I am Rachna Balani, a Masters candidate for Engineering Management Program. I had the opportunity to work as a Software Engineering Co-op for 8 months at First Capitol Consulting, Inc. based in Los Angeles, California.

As I near the end of my two years at Northeastern University, I look back to all the tremendous moments I had, and it fills my heart with gratitude for all the people who were a part of my journey so far. Northeastern University not only provided me facilities for world-class education, but also served me a plethora of opportunities to experience the work environment I was most interested in. I feel fortunate to have met and learned from the most talented people throughout my MS program – from my professors and co-op advisors in the EM department, to the managers and colleagues at First Capitol who received me with open arms and called me family. Having a background in software engineering, I wanted to make the most of my degree and get to the next level of handling and managing the technological product development, while not losing my love for software development. This co-op provided me the perfect opportunity to get a brief insight on how the US workplace functions, and what makes it thrive.

Whilst I learned a great deal of technical skills to boast for, my co-op experience taught me a lot more about personal and professional development, that I wish to highlight for all those who’d be venturing into the US workforce soon:


Proactivity is associated with job satisfaction because proactive people tend to create conditions more conducive to personal success at work and even at their career. When you’re proactive, i.e. stay on top of your work and also stay aware of any anticipated issues that may arise, you help yourself and your team actively take control of the project. Instead of just working on the current tasks and issues, think about how it affects the bigger picture and make changes/efforts to avoid any glitches. This also leads me to highlight another important aspect stated next.


You’re human and bound to make mistakes. Your employer understands that better than you think. But it also means that they expect you to learn from them and move on quickly. A better team member would understand where she went wrong, fix the mistake, and get back on track as soon as possible. Nothing makes your supervisors more happy than knowing what you learned from the mistake and discussing a possible solution for future encounters.


Most of the time at your co-op, you’d be attending weekly, daily or even multiple daily meetings in a day. Your team trusts you in providing meaningful contributions to their product, and you should actively participate in all discussions to understand your product well. This would inevitably lead you to also ask questions and possibly think of alternative solutions. Tinkering with fresher ideas, no matter how big or small, right or wrong, mean that you’re stimulating your brain to think more, which sometimes could lead to innovative, more efficient solutions. Don’t be afraid to start a discussion on what you think could be a good idea, your team would always love to hear you out and have a new perspective to their work.


Opportunities are hidden everywhere, and people who see them are the ones who prosper. I made a habit of constantly asking myself: “What opportunities for growth can I carve out of this situation?” If needed, think about this same question again and again. Gradually you will find the answer. You may see a chance to show your unique professional abilities – at this point, challenge yourself and take the initiative to work on the opportunity. Also, take initiative to offer help to your team in other areas when needed, as every such task is a huge opportunity to learn something and keep growing at your co-op.

I would like to end this with the most important note – Remember to always be genuine and build strong working relationships with coworkers. This plays a key role in your job satisfaction, increasing your morale and productivity. You would find many resources to build on your technical knowledge, but your workplace experience is the best time to improve your professional soft skills. I saw an exponential increase in my people skills at the end of my co-op, and I hope everyone reading my experience could take away something noteworthy.

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