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Kick-start your career with an engineering co-op

on November 25, 2019

As you work toward your engineering degree, you may be wondering how to stand out from the crowd of graduating seniors competing for the best jobs. You might even be unsure of what exact career path you are passionate about pursuing. 

At Torc, we offer positions for college students on our engineering teams to help you kick-start your career. Co-ops allow you to develop your skills, build your professional network and get paid to work on autonomous vehicles.

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In this article, we’ve collected everything you need to know about working at Torc as a college student, then asked our current co-ops to provide a rundown of their experience.

Co-ops Explained 

Cooperative education positions (or Co-ops) are a way to begin your career journey by learning valuable skills about teamwork and time management while contributing to real-world solutions. These positions help you apply the knowledge you’ve gained in your education and learn new skills that will put you ahead of the game.

These positions are generally full-time and organized by semester. This includes summer and winter semesters, which are good options for students who want to fit full-time work into their studies. 

The benefits of a co-op

Work on the important projects – When you join Torc as a co-op, you won’t be placed on a separate team or given specific student-based work. Our co-ops are fully embedded members of the engineering team they join. 

Get started in the professional world – Interfacing with other engineering professionals on your team allows you to create a lasting network of connections and mentors.  

Gain real experience to bring to the job – The catch-22 that recent graduates often face is the standard “you need experience to get experience” conundrum. Taking a semester to develop your experience will help you differentiate yourself in the market, as well as set you up for a full-time job at Torc.  

Tips for applying to a Torc co-op 

The typical education level for our co-op hires are juniors all the way up to PhD-level students. Candidates who showcase a willingness to learn, strong work ethic, and passion for changing the world with self-driving technology are going to fit in well with our team. Additionally, a background in the best practices of core languages such as C++ and ROS are key for many of our positions. You can also read more in our blog about the most important coding languages for autonomous vehicle engineers.

We have openings year-round and offer flexible work terms based on our hiring needs. We recommend applying at least one semester prior to when you would like to join. See our careers page for more information and open software engineer jobs.

An inside look at Torc Co-ops 

Torc Co-op engineer sitting at a desk with a computer and keyboard.

Haseeb Chaudhry Software Engineer Co-op, Active Sensing

What influence has this co-op had on your chosen career path?

My time with Torc has reinforced my career aspirations to pursue an automated driving solution. Between Torc’s business model, company culture, and technical talent, it has been an informative and self-revelatory experience.

With Torc being a key player in the commercial automated trucking industry, experience gained here will certainly be a major takeaway for future endeavors. Hands-on experience working with closely collaborating teams yields well-rounded exposure to facets of autonomous driving, robust development in a rapidly changing environment, and safety critical software engineering.

What does your day typically look like at Torc?

Lots of poring over data logs to optimize and tune algorithms for performance. Torc makes a point of testing new features and updates regularly, so it is a common occurrence for engineers to be part of on-vehicle tests at least once or twice a week, if not more.

What are the top two things you’ve learned here? 

  • Workspaces are your most useful tool/feature in Ubuntu
  • No matter how you put it, whenever you tell your friends you work with a self-driving car company, it will always be cool

 

Torc engineering co-op standing in a grassy field.

Zachary Joswick Software Engineer Co-op

What influence has this co-op had on your chosen career path?

When I started at Torc I was majoring in Mechanical Engineering and was planning on working in the design and manufacturing side of the robotics industry. This was a career path that I had been tracking towards since middle school and was something I had a deep passion for. So, you can imagine my surprise when I was accepted as a software engineering co-op. I was thrown in head-first – which in retrospect was the best possible starting point – and was tasked with some C++ onboarding and basic application development. 

Much to my surprise, it was very intuitive (or at least as intuitive as C++ can be) and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I became increasingly engrossed in the developer culture and found that I actually enjoyed this work more than mechanical engineering work. My one-semester co-op turned into two, and eventually, I decided to change my educational path and switch to a major in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering. Now I’m working on finishing out my senior year and will begin my career as a software engineer at Torc once I graduate. Without my time here at Torc, I would have never found my true passion, nor ended up in the great position I am today.

