on to something more fruitful? Is there an idea I've been sitting on that I should pursue? The big picture ideas are still there, but without that direction, it's easy to lose focus.
At TrustPoint Innovation, being given the chance to think about and work on concepts and ideas I am passionate about that aligned with our team's direction was a great way for me to keep that focus. I was encouraged to bring out my ideas and take on leadership roles — to play an active part, instead of waiting for someone else to tell me what to do. It made me feel like my contributions were significant, and that I wasn't just another co-op student, but that I was part of the team.
Being a part of a small team means that you can be agile and pick a variety of things to work on, but keeping that big picture in mind in what you're trying to accomplish can really help your team stay effective and moving in the right direction.
Daily stand up meetings feel more like discussions than lectures, questions are more easily addressed, and changing focus can be done more easily when you communicate often and clearly.
Working at TrustPoint Innovation for my co-op term, I saw what it means to work in an industry where things can change very quickly. I experienced the need to respond to the change and understand that the path isn't 100% clear, while still having an idea of what the completed puzzle looks like. TrustPoint Innovation's puzzle is to pick out key communication security problems to tackle, and creating innovative and optimal solutions, and keeping that in mind is going to help us succeed.