My four-month co-op placement at OANDA as a software engineer provided me with more than I could have possibly hoped for: practical, modern experience in a welcoming office atmosphere and a clear career direction.
I’m in my third year of the four-year Computer Science degree program at the University of Waterloo. Although I’ve always been interested in pursuing a career in computer science, I was never really sure what I wanted to do.
My co-op term at OANDA began on April 30 and ended August 30. In that short period of time, I had the pleasure of being an important part of the Mobile team, working on elements related to the Android-based version of OANDA’s slick fxTrade Mobile app. It is precisely this type of work that I hope to be doing full-time upon graduating in 2014.
A peek inside OANDA
At the start of each week, everyone on the Mobile team is given tasks to complete. But whenever I had free time I was encouraged to work on any extra assignment that I wanted to tackle as long as it helped improve the product. That’s not to say we didn’t have short- and long-term goals and targets to shoot for – on the contrary – but it was one of the many things about the working atmosphere at OANDA that made me fall in love with the company.
In general, mobile developers often have to create custom controls to present information-dense data on a small screen, and so one project I was tasked with working on was a new custom control we called “dependent seek bars.” I was paired up with another co-op on the team, and we worked together on the design. We presented our proposal to the Android devs, and after much conversation and collaboration, we went to work implementing it. It’s now available for free on Github for other devs to use.
I also worked on the “sliding drawer” in fxTrade Mobile (a lot of OANDA’s Android-based clients had asked for enhancements to this feature), and I had a hand in adding momentum-scrolling to the Android-based app (read: a flick of your finger sends the mobile page you’re viewing scrolling and it keeps going until it slows down “naturally”).
I chose to pursue a co-op placement at OANDA for many reasons, but chiefly to get real-world mobile development experience. I must admit I was also seeking a company with a laid-back work environment. After my initial interview with Lu Liu (a Mobile Developer at OANDA), I was sold on joining this company; I wanted in. After spending four months working there, I didn’t want to leave – and I swear it has nothing to do with the many perks OANDA provides for its staff.
Above all, I was never treated like a co-op student; I was treated like a valued member of the Mobile team. I have many people to thank for that including Mobile Team Lead, Jason Emery, as well as Lu, and Software Developer, Kevin Everets, who mentored me.
Advice for other students
My advice to other computer science students seeking a co-op placement at OANDA is to brush up on your iOS and Android development concepts. Even having a beginner’s level of knowledge on these two mobile operating systems will serve you well. What you don’t know, the smart people at OANDA will teach you.
Truth told there were so many large-scale projects at OANDA I had the opportunity to experience that I’m amazed at how much I learned. Frankly, I hope to return to OANDA in the not-too-distant future as a full-time employee.