After more than a year of working with them, Parklane is saying a fond farewell to our two Co-op students, Celine Azar and Naveen Alam. Both are heading back to school to finish their engineering degrees in September but, before they go, they sat down to give an interview on their time at Parklane and all that they’ve learned.
You guys are almost done; are you thrilled to be moving on or not looking forward to going back to school?
Celine: Mixed feelings; I’m excited for school, but I’m sad to leave.
Naveen: It’s going to be strange to go back.
The last time you were in school was peak COVID-19, right?
C: COVID restrictions were just ending, so I got to spend about three months in classes.
N: I was not fully there; for mine, it was always hybrid, so I was going in maybe once every two weeks. Now we’ll be back in a full classroom.
C: No masks; that’s going to be new.
N: Very disorienting
What are your current programs?
C: Civil engineering.
N: I’m in electrical engineering
How did you end up in the co-op program for Parklane?
C: I found the job posting on my school’s co-op job website. I had heard about acoustics engineering from a presentation during one of our previous co-op industry nights and I thought ‘oh this is cool’ and the rest is history.
N: It was similar for me. It was on our co-op job’s website for the school. I almost didn’t apply but noise mitigation sounded interesting. So I thought, let’s try. And then I ended up getting it!
How did you get started in your current roles here at Parklane?
N: We were both doing work for the engineering department at first. Before we joined, they had all the departments make a list of things they needed help with, and Estimation had asked for the tool I ended up building. So, once we were settled in and used to everything, they had me move over to coding that. And I kind of started helping with tool builds from there.
C: In the beginning, we worked mostly on project costing and then on the project management side, and then started to focus more on the engineering and silencers. I was working with Hanif (Structural Engineering Manager) on structural engineering sheets and things like that.
Do you feel you got a chance to do what you signed up for or were you put into roles that you didn’t expect?
C: Honestly, I wasn’t fully sure what I signed up for! I just wanted to experience as much of Parklane as I possibly could. And I got exactly that so I’m really happy! I got to work in basically every single department – except for sales – I got a taste of everything.
N: I’m the same. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. I was kind of just going with the flow. I already knew going in that I would not be doing too much electrical, but I did get good engineering experience, especially project management. I got to work closely with the project management team, helped track project progression, and assist them with tasks. Even though it wasn’t electrical, I did get exposure to other engineering disciplines and engineers.
How do you feel about the mentoring side of your co-op? You didn’t join Parklane with mentors in mind, but do you feel you received mentorship from the teams you were working with?
C: I feel like I got a bit of mentoring from everyone here. Any time I’d work with anybody, they’d really put in the effort to explain things to me and leave lots of space for questions; I ask way too many questions, and no one ever got annoyed.
There’s no such thing as too many questions, Celine.
C: Oh, trust me, there is. But everyone was a great mentor.
N: They’re all so hands-on.
What was the most challenging thing you did while you were here?
C: The thing that put me most out of my comfort zone was presenting the paper at the NoiseCon Convention in Michigan on COMSOL Multiphysics Simulating – simulating silencer performance using COMSOL and seeing how well it performs when compared to our actual empirical data. That was a huge “oh my gosh,” and then I just did it, and it was a great experience.
N: COMSOL expert right here.
Had you used COMSOL at all before you came to Parklane?
C: No, I’d never heard of it. Nothing. And I still have a lot to learn.
N: I think for me, it was – I did a lot of VBA coding with Excel, and I’d never used that before. So everything I learned was on the job, trying to make sure that I could meet the criteria that the team was setting. I was really focused on trying to create something that would be helpful without me there to run it. I wanted to make something that was both working and not hindering the company to use.
C: I’d also never used VBA before, so coming here and earning that was a big thing.
What is a new skill you feel you’ve gained? Beyond COMSOL and VBA Coding?
C: This is going to sound silly, but just sending more professional emails
N: That’s true! That’s so true.
C: Professional correspondence
N: I remember very early on when Celine was helping with a task. The team said, “Don’t sound too professional.” I had no idea that was a thing! If you sound too professional, anyone reading the email will know you’re a new worker. It was something that really underlined the value of different experiences in different departments because, obviously, you don’t get that in school.
What was the most rewarding thing you’ve done with Parklane?
C: Presenting the paper, definitely. NoiseCon was a lot of fun.
N: It’s a simple thing but going to all the Parklane internal events. Just getting to talk to everyone.
Is there anything you would change about your experience?
C: I don’t think I’d change a single thing. It’s been an awesome experience. It’s probably one of the biggest learning experiences of my life. You grow up thinking about going to work. After you graduate, the goal is to end up in the industry that you’re studying. Up to this point, it’s always been just an idea in my head; I’d never actually experienced it. So, getting to experience it has been awesome. It’s different than I thought in some ways, and in others, it’s exactly how I thought it would be.
N: That point exactly. There are things I did expect, and there are lots of things I didn’t but overall, it’s been great.
So, would you recommend Parlane to other students?
C: For sure. For any student who wants to experience several different sides of a business, I recommend it. It’s a small company, and you have the manufacturing here on site. You can really get a taste of everything if you want to.
N: The point of a co-op is to get experience. You can do co-ops where they don’t really integrate you into the company. Here at Parklane, they help you be part of the process, and you can really see how the projects go. Which is a really big plus. I have friends doing other co-ops, and I get the most exposure to actual projects out of any of them.
Do you feel what you’ve learned here is a good match for your planned career path?
N: Mine is a little bit different because it wasn’t program specific, but the Project management branch has become something to consider. Doing a lot of coding, as well, is something that I use often. So being able to build on skills that were introduced in school is really valuable.
C: Taking coding with me is going to be great. I also worked on a lot of structural sheets, and our Structural Engineering Manager kept telling me how often I’m going to be using those in the future. Also, seeing the importance of talking to the shop team when you’re designing things is something that I could only learn here, having the manufacturing so close.
N: We were getting all perspectives.
Last question, and it’s a fun one. When you’re telling friends back in school about your Parklane experience, what’s the one silly or amazing story you’re going to lead with?
C: I keep bringing this up, but it’s literally: you’ll never believe that as a co-op student, I presented a paper to a roomful of experts, and they clapped! That’s the story I’m going to tell.
N: And everyone who went said you handled questions well, too!
C: Matt (President of Parklane) and Viken (Director of Engineering) were so supportive. All the members of the sales team who were at the conference came to watch me present. It was really nice to see familiar faces, and Matt and Viken helped me out a lot during the presentation, too; they asked questions to redirect things when I needed them. It was great.
N: My stories are all going to be about the people. I was talking to Cole (Technical Sales) last week about how I never expected to find the team energy that Parklane has. Everyone is on the same page, and the whole company is really passionate about the work, which is great to see.
We wish Celine and Naveen good luck and all the best with the rest of their programs, and we look forward to seeing them again once they’ve finished!