Ryan Hennessey has been working as an IT professional with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Fredericton for the past 4 ½ years. He likes it so much he’s hoping to retire there.
“I enjoy the process of building,” said Ryan. “When I am programming, I am building, upgrading or fixing software that runs on a computer somewhere. I really enjoy the special challenges that arise from time to time with regards to querying data. It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle in an attempt to achieve a specific result, a bit like a riddle or a brainteaser.”
Ryan grew up in Ontario until his family moved to the Maritimes when he was a teen. Although he visited his grandparents on the Pabineau reserve, he has lived off-reserve his entire life. Ryan took his first programming course (Visual Basic) in grade 9 or 10 and this introduction to programming eventually led him to the co-op Computer Science program at UNB.
“If you decide to become an IT professional, I consider it nearly mandatory to gain work experience before you graduate from your post-secondary program,” said Ryan. “I participated in the co-op program at the UNB Faculty of Computer Science, and I was able to graduate with two years’ worth of work experience. You get experience taking job interviews, you get an idea of what it will be like to work in your field and you make some money while you’re at it. That experience made my transition from university to the work force very easy. I know of computer science graduates who opted out of the co-op program and had a hard time getting a job after graduation. Co-op job experience is very helpful when looking for a job out of university and you may end up being hired by one of your co-op employers when you graduate.”
The co-op program at UNB varies from the regular program in that it has work-terms associated with it. There is an additional tuition fee to participate in this program but people enrolled in it will easily earn that and more during their work-terms, plus the work experience enhances your resume.
“You would typically apply for several co-op positions,” said Ryan. “The companies interview the students and choose from the applicants just like a normal job competition. It’s great prep for getting out in the work force.”
Upon graduation from UNB, Ryan was hired by Xwave (now a part of Bell) where he gained valuable work experience. After a few years, he was interested in the public sector so he applied for a position at DNR and was successful in obtaining employment there.
“My experience in the UNB co-op program, and my work experience with Xwave, combined with the new employee orientation made it a very smooth transition,” said Ryan.
Ryan believes that pursuing post-secondary education is very important for Aboriginal students and shares this final piece of advice.
“I think it is absolutely vital for Aboriginal high school grads to pursue post-secondary education,” said Ryan. “For some, that may be university, for others that may be trade school or community college. Regardless, continuing your education allows you to choose your career direction. Find an area of study that interests you or one in which you have aptitude. Ask for advice and be sure to consider the job opportunities and potential income after graduation.”