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Employee Co-op Q&A: Ben Liu

Sep 10, 2020

7 min read

By: Avanti Krishnan

Ben, thank you so much for doing this. I'd like to ask you about your co-op experience with Mappedin. To start off, can you tell me a bit about your role? 

I am a Software Developer Co-op on the Product team. I work on the front-facing applications, like Mappedin’s Digital Directory and Web products. I create the components and display for our front-end applications based on the designs we get from our designers. I have also worked on bugs and maintenance of these front-end products. 

Did you have any projects that were specifically yours to build? 

I have been pretty lucky that way. Both of my managers reiterated that in my 8-month position, the first four months would be spent working on the Directory kiosk redesign and the next four would be focused on Web redesign. I was lucky that I was able to work heavily on both major product reworks.

Specifically with the kiosk, I worked a lot with the store profile card state. That’s when you’re using a kiosk and you search for a location, it displays a card that shows all of the associated information and deals (e.g. hours, contact information). That state is one of the two more complicated states or screens in the kiosk and that was one of the things that I focused on. For a few weeks, I was just trying to wrap my head around all the different design tweaks that had to be implemented on that screen which were very unique. 

For other co-op students wondering, can you speak to your experience at Mappedin and why you applied to a position with us? 

A couple of reasons; I thoroughly enjoy work especially because all the people that I work with, we have a lot of fun! We have game sessions and play a bunch of different games like League of Legends,, and Pictionary. Talking with the people on the team is really fun as well.

But even before I joined and before I knew the people, I still wanted to come to Mappedin. One of the primary reasons was because I was really interested in the position, especially because I enjoy the visual aspects of programming. I enjoy seeing the things that I make visually, being able to appreciate the aesthetics, and having other people appreciate the aesthetics as well. The fact that Mappedin's products are visible to such a large portion of the public was interesting and enticing.

If someone were joining the team at Mappedin, what would you advise them on their first day about working here?

One thing I would say is don’t be afraid to reach out to people. I found that everyone I talked to was super friendly and outgoing! If I need something or any help, I can always reach out to somebody and they'll try their best to help me. Even if they can’t, they will direct me to somebody who can. It has been really pleasant interacting with everybody and it has made my work a lot smoother.

Since it is sadly the end of your work term, what is one thing that you will miss about working at Mappedin?

It would definitely be the people. By a good margin, it is honestly the best team environment that I have worked in out of all of my co-ops. In my previous co-ops, I have been in situations where I have just been relegated to the corner and do simple co-op work and didn’t end up learning much. But at Mappedin, I feel like I am completely treated like another member of the team and I am given the same tasks as everybody else along with having the same expectations, which is really useful for me personally.

Shortly after you joined, we moved to a remote working environment because of COVID-19. How has that been for you?

Working from home has been different but it’s been nice to wake up and be in work mode immediately. I can take a couple of minutes to get myself in the mindset as I have a lot more time in the morning not having to go through a big morning routine or commute to work. 

What is the best WFH tip or advice that you can give?

My best WFH tip or advice would probably be to have a good segregation of work and personal spaces. I have a basement room downstairs, where I do most meetings. But I also have a room upstairs with a big window and turn it into like a big office where I do programming. Just walking upstairs, I’m getting ready to be in the work mentality, and when I am finished for the day, I turn everything off and go all the way downstairs and it brings my energy levels down and I am ready to relax.

Since working remotely and having more time on your hands, have you started any new hobbies or projects?

There's been a couple of things. There was a while where I tried to learn 3D modelling and I was learning render by myself. It was very hard, a lot harder than I expected. I did one little project by myself, and I've kind of been jumping from thing to thing, trying to fill the time. There was a time when I really got back into drawing. When I was little, I used to do a lot of art and used to go to art classes and got into digital drawing too. I have a tablet and would draw in photoshop little sketches and stuff. At the moment, I am working on a web application for me and my friends to use while we play board games over video chat. It’s like a little application that we can use to count points or scores and coordinate things and synchronize across different browsers. 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about your time at Mappedin?

I feel really lucky to come at the time that I did, partially for the reasons that I said earlier where I worked on both of the huge front-end projects, especially for Mappedin Web V2. I got to work on the foundations of it with our Software Architect in what was an incredibly productive learning experience from me. I was able to get my hands dirty with setting up the entire project from scratch alongside him and learning a lot from him. I came at a really opportunistic time and a lot of really interesting and really fun stuff started a little bit after I showed up.

I can sincerely say it has been my most enjoyable work experience, my favourite co-op experience that I have done, and is a really good way to end my series of co-ops and on a really high note!

I'm confident that in the future that I will look back at this time specifically, where I learned a lot and also not feeling like I was forced to play catch up all the time. I was able to pick up a lot of skills while working on tickets that I would get assigned and being able to communicate with different people on the team and just talking to whoever I need to learn whatever set of tools that I need to solve the problem.

This is the most beneficial foundation experience that I have received for the career path that I want to pursue. I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of everything that has happened the last couple of months.

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