A Day in the Life of a Co-op Student

By: Suhana Kumar


We are proud to announce that Polar has recently been awarded the 2020 Employer Impact Award for Impact on Student Experience from the University of Waterloo! Co-op is an integral part of our culture here at Polar. Our co-op program has allowed university students the opportunity to work in a fast-growing startup, and gain valuable professional skills.


“Starting this program was important to me because as a former Waterloo co-op student myself, I know how important it is to get the right opportunities and professional skills,” says Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar. “I love being able to support co-op students by providing guidance and opportunities and allowing them to grow as working professionals and entrepreneurs.”


Kunal is also a huge believer of positive change, and it is this philosophy that he carries with him when running Polar’s co-op program. “Advertisers, publishers, consumers are constantly demanding new and interesting and innovative and interactive experiences online,” he says. “This idea of constantly reinventing yourself every four months is built-in (to what we do). And that’s really prepared me, and a lot of our team of former Waterloo co-op students, to not be shy and reinvent ourselves every couple years.”


I can attest to what Kunal says, as I’ve been a co-op student myself at Polar for the past two months. In this blog post, I want to give you an inside look into what it is like being a co-op student working for Polar.


Workplace culture and mindset


Workplace culture is becoming more and more relevant in today’s professional world. It is Polar’s innovative, collaborative, and open culture that attracts co-op students to our positions. As a co-op student myself, I was impressed by the start-up environment that Polar has created.


Students work alongside professionals in roles that make a difference at Polar, and many co-op students have become a part of the driving force that keeps Polar going. In addition, a collaborative environment and friendly co-workers has made Polar feel like a safe space for co-op students to not only learn and develop new skills, but also go above and beyond and pitch in with their own ideas.


One thing that stood out for many co-op students was the adoption of the four-day work week, which has allowed them to work in a more efficient manner without burning themselves out. For me personally, this resulted in getting more work done while maintaining a good work/life balance. Fridays, which were termed “The Someday Experiment” by Kunal Gupta (you can read all about Someday’s on Kunal’s blog), give both students and full-time employees a chance to do anything they wanted to do but never had time for.


“It is not an extra day off, but rather the space to be intentional,” says Kunal Gupta about Someday’s. Whether that be catching up with work, hanging out with an old friend, or picking up a new hobby, it gives employees a chance to take a break from their usual work routine and do something fun, relaxing, or invigorating. As a co-op student who has worked more traditional five-day weeks, this change was a pleasant surprise to me that has benefited my work ethic and peace of mind.


Staying Connected


While Polar’s work-from-anywhere setup has employees scattered in various parts of the world, it hasn’t diminished staying in contact with other employees and establishing lasting connections. Co-op students get a chance to work with other students on various projects, as well as connect on a personal level through a variety of different activities, such as weekly meetings, syncs, and office hours. “Working at Polar has given me endless opportunities for growth and to learn new skills, and I’ve found it easy and pain free to connect with other co-op students with co-op circles and other activities, even virtually,” says Victoria Li, an engineering co-op student at Polar.


Students would participate in activities such as weekly co-op circles, in which students share updates on projects they have been working on throughout the week. This gives them a chance not only to stay in sync with what has been going on within the company, but also learn new skills from each other on a variety of tasks. During the meetings, students would also ask each other icebreaker questions and reflections about life, which help them become comfortable around each other and connect not only as a team, but as people.


Mentors


As new co-op students are hired every four months, each student is assigned a full-time Polar employee as a mentor to guide them through the term. Mentors would often be the ones to assign projects, and are usually the primary resource that co-op students use for advice, feedback, and support. Frequent check-ins are also implicated for both student and mentor to stay in-touch and check in on any current projects. This set-up allows students to step into professional and leadership-style roles while still having the support and guidance they need throughout their work term. On the other hand, it allows mentors to teach valuable skills they have accumulated over their professional lives to best prepare co-op students for the working world.


Polar hopes to continue supporting co-op students in creating workplace opportunities and helping them grow to be prepared and successful in the working world. I’ve benefited from Polar’s approach to work and opportunity to get involved in multiple projects, and the company has done a great job of making me feel comfortable and confident about building my skills. For more information about the company’s co-op program, visit https://www.createwithpolar.com/coop.