This article is sponsored by the University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management.
When Hoppier launched three years ago (as Desk Nibbles), it faced the classic startup challenge – building the right team, with the right skills, on a tight budget.
“It’s this mission-critical time when you are trying to achieve product-market fit,” said co-founder and CEO Cassy Aite. “You don’t want to hire someone too junior whom you have to handhold.”
The team had determined that sales was a key area that needed more focus. But how to find the right individual to fill that crucial role, without breaking the bank?
An alumnus of the University of Ottawa, Aite turned to the Telfer School of Management and its co-op program.
Telfer’s co-op program follows an integrated learning model that only seeks to place students for paid work terms after they have completed two years of study. This ensures an all-important win-win for both the student and the employer, said Program Coordinator Doug Spencer.
Ensuring a win-win
“If the student is not getting a valuable work experience where they can apply what they have learned, they are not likely to return,” he said. “We also have to ensure that the employer is getting a resource who is capable of making a productive contribution to their team.”
At Hoppier, that first co-op student drove the startup’s sales function – to acquire, activate and retain customers. In their second term, the student expanded the scope of their efforts into sales automation. Today, this same student is about to graduate and take a full-time job with the company.
Meanwhile, Hoppier’s business has grown across North America to more than 100 customers. Its customizable and affordable snack and office supply delivery services are used by the likes of Uber, Unity, Notarize, canvaspop and RogueWave Software.
Both team and company growth have relied heavily on the pipeline of talent from Telfer’s co-op program. Hoppier now takes three or four co-op placements in every work-term, in roles ranging from sales and marketing to strategic growth and product engineering.
“It has really opened my eyes – there are so many Telfer students who are hungry to learn, who take the initiative,” Aite said. “All the students who we have hired have had this infinite learning mindset.”
Best way to find that right fit
Before he took his current role with Telfer, Spencer was himself a co-op student. He knows firsthand how important these work experiences can be to help a young person decide what career path they want to follow and see the real-world application of what they are learning in the classroom.
“As an employer, you are able to bring in some fresh talent with a different perspective who can jump in and help with your mission-critical projects today,” he said. “Students are scoping out potential employers as much as employers are scoping out potential hires. The co-op program offers a happy medium where they can meet in the middle to decide if there is a good fit for that full-time job after graduation.”
Aite has learned that the key to co-op success for an employer is to have a well-defined role for that individual, with clear milestones and objectives for their work term, before they even walk in the door.
“You need to ensure they can be up and running as a productive part of your team within a couple of weeks,” Aite said. “We now have a roster of co-op students who understand our technology stack, who know our culture and who have demonstrated their fit for full-time roles as we continue to grow. This has really helped us in a competitive labour market.”
Start building your talent pipeline today
Telfer has eight programs that offer co-op, while the university offers co-op across 80 different programs, year-round.
Learn more at https://telfer.uottawa.ca/co-op