Skip to main content
  • About CIRA

The co-op dream: building bridges and lifelong relationships at CIRA

By Ana Itoafa
Communications Coordinator

As I embarked on my fourth and final university co-op placement, little did I know that my experience at CIRA would be anything but ordinary. Stepping into the CIRA office on my first day, the distinct atmosphere struck me immediately. It wasn’t just the stunning view of Lansdowne Park or the modern amenities like a stocked drink fridge, ping pong table, rooftop patio and cutting-edge tech; it was the genuine warmth that enveloped the space. I realized that CIRA was going to be more than just a workplace; it was quickly going to become a second home. Alongside six other co-op students, all scattered across different business units, we embarked on a four-month journey of professional and personal discovery with CIRA as the backdrop.

Shifting gears: from marketing to communications

My academic background is in marketing. So, when I took on a communications role for the summer, I was entering somewhat of a new territory. The switch meant adapting to a different environment and workload. Having only worked for startups in the past, I’d never been part of a bigger organization before, where the marketing and communications teams were larger and more organized. At first, I had doubts. I wondered if I could really shape the content and the brand and worried my creative ideas might be overlooked due to the structured setup. But I quickly realized these doubts had no merit. Instead of limitations, I was included in important projects right off the bat and my journey rapidly became one of unexpected growth and empowerment. My co-op term at CIRA not only shattered my preconceived notions but has also ignited a new sense of purpose—a realization that within structured frameworks, there’s plenty of room for creative influence and meaningful impact when organizations trust their people and create an environment for growth.

CIRA in motion: active team building and more

With co-op terms generally being short, four-month tenures, it can be hard to form genuine connections with so much to learn in a short amount of time. At CIRA, however, there was a clear and genuine effort put into integrating co-op students into the culture. To be frank, there was never a dull moment in the CIRA office. From multicultural potlucks to lively barbeques and even a staff summer Olympics, CIRA ensured team connection was a central part of every employee’s experience. Among my favorites were the Ristow fitness classes held every Wednesday at lunch. Sweating it out with colleagues—even the CEO—created an open and collaborative atmosphere that made it easy to bond with the team.

The fact that co-ops aren’t full-time, permanent employees meant little to the rest of the employees and executives; we were treated and included all the same. By the end of my first month at CIRA, I felt that I had really found camaraderie and lifelong friendships.

Guided growth: learning from influential mentors

If there’s one thing I don’t think people talk about enough, it’s how you should be a fan of your boss(es) and even your coworkers. You’d be surprised how many supervisor horror stories I’ve already heard from friends and peers, even as university students who’ve just entered the workforce. That’s why I consider myself fortunate to have been surrounded by incredibly talented individuals on my team at CIRA, especially my superiors, who were outstanding mentors. They were not just experts in their fields but also inspiring leaders who encouraged me to get involved at CIRA, gave me space to do so and supported my growth every step of the way. Everyone’s encouragement motivated me to tackle challenges and surpass my own expectations. Whether it was through one-on-one discussions or feedback on my work, their guidance played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development throughout the summer.

The power of positivity: CIRA’s cultural core

CIRA’s culture is what truly makes it stand out above all. Employees’ well-being and growth are top priorities as CIRA’s leadership understands that when employees feel comfortable and connected, they perform their best. When you work in an environment that supports you, it instills a sense of responsibility to succeed, not just for yourself but also for the team around you. The camaraderie I experienced fueled my determination to contribute meaningfully to the organization and create a positive impact. This impact is key to CIRA’s mission, and that was understood by everyone on the CIRA team. We are all working towards something bigger than ourselves: helping build a safer and more trusted internet for Canadians.

Stitching memories, creating impact: my CIRA journey in retrospect

My co-op experience at CIRA has been transformative in more ways than one. I not only gained invaluable skills and knowledge but also formed connections with amazing people. This summer went beyond just building bridges in the professional world; it was about building bridges with individuals and creating relationships to last a lifetime. I can’t wait to stay connected with the colleagues and mentors who have been instrumental in my journey and contributed to my growth and success. CIRA has given me an unforgettable co-op experience but also a newfound belief in the power of a positive and nurturing work culture. For that, I will always be thankful.

About the author
Ana Itoafa