20 December 2018 | by Jennifer McNeil-Haddad

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Top Takeaway for Co-op Student: Soft Skills for Cyber Industry

Harjashanpreet Kaur had already gained an excellent foundation for a career in Computer Science before the very first day of her co-op term, in September 2018. She was armed with a Bachelor of Computer Science Engineering & Technology and approaching completion of her Master’s in Applied Computer Science.

Not sure what to expect from the next few months with Opportunities NB (ONB) working out of the CyberNB office and having had only been in Fredericton for one day, she didn’t realize there was more than one ONB office location, and – as luck would have it – she showed up at the wrong one.

 “I remember my first day, very specifically, I was so worried what kind of impression I would make,” Harjashan said, but once the confusion was sorted out, she felt relieved. “Everyone made me feel so welcomed at both places.”

Changing cybersecurity perceptions

Harjashan knew from the beginning that her role with CyberNB would not be intensely scanning or working on lines of code. She would be developing soft skills and gaining some of the professional development that you get in a business work environment. As a Master’s Student in Computer Science, she was already armed with strong skills in Database, Web and Android Development. This was a different and complementary skill set she would be refining with the CyberNB team.

 “It was my first suit job!” she said, referring to the professional dress expectation, “I wanted to learn from everyone as much as I could. This role polished my soft skills and research skills and things like: how to be a professional, how everything works in an organization, taking a project – as an individual – and doing it, whether it’s research, networking, conducting a survey or organizing an event. Everything I learned here will stick with me.”

Soft skills merge with technical

 She always knew she wanted to one day be in a leadership role. She just wasn’t sure exactly how she’d get there. “Even after my Bachelor’s, or before this job, I never really felt ready to go work in an industry. Now I feel like I am ready for those jobs out there; I have more confidence in myself.”

Reporting to the Director of Cybersecurity Skills and Workforce Development, Harjashan’s work experience with CyberNB has served to round-out her education.

 “Coming from a technical background, I never had much professional [office] experience,” she said.

There were a few surprises, though. Among them: she was given the opportunity to work with individuals at all levels and gain a variety of experiences.

 “I worked mostly on research and development projects, got to job shadow in project management and organize the Cybersocial. I was included in meetings where everyone came from big roles at their companies. and I felt so lucky to be able to attend those as a student.”

Impressed with New Brunswick spirit

Now, four months after that first rocky start at the wrong office, Harjashan is able to look back on her co-op term with a smile, “I am really impressed with the spirit of the people here, they are proud New Brunswickers and work so hard to make New Brunswick excel in every field, and make it a better place for everyone to live and work.”

 The end of Harjashan’s co-op term also marks the completion of her Master’s Degree in Applied Computer Science at Dalhousie University.

Her next steps?

“I am graduating this month, I am planning on finding a full-time job. Maybe I will settle in Fredericton.”

Learn more about CyberNB’s cross-sector collaborations in New Brunswick’s Cybersecurity Ecosystem

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