Do you think your co-op position will give you an advantage entering the job market?

Absolutely. The value of experience in an actual corporate environment cannot be understated. The theory introduced in college classes is valuable, but they often gloss over the transition from these theoretical concepts into tangible, business-ready outputs. 

Working in a corporate environment teaches you how to effectively use things like version control tools and tasking systems from day one. Having that knowledge (and putting it on your resume) when looking for a job puts you leagues ahead of students who did not complete similar co-ops and did not get the same experiences/knowledge.

What advice would you give to people interested in a co-op at Torc? 

Firstly, if you are even slightly interested in a co-op with us, you should definitely apply. The experience you can get as a co-op at Torc is incredibly valuable and you get to work with some of the best engineers in the industry. We are working on systems that can change the world, and you can be part of it. Secondly, start familiarizing yourself with C++, docker, Git, and ROS. These are leading languages and technologies in the robotics industry as a whole, and the skills are transferable to a variety of different companies even outside of Torc.

 

Torc engineering co-op working on a laptop in a van.

Siddartha Yeliyur Shivakumara Swamy, Software Engineer Co-Op, Machine Learning

What influence has this co-op had on your chosen career path? 

The co-op has allowed me to get practical, professional experience in computer vision and deep learning. It has provided me the opportunity to learn about developing the full software stack in autonomous vehicles. 

My day typically involves reading about the state-of-the-art techniques in technical papers, collection and extraction of data from Torc vehicles, and training relevant neural networks on the collected data. It also involves fun activities such as ping pong and chess.

What are the top things you’ve learned during your time here?

  • ROS (Robot Operating System) skills 
  • I’ve become a lot better at ping-pong

 

Torc engineering co-op working in the back of a vehicle.

Nikhil Bhalodiya Software Engineer Co-op, Behaviors Team

Do you think your co-op position will give you an advantage entering the job market?

Definitely. We are directly working on the software stack which has been deployed on the vehicle. It was my dream to work with such a huge code base. Also, working with a code with safety-critical standards can help to strengthen my profile. 

What advice would you give to people interested in a co-op at Torc?

Put a lot of effort into learning C++ and core robotics topics. Start using version control systems like Git.

What are the top two things you’ve learned here? 

  • How to write better code, and really think about the other team members who are going to read this code
  • Humbleness – to always be hardworking and polite

 

Torc engineering co-op standing in the garage with a car behind him.

John Blankenhorn Software Engineer Co-op, Behaviors team 

Do you think your co-op position will give you an advantage entering the job market?

Yes, I have learned countless things here that are not taught in school, both on a technical level, and a social level. There is nothing that can replace real-world experience. School is certainly a necessary component, but co-op positions are a stellar opportunity to get your foot in the door and start adding to your skillset before seeking full-time employment. This co-op has cemented my interest in robotics and autonomous vehicles.

What advice would you give to people interested in a co-op at Torc?

Communicational skills, a humble attitude, and not only a willingness, but a desire to learn new things, are arguably just as important as technical skills. The people that come in and immediately know what they are doing are few and far between. The people I see succeed the most here are those that are willing to admit when they are wrong and embrace new thoughts and ideas.

What are the top two things you’ve learned here?

  • No matter how brilliant it is, the work you do is useless if you do not communicate with others while doing it. No single person is going to solve the problems we are attempting to solve. This is a collaborative team effort, and communication is a necessity.
  • A radiating exuberance for the technology goes a long way. Having a passion for what you do can not only improve your own performance but inspire others to do the same.

At Torc, co-ops get to be an integral part of developing rapidly changing technology.  Whether you decide to continue your career at Torc after graduation, or explore a job elsewhere, this semester of experience is an irreplaceable investment in yourself.

Ready to apply? Check out our software engineer job openings.

Jim DudleyKick-start your career with an engineering co-op

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