Although she is now a graduate of the Game Programming course at Centennial College, Andrea Navarro Zagarra said she was certain that the technology field was a perfect fit for her when she first learned about web development. After switching career paths from studying Robotics Engineering to Graphic Design, when she gained her first introduction to web design during her Graphic Design studies, she knew she had stumbled upon a long-term career that she could thrive in. “I was like actually I think I like this better than just design … Game Programming was the program that had the best of both worlds,” she said. When it came time to build a portfolio for employment, she applied for a student Front-end Developer internship role at WIMTACH and she considers the internship to be key to her learning journey.
Like other alumni from WIMTACH, her programming skills have come really far. When she first joined WIMTACH, she was assigned to assist the WIMTACH research team in the development of a dynamic cloud-based corporate website in partnership with Winters Instrument and this was her first real challenge to use her skills in Front-end development and Angular. “It was exciting … because here, I am an actual developer,” she said. Working with other Student Researchers, she was responsible for helping to build the website’s application and the admin panel and over the course of several months, she was able to apply her programming knowledge repeatedly, which helped her to build a strong foundation for growth. Comparing her knowledge now to her experience at the beginning of her internship, she laughs at the dramatic growth in her proficiency level. She noticed, for instance, that when the website was finally in production and she was asked to develop another feature, she was able to complete the requirement from scratch quite quickly, due to the extensive knowledge she’s been able to gain in her internship. “I can see [from] when I started programming, and the knowledge I have now,” she said. “When the client asked for another feature, we did it in like two days, something that would take more time.”
Her valued contributions to this project collaboration earned her a role amongst a team of developers for an applied research project with Xello Inc. Through the project collaboration, she was able to seek mentorships from senior developers within the Xello team. “Being in WIMTACH has been like one of the best things that I have had from Centennial College,” she said. “I would definitely recommend entering WIMTACH or at least [applying] because it gives you really good opportunities.”
Reflecting on her yearlong internship at WIMTACH, Andrea explained that her most memorable experiences at WIMTACH often stemmed from overcoming challenges. She remembers trying to implement a Magic 360 plugin into the website to display 360 images for products and finding that it wasn’t working after weeks of implementation attempts. “In the end, everything worked out which was really nice, but at the time I felt a little bit frustrated about it,” she said. “None of the resources talk about that so … I sent an email to the company and they replied really fast in answering one of the questions that I needed to be solved.” Still, this challenge, and many like it, helped her to build strong bonds with her team, many of whom have now become her friends. “It has been great,” she said.
Her internship proved to be useful. Andrea is now working at Xello Inc., as a Frontend Engineer and she attributes part of her success with securing this job to her internship at WIMTACH. “WIMTACH basically gave me the opportunity to have experience in this field,” she said. “I think it’s better to work at WIMTACH than doing a co-op [somewhere else] … WIMTACH has helped me with my skills to get a job.”
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