Kanata North: Where CO-OP dreams come true

Kanata North
Research and innovation

By Valérie Charbonneau

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

graphic representation of two students are wearing virtual reality goggles on their head
Imagine this: You wake up one morning and you’ve just accepted a dream job in one of the most promising businesses in the largest research and technology park in Canada. Your days are like no one else’s.

Your meetings are as unusual as exciting. One morning, your bosses offer you the chance to have a new virtual reality experience. You put on a virtual reality headset and open your eyes. What a surprise to suddenly find yourself in Paris, the City of Lights, and to see the Eiffel Tower rising before you! You’ve barely begun to control your excitement when your fellow programmers ask you to test some video game and sports channel applications. How can you refuse? At lunchtime, a snack wall awaits you with sustenance for a big part of the day, all free.

That’s what Samuel Brunette experienced during his CO-OP placement at You.i TV, a business located in the Kanata North Technology Park. He and Parastoo Saharkhiz are among the 275 University of Ottawa students who completed placements at one of around 60 businesses in Kanata North in 2018. Again this year, the two have the opportunity to complete a placement there, to further develop their skills in the fields they’re passionate about. They shared their take on things with us.

A young man stands in front of a big screen showing a lot of flowers.

Samuel Brunette

In his third year of a bachelor of commerce, Samuel Brunette already knows that he wants to be more involved in project management.

Samuel’s expertise in customer service and congenial personality helped him land a full-year CO-OP placement as a project coordinator at You.i TV, his second stint at the company. According to its website, the company “builds high-performance cross-platform video experiences for mobile, streaming devices, game consoles, and smart TVs from a single codebase.”

“I really enjoy my experience here. There are 200 employees — everyone is super collaborative,” says Samuel. “Executives and managers come from different backgrounds and are very down-to-earth. I am encouraged to start small initiatives and polish other ones. I am looking forward to learning more and being involved in more projects.”

You.i TV sees considerable value in hiring CO-OP students. “Not only do they bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table, but they are full of positive energy and passion as they translate their academic knowledge to hands-on situation,” says Kylie Hurst, lead talent adviser at You.i TV. “Students are our future leaders and we are grateful to have the opportunity to impact their academic experience, even if only for a short while.”

The growth of technology businesses in Kanata North is a boon for students, notes Samuel.

“I really think that companies in Kanata North are growing massively and internationally. Students should come work here, because this is where everything will expand. Companies are bringing in many people because the area really fosters the development of technology.”

Parastoo stands in a street and snow is falling everywhere around her.

Parastoo Saharkhiz

Parastoo loves working in web development. A third-year software engineering student, she has acquired skills in cybersecurity, data analytics and threat detection through a CO-OP placement with Interset, which develops security tools to help identify and respond to cyber security threats before data is stolen. The company recently hired her for a second CO-OP placement with its data integration team for the summer.

“Interset has such a great working environment. Everything that I have experienced there has helped me grow as an individual,” says Parastoo. “It wasn’t just about the technical knowledge that I gained. The managers are keen to help CO-OP students flourish in every possible way. I had such a great time as they gave me a variety of tasks that taught me how to develop different skills.”

Parastoo adds that Kanata North is the heart of Ottawa in terms of technology and research.

“The relationship between the University of Ottawa and Kanata North’s businesses is beneficial to both the students and the companies. Even young alumni can benefit from it. I feel like the partnership brings both entities closer together.”

Interset has just given one of its former CO-OP students a full-time role and is bringing on seven students from the University for the upcoming summer term, including Parastoo.

“The University of Ottawa CO-OP students come prepared. Even before their start date, they reach out to the team to ask questions on what they can research and explore before they join,” says Allison Maguire, people and culture coordinator at Interset. “They are eager to soak up as much experience and knowledge possible during their time with us. (The CO-OP students) are excited to take on challenging projects, and want to understand the full scope of our business and add value in everything they do. They become immediate contributing members of our team. We appreciate their energy and fresh perspective.”

Learn more about hiring CO-OP students (for employers), including programs and advantages.

Learn more about co-operative education (for students), including programs and regulations.

Our Kanata North satellite office

The University of Ottawa is inaugurating a satellite office in Kanata North on April 25.  We will be the first postsecondary institution to have a physical presence in Canada’s largest technology park. This will further cement our partnership with companies in Kanata North, announced last November.

Inspired by the world’s most successful technology parks, which closely integrate industry and academia, the partnership will strengthen Ottawa’s innovation hub on a national and international scale by facilitating access to our talent, professional development and educational opportunities, and to researchers who can help provide solutions to industry’s research and development challenges.

We have a growing number of research collaborations with Kanata North companies, including industry leaders such as Nokia, IBM, Ericsson and Ciena. Our researchers are working in areas ranging from telecommunications and data analytics to machine learning and autonomous vehicle systems. We will also become a partner in a consortium including Kanata North firms and the National Research Council of Canada, which will look at optical satellite communications challenges of the future.

Gaining access to talent is a priority for Kanata North companies, which are tapping into our pool of students and highly qualified graduates and working with our CO-OP program, ranked among the top five in Canada. Last year, 275 students had CO-OP placements with 60 Kanata North companies, including the students profiled in this article. This is an important step towards closing the skills gap and laying a solid foundation for the future of innovation.