How I Landed an Internship at One of Canada’s Fastest Growing Startups
[Guillaume Fernandes is a 2nd year engineering student at University of Waterloo. He joined Mercku for 4-month co-op term in 2019.]
I’ve often read how Steve Jobs, at the age of 12 , landed his first internship at Hewlett-Packard by cold-calling Bill Hewlett. As I was searching for co-op opportunities, I thought I would take a similar approach. However, unlike Jobs, I thought I decided to take a different route and not target a big corporation where I might not be as valued or have a true impact on the company.
Mercku is a Canadian start-up with exceptional technology DNA and seasoned next-gen innovation. Like Jobs, I directly contacted Mercku's CEO Alex Qi and asked him if he would consider a first-year engineering intern from Waterloo. I shared that what I lacked in work experience I would make up for with a lot of energy, many accomplishments and lots of engineering smarts to leverage and make an impact on Mercku’s product roadmap. After back-and-forth messages led to an interview, I was able to convince Mercku that I would be a perfect fit.
An internship is an amazing opportunity for any student looking to gain valuable real world experience. In fact, hiring managers say that interning within your preferred industry is more important than your university major or GPA.
However, finding valuable work experience as an intern – now that is a challenge!
You might be thinking that working at the biggest brand names will give you the best experience. With that said, it is very easy to get caught up with well-known companies. When you focus on the real benefits you will gain from an internship at these companies, the reality is far from glamorous: boring tasks, little responsibility, no long-lasting impact on the company… and many, many coffee runs.
If you are looking to cultivate your skills and experience in a dynamic work environment, interning at a fast-growing start-up like Mercku is exactly where you want to be! As a coop student from the University of Waterloo who completed a 4-month internship at Mercku, my experience working there exceeds that of most (if not all) of my academic peers. Here are some of the main reasons why I think my internship at Mercku was one of the most rewarding experiences I could have ever asked for:
Learning and Working in a Wide Variety of Business Functions
A role with fixed job responsibilities is not the reality of working at a start-up. Since these types of companies are often growing faster than they can hire, roles overlap in more than one department and allow the company to meet new challenges and continue running smoothly.
At Mercku, I was asked to wear many different hats, with exposure to sales, marketing, logistics, analytics and even design. Not only did this keep me on my toes awaiting my next assignment, but it was an invaluable opportunity to get a taste of everything, learn new skills and discover what I did best and enjoyed most.
Opportunity to Work with Founders and Meet Industry Pioneers
While important company figures will rarely give managers (let alone interns) the time of day in big corporations, Mercku has a flat organization of experienced team members that are always willing to make some time to speak to you and share their knowledge. The company's four founders have a rich background in business, entrepreneurship and technology, and their chief scientists account for over 450 international patents in fundamental network technology.
Within the first week of my internship, I quickly concluded that everyone, regardless of job title, is considered an invaluable member of the team. I learned that whenever you work with someone new, don't be afraid to ask questions about their experiences: they're often eager to share and there is no better way to learn than from the best in the business.
Greater Responsibility and Impact
Internships at a big company are best described by the expression: small fish in a big pond. It is harder to make waves, especially when the internship programs aren't structured to allow co-ops to do so.
Mercku values interns for our unique perspective of how our generation views technology and the world more generally, encouraging us to voice our ideas and opinions. During my internship, I was able to have important roles in many different functions, most notably in product packaging design (these packages will appear on shelves to consumers in the future), finding and establishing new partnerships and even helping to lay the foundations for Mercku’s next generation of products.
Not only was I entrusted with these responsibilities with the same expectations as any other employee, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that the work I did will live on after my co-op term and have a true impact on the company.
A Team Bond Unlike Anywhere Else
The Mercku team exhibiting at Collision Conference 2019
The most memorable takeaway from my time with Mercku is undoubtedly the bond I developed with my colleagues, and the lifelong friendships I will have with them. A retreat to a Blue Mountain cottage for team building, a week at the Collision technology conference, and watching the Toronto Raptors win the NBA Championship together with my Mercku teammates stood out as social highlights. Even just the regular days spent in the office working on interesting projects and gathering around the white board to brainstorm solutions to problems - there was never a dull moment at Mercku.
Most importantly, I cannot forget the many competitive game nights and intense ping pong matches where blood, sweat and tears were shed. Mercku lived up to the promise of playing hard (after we work hard).
All in all, the culture at Mercku is one of diversity, inclusivity and hard work to support an ambitious vision of the future. I feel like I hit the jackpot matching with Mercku for my first co-op term and would recommend to any co-op students looking for a placement where they'll have the best opportunities to learn and grow to resist the pull of the big-name companies and find a role with a company like Mercku.