Growth and gain: EASI’s 2019 VP-OREP Student Professional Experience Program

VP-OREP Student Professional Experience Program participants: Jason Quay, Jason Tang, Nora Zhu, Shujia Liu, Wenqi Jiang, Ganesh Vedula, Ahmed Khedr, Nicole Williams

It was a summer of growth and gain – a time when students could put their classroom learning to the test. This summer, eight co-op students joined Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) to work on projects ranging from  machine learning, business intelligence, user experience and design, SharePoint and front-end web development.

“Our student summer experience program has grown significantly over the years, and this year our students benefited from hands-on experience with high-profile projects,” says Cathy Eberts, Executive Director of EASI. “EASI also continues to benefit from this program and the new skills that students bring to each area of the department.”

The program included students from U of T’s iSchool, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, and the University of Toronto Mississauga. While it officially ran over the summer, several students will continue with EASI over the coming months.

Learn all about their experiences.


Wenqi Jiang

Currently completing her Master’s degree in User Experience Design and Information Systems and Design at the Faculty of Information.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I conducted preliminary user research with instructors and faculties for the Course Information System and the syllabi creation tool. I designed the well-being support tab, which will be added to ACORN. I also redesigned and created the front-end for the Job Evaluation Tool (JET) tool, which analyzes job descriptions to provide estimates for job pay bands.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
The entire experience has been interesting. I worked on different systems, and I was involved in different UX processes and practiced different skills. One of the biggest learnings from this experience is how to work with developers. This is my first UX-related working experience, and having the chance to work with different teams and implement designs has been great. 

What do you hope to do in the future?
Early in my career I would like to be a user experience generalist.


Ahmed Mohamed Khedr

Currently completing his Master’s degree in Information Systems and Design at the Faculty of Information.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I worked with Andy Chien from the Planning & Budget Office to create a solution to help the office run their files and automatically create reports. I also helped Andy to maintain reports and processes for the office.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
I loved my experience at the University of Toronto, working with the Planning & Budget Office and with EASI’s Business Intelligence department. I have learned many concepts and skills from my projects and was fascinated with how the departments communicate with each other to come up with solutions that can help everyone get the job done in the fastest and easiest way.

What do you hope to do in the future?
I would like to work in a place where I can make people’s lives better by using my technical skills and ideas.


Shally Liu

Currently completing her Master’s degree in Information Systems and Design at the Faculty of Information.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I worked on the Data Dragon project as a data analyst during this summer. This project was for Enrolment Services and it analyzed internal data for English Language Proficiency tests for all undergraduate applicants. The goal of this project was to make admission requirements more transparent and easy to understand, and to improve the process for staff working in undergraduate admissions and student recruitment.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
I loved working with my teammates – everyone was nice and knowledgeable. I also improved my technical skills during my project and the team helped me out a lot. I learned how to create professional Tableau dashboards for end users and make them more efficient for the end user, allowing them to easily get the data that they need.

What do you hope to do in the future?
I hope to be a data analyst in the future.


Jason Quay

Currently completing his Master’s degree in Information Systems and Design at the Faculty of Information.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I spent the majority of my summer designing SharePoint solutions for various clients on campus such as Simcoe Hall. I was mainly exploring advanced SharePoint features and integrations with MS Flow for the purpose of automating client workflows.

One of my more notable accomplishments includes completing the redesign for EASI’s internal SharePoint portal. The intranet site will aggregate employee resources into a single platform that is easy to access and intuitive to navigate.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
I found the change management and onboarding processes to be the most interesting and challenging aspects of my work this summer. I learned that change management needs to be implemented at various stages of development. Simply training clients post development isn’t sufficient. Clients need to be educated well before they have hands-on experience with systems. Various strategies such as iterative deployment also needs to be introduced to ease any potential resistance to change.

What do you hope to do in the future?
In the near future, I wish to pursue a career as a business/process analyst or a product owner. I’ve been enjoying the client-focused nature of my role thus far and hope it can be part of my future endeavours as well.


Jason Tang

Currently completing his Bachelor’s degree at U of T in Computer Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I worked on a Job Evaluation Tool (JET), which uses Natural Language Processing to estimate job pay bands from the job description alone. I also worked on a pilot project on Course Recommender, which creates recommendations based on past course history.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
I learned a lot about the practical applications of machine learning and the end-to-end techniques required for it.

What do you hope to do in the future?
I hope to work in the industry focusing on machine learning for a few years, and then continue to pursue graduate school for research in machine learning.


Ganesh Vedula

Recently completed his Master’s degree at U of T in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering with a focus on Data Analytics.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I worked on a project called Course Recommender and its goal is to improve students’ course selection process.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
The most interesting part about this project has been the ample amount of data which can be leveraged in so many possible ways to recommend courses to a student given a condition like his/her program, year of study and course history – just like Netflix which recommends movies to us based on our previous browsing history. I have learned how to work in an agile environment, how to create complex machine learning models and present them to a totally non-technical audience.

What do you hope to do in the future?
I would like to pursue a professional data scientist career.


Nicole Williams

Completing her Undergraduate degree at University of Toronto Mississauga, studying Computer Science and Psychology.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
This summer, I migrated the ACORN Launchpad website over to WordPress and updated content and site architecture for existing WordPress websites. I also ensured that all the sites I worked on were accessibility-friendly.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
I was surprised by the amount of projects on the go at EASI. I found I liked working on so many different projects. I gained more knowledge on databases and servers, as well as more experience with web programming languages.

What do you hope to do in the future?
In the future, I hope to carve out a career in front-end web development, creating new and interesting websites and applications that are accessible for all users. I want the chance to use my skills as a programmer but to also be creative.


Nora Zhou

Completed her Master’s of Engineering at U of T’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

What did you work on this summer with EASI?
I worked as a Machine Learning Engineer at University of Toronto Business Intelligence at EASI. I was responsible for building business intelligence tools to leverage machine learning algorithms.

What did you find most interesting about this experience and what did you learn?
The most interesting part of this position was that I had the chance to deal with real-world data with special cases. It is hard get this experience through course projects. I learned skills to interpret, aggregate data and find a suitable machine learning model to solve the problem.

What do you hope to do in the future?
I hope I can work with data – dealing with data is irresistible.