MSE Student Strengthens Corporate Skills Through PEY Co-op Placement in Belgium

Mahta Massoud (MSE 1T8 + PEY Co-op) stands outside of Agfa Belgium with the 2017-2018 interns

Previous research experience, including a stint in South Africa, under her belt MSE student Mahta Massoud (1T8 + PEY Co-op) wanted to stretch her abilities. A year later, Massoud successfully completed an international corporate-based PEY Co-op position with Agfa Belgium.

MSE’s Kendra Hunter spoke with Massoud about the experience.

1) Why did you want to take part in PEY Co-op?

I had experience with summer research positions at MSE and wanted to explore work opportunities in industry. I knew PEY Co-op would provide valuable exposure to “real world” working environments and I was excited to try something new.

2) You worked for Agfa at their Belgium location, how did this position come about?

MSE students generally have a flexible skill set and this fits well with Agfa’s corporate needs. The company typically takes on PEY Co-op students in Canada and abroad. I had heard about international Agfa opportunities through other MSE students and from their stories, I knew I really wanted to work for Agfa and particularly at the Belgium location.

I kept checking the Agfa website and took it upon myself to apply directly when positions were posted. I found that by applying earlier, and through the Agfa website, I was able to get everything in order and meet the visa requirements in a timely fashion.

If students are thinking about PEY Co-op and working for a particular company, I recommend visiting that company website frequently and checking for opportunities. The positions aren’t always listed under the “careers” section and it’s worthwhile to look for areas on the website specific to internships.

2) How long was your PEY Co-op?

I started my 12-month placement on August 1, 2017 and it ended on July 31, 2018. In that year, I took part in projects that engaged and strengthened my technical, communication and leadership skills. I also had the opportunity to travel during long weekends, experience living in a different country and develop contacts in a number of roles and fields.

3) What were some of your most memorable experiences at Agfa?

My position was in the Application Department and I had a great project leader. As the only intern in that department, I was exposed to a lot of technical work. By taking initiative, I was able to take part in some interesting projects outside of my scope. For example, there was a case study on European traffic signage and one of our client’s wanted a colour of red, and a guarantee, that the particular shade would remain the same for 50 years. It was a unique project with tight deadlines and I asked if I could help the department by taking on some of the tasks such as finding the closest red colour gamut match to the requested shade. It was a great opportunity to expand my skills, show my worth to the team and gain more knowledge.

4) What skills/experience did you gain at Agfa Belgium?

I knew I would need to bring my A game to this position and I definitely improved my communication and time management skills. Disseminating large volumes of data sets to stakeholders in concise reports, and then communicating those updates in meetings was a valuable learning experience. It was also important to develop ways to roll with the punches. If I’d planned to do x, y and z in a day and the machines were acting up, I had to find ways to troubleshoot and readjust my workflow. Honing my risk management skills helped me find ways to maximize my time and manage potential pitfalls.

6) How was it living and working abroad?

It was an amazing experience – I took a leap of faith in moving abroad for a year and it worked out for me both personally and professionally. Adapting to a new country, language and lifestyle added so much more to the work experience. Agfa takes great care of their interns and I made a lot of wonderful connections with other participants in the program. Agfa also strives to provide a solid work/life balance and that, combined with Belgium’s location, afforded me the opportunity to travel to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to name a few locations.

7) What are your plans for 4th year and beyond?

Taking part in PEY Co-op gave me the time and space to think about my future. The combination of summer research and then industry experience helped me recognize that my next step is to purse a master’s degree. I am looking to explore graduate studies overseas and my PEY Co-op experience with Agfa Belgium shows that I am comfortable working and researching in different locations.