I recently completed my second co-op experience for the University of Waterloo, working at D2L in the Summer of 2019. My initial application was based largely on name recognition: I knew about D2L as a company since UWaterloo uses D2L’s Brightspace as its preferred LMS. I didn’t yet know what an enjoyable and educational experience working at D2L would be.
From the start, it was clear that D2L made a unique effort in its recruitment process. Beyond holding the requisite interviews, D2L also held an additional info session for students to learn about the company culture before the technical interviews, as well as an office tour, and a get together at a pub downtown for us to meet D2Lers and learn more about the company. One thing I greatly appreciated during the hiring process was D2L’s explicit discussion of salary during their info session; budgeting as a student can be difficult since tuition only gets more expensive as the years go by. Many companies don’t explicitly discuss salaries, and as a student it’s always a minefield to navigate these sorts of conversations: you don’t want to offend the employer by asking, but you also need to be confident that living expenses are accounted for. Knowing the salary I would be paid before starting the term was a great comfort for me, as I could guarantee that I’d be able to pay for the next term of university, as well as textbooks, rent, and other general expenses.
Upon starting work at D2L, I realized that the company had a lot of initiatives in place to guarantee employee satisfaction. There can be a bit of a dichotomy in technology companies where company culture is either a fast-paced start-up environment without respect for work-life balance, or a slow-moving overly bureaucratic culture where making a significant difference is difficult. D2L strikes a strong balance between the two; since the teams are relatively small, the work you do has impact both for your team and other teams who depend on it. Beyond that, the work feels meaningful, improving the state of online education is a noble challenge to undertake and all the D2L employees I have met take pride in achieving that vision. Furthermore, D2L has a variety of ways in which it demonstrates care for its employees: walking around the office you’ll spot monitors displaying employee’s anniversaries, and a monthly cake-day to celebrate their hard work and milestones of service. There’s a “QuickConnect” Slack channel where you can sign up to meet and chat with other random employees scattered throughout the company. Managers host biweekly one-on-ones to check in with their employees. Taking breaks and recognizing the importance of mental health is encouraged rather than swept under the rug. These are only a few of the myriad of ways that D2L tends to employee happiness.
Beyond just a positive company culture, D2L also prioritizes developer learning and growth. One of the things I always look for in a co-op position is new learning experiences; internships are the time to take all the theory given in school and actually get the chance to apply it. During my hiring process, I reached out to my recruiter, Evan, and asked about working specifically on DevOps and Infrastructure: a field that I had some personal experience with but minimal professional experience. Evan paired me with the Monitoring and Tooling Team at D2L and I got the chance to learn C#, Terraform, and some distributed computing design patterns. Studying these skills on my own would have been time-consuming, more difficult, and likely less comprehensive; but thanks to my co-op experience at D2L, all of these skills are now proudly displayed on my resume. Beyond just the day to day developer work, D2L also hosts a variety of other learning events for developers. Three times a year D2L runs inspiration sprints that act like 2-week hackathons, where one can research and experiment with new technologies to improve company processes. For my Inspiration sprint, I began a rewrite of an old UI in React – it was a really rewarding experience getting to share a little bit of my front-end knowledge with my infrastructure coworkers. In addition to the inspiration sprints, each week there is a “Learning Byte”, which is a brief technology presentation given during lunch. Every couple of months there is an “alignment” presentation which functions like a science fair, where each team presents a poster board of projects they are working on. There’s also AWS GameDay, which is a really enjoyable event where you compete against other teams to solve challenges using AWS technologies as fast as possible while maintaining efficiency and uptime. Whereas at previous co-ops I sometimes struggled to find enriching material beyond my daily tasks, D2L went above and beyond to not only provide interesting work, but also additional learning opportunities.
I thoroughly enjoyed working at D2L during this previous summer. I’ve had the chance to work at a few different technology companies so far, and D2L has done a great job balancing interesting problems, work-life balance, and fun. The work is important and meaningful, and practically everyone I met at the company was a delight to work with. I’d recommend an internship at D2L to any other prospective co-op student; it’s a great experience with a ton of learning potential and a lot fun bundled with it!