Degree: Telecommunications Technology Co-op
Year of graduation: 2005
Coming full circle. Grad goes from prospective student to co-op employer
Ron Fiander’s journey to Sheridan began somewhat serendipitously. After high school, he spent a year working on assembly lines and at a local business supply store. He knew he wanted a career that offered more opportunities, but exactly what that would be remained elusive until he and some friends rifled through a few college course calendars and found computer networking. Since he enjoyed helping the business supply store’s computer customers, he was intrigued and decided he should try telecommunications and technology at Sheridan.
Fiander says that decision was the first step toward a successful career. Today, he works at Softchoice, one of the largest IT solution and managed service providers in North America. As the manager of the collaboration team, he supports the web and device-based communications technologies used by their clients. His path from Sheridan to Softchoice was a straight one: he landed his first job at UNIS LUMIN, a IT integrator acquired by Softchoice in 2011, right after completing his co-op placement there. He credits the co-op experience with giving him direct experience working with clients, who expected him to think fast.
“The best experience I got out of that was exposure to live customer networks,” he recalls. “Because when you’re in the classroom, you’re dealing with contained situations. You’re in a safe spot … but when I went into my co-op placement all of a sudden … you’re going to impact a business and that’s going to have ramifications. You begin to look at things differently, and you begin to think more of what the client needs.”
Today, Fiander is eager to share those important lessons with current students. Each term, Softchoice hosts nine students from various programs in Sheridan’s Faculty of Applied Science and Technology. The company is also a long-time supporter of Sheridan’s students through academic awards, given out each year to students in the Internet Communications Technology program.
As Softchoice’s main contact for the co-op program, Fiander wants students to have the same opportunities to grow and learn on the job that he did. He hopes that the projects they work on at Softchoice inspire their learning back on campus.
“Part of my objective here is to help students point their compass better when they go back to school. Within the world of IT there’s a wide portfolio of jobs and different things that you can do. And I just like to tell them that part of my job here is to get them as much exposure as possible.”
He can also share some wisdom about the importance of persevering in the classroom. After failing a test in his second semester, he wanted to drop out. But the program’s Dean encouraged him to stick with it, and use the reading week break to re-focus. He did, and the next grade he got was an 89.
“I went and studied for my electronics class for 10 hours a day all week,” he recalls. “I had to spend the time teaching myself to learn. I still use that (experience) today.”
This September, Fiander will once again have the chance to share that advice when Softchoice welcomes its newest crop of co-op students. He says hiring co-ops students is something every employer should consider to build up their talent pool.
“Some of the best people we’ve brought into Softchoice have been right out of college, right out of the gate,” he says.