When you hear of Plato, you might think back to the innovative