Cohesive Solutions' Co-Op Spotlight: Derek Steele

Posted by Derek Steele on October 13, 2017

Co-Ops at Cohesive Solutions are an integral part of our company culture. In 2015 Cohesive developed a co-op program where we partnered with 2 local universities: Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech, to engage with their career centers. As part of our regular blog we will be sharing a co-op story. This month we are featuring Derek Steele, who joined Cohesive Solutions as a co-op from Kennesaw State.

What prompted your interest in Cohesive Solutions as a co-op?

I’ve attended several of the Kennesaw State University career fairs, and in each one, a representative from Cohesive Solutions was there. What prompted my interest in Cohesive Solutions initially was the focus on Maximo (an IBM Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software package), which I had experience in from a high-school internship at a local power generation company. Once I heard about how Cohesive uses and configures Maximo, I was very interested in an opportunity to work for them and see how it was all done. The other part that encouraged me to try for a position at Cohesive was the staff that attended the career fairs. Not only did they recognize me from one career fair to the next, but they also seemed genuinely interested in getting me involved with the company. Many companies take the “here’s some information about our company, apply online if you’re interested” approach, so the conversational approach from the Cohesive representatives was very distinct to me.

What did the process look like from interest to securing Cohesive Solutions as your co-op of choice?

At one career fair, one of the Cohesive representatives gave me a few topics to learn about on my own so I could let them know during the next event if I was still interested/comfortable in working with Maximo. Shortly after, we emailed back and forth about what I had learned, and the process for signing up for the position was sent to me. I ended up running into some problems with the site where I was supposed to sign up for the position, but oddly enough I feel like that helped me win this position since we were communicating more and more. In the end, I applied in a separate system since the problem I was experiencing was outside of our control. After applying, I had an interview about a week later over the phone. Up until this point, I haven’t had a phone interview before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Even though I have worked for two companies before Cohesive and been to countless Kennesaw State career events, I haven’t gotten any tips on phone interviews (it doesn’t seem that the KSU career development department prioritizes them). The first interview went well, so I was offered a Skype interview two weeks later. The second interview also went well, so I was offered a third interview with the CEO of the company another two weeks later. Despite some scheduling confusion (calendar differences in mobile and desktop versions of my email) and incredible amounts of nervousness, the CEO was actually quite easy going, and the interview went very well. A couple of weeks later and I’m officially a Co-op at Cohesive Solutions, and I have my own spot three doors down from the CEO’s office; I don’t know of any other company where a Co-op can say that.

How long have you been a co-op at Cohesive Solutions?

I’ve been a Co-op at Cohesive Solutions for three (alternating) semesters now, but I’ve actually worked at Cohesive Solutions for a concurrent year and a half.

What was your first day/week like at Cohesive?

Due to me joining the company the first week back from the Christmas holiday and several large projects going on, the first week was fairly quiet. I was being walked through Cohesive’s guiding principles and MomentumMethodology, and I was tasked with familiarizing myself with the newest version of Maximo since I’ve only seen an older version of the software.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Right now, a typical day involves me making coffee for the office, completing some development for an internal project, meeting with that project’s team to discuss that project’s process flows and further development, developing for another internal project, then meeting with my immediate supervisor to go over improvements to one of our client support systems.

What are your primary roles and responsibilities and how have those changed over the course of your co-op career?

My current roles involve developing for several internal projects and occasionally developing for a small external project. These responsibilities haven’t changed much from what they were initially; however, during my first Co-op semester, I was much more involved with marketing and training material development, with some internal project development here and there. As far as role changes go, I’ve become the technical lead on 3 internal projects; whereas, I was a supporting technical consultant during my first semester and part of my second semester.

What do you enjoy about the Cohesive culture and work environment

Culture wise, I think “we work hard and play hard” is pretty accurate. That is to say, when working on a project with anyone in the company, you can expect them to be very professional and knowledgeable, but they aren’t afraid to have fun on occasion. Work environment wise, I enjoy the fact that help is never far away, and I can easily ask anyone in the company for assistance should I run into an issue.

How has Cohesive helped you grow professionally and personally throughout your Co-Op career

I’m not sure where to start since Cohesive has helped me grow immensely both professionally and personally. Professionally, the exposure to business processes (including process improvement activities), Maximo, and consulting has been profound. Since I’m a computer science major at Kennesaw State University, I have not really thought about the ways that businesses operate, and I likely would not have learned about the processes that organizations use if I went into a strictly programming position for another company. This push for process knowledge has even inspired me to earn a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification. In my opinion, consulting is one of the most difficult fields to get into for a number of reasons (i.e. preconceptions from the outside, consulting lingo, etc.); however, Cohesive has made the process of getting into the consulting field painless, and I’ve learned so much because of it. Personally, I feel much more confident speaking in front of people, offering solutions to a group, and sharing ideas about a particular process. There was one statement that one of my coworkers made during my sixth week with the company that I still remember to this day because of how simple but powerful it is: “it’s all about perspective”. Now that I’ve been able to travel to several other states on project work, I feel that I’ve gained a much broader perspective on collaboration, how other organizations work, how important trust is, and the challenge of reaching the balance between scope, schedule, and budget.

What is your favorite part about being a part of the Cohesive team?

I have two favorite parts: 1) Being able to work with incredibly experienced and knowledgeable people, and 2) being able to work on a variety of projects and initiatives.

  1. During my time with Cohesive, I’ve been able to work with several Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who bring their own experience and perspectives to each project. The amount that can be learned from simply being around these folks is stunning.
  2. At Cohesive, I have been able to work on a wide range of projects; whether it be tagging assets at an airport (external project), developing and planning a new release for an internal Maximo environment, designing infographics for marketing, or writing a data extraction script for a client. I learn best when I work on a variety of tasks that require slightly different skills, so these sorts of projects keep me engaged and allow me to think creatively.

Would you recommend Cohesive Solutions to someone seeking a co-op? Why or why not

Although consulting isn’t for everyone and it has its own set of challenges, it can be incredibly rewarding. Consulting is the perfect mixture of art and science in managing client relationships, and creating a technical solution from a list of requirements. As just about anybody in the company will say, the focus on a work-life balance is incredibly important to Cohesive, and is one of the key value propositions from a personnel standpoint. Plus, I have never seen an organization so willing to change if something isn’t working. Is a piece of documentation not fulfilling the purpose we have set out for it? We’ll redesign it. Is a process for capturing requirements not sufficient for projects of all sizes? We’ll completely rebuild it so that it can meet those needs, and more.

Derek has recently transitioned out of his co-op position and into a part time roll as a Technical Analyst for Cohesive Solutions, contributing to multiple client projects, as well as internal IT support. We are so proud of the growth we have seen in Derek, and know he will continue to do great things!

Cohesive Solutions will be attending the Kennesaw State University career fair on Tuesday, October 17th. Drop by to meet Derek and Karen, and get some more information about Cohesive's co-op and recent graduate opportunities. Visit our profile on Handshake.

Topics: Careers

Written by Derek Steele

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