Spreading his wings: Commerce student's work experience showcases the power of co‑op

- July 26, 2021

Commerce student James Whytock took on a position with CrossWing, a Toronto-based firm that created a disinfecting robot called CleanBot. (Provided images)
Commerce student James Whytock took on a position with CrossWing, a Toronto-based firm that created a disinfecting robot called CleanBot. (Provided images)

James Whytock entered Dalhousie's Commerce program excited about the prospect of graduating with a full year's worth of work experience, expanding his network and meeting new people. 

He's been steadily reaping the benefits of Dal's placement programs ever since, getting to engage with major global companies such as Walmart, Honda and Scotiabank via a co-op work term with Ontario robotics firm CrossWing.

James secured his CrossWing term in Fall 2020 as a sales and business development associate. Job-hunting in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic could be frustrating, but he found the opportunity through personal connections and set up an interview that led to his job offer.

When the pandemic began, CrossWing started focusing on developing an autonomous disinfecting robot called CleanBot. They received government funding to design, create, and distribute these robots to businesses.

James’s job was to connect the company with investors and buyers for the robot, sometimes by cold-calling: “essentially getting as many pokers in the fire as possible.” He gave presentations and demonstrations to some of the world’s largest companies, often to CEOs, to help foster trust in CleanBot.

A reciprocal relationship

Ahmad Farooq, the project manager who hired James, appreciated having a co-op student he could depend on to perform work of this caliber. He began hiring Dalhousie co-op students in 2020, and positions like James’s have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.

“He brought a refreshing change to our team dynamic and has proactively taken on responsibility,” Ahmad says, noting James’s “determination” when following up on leads. Ahmad feels other companies could gain the same benefits from student employees and recognizes the value of supporting a co-op student’s personal and professional growth.

“It gives aspiring young individuals a chance to enter the realm of the corporate world and gain valuable experience,” says Ahmad. “Quite often, these experiences help to shape their education choices and transform their career.”

New horizons

James continued part-time at CrossWing during his academic semester and has returned this summer for another co-op term, where he’s been helping the company expand the market for their sanitizing robots — they're looking at cruise lines. He’s also getting a chance to learn more about their business processes: they’ve identified new funding opportunities and hope to grow their employee team with James’s support.

“I’m looking forward to everything to come,” says James. “We’ll be working diligently to perfect everything we’ve done during the pandemic and furthering our bottom line.”

With files from Brittany Warren and Karina Norris


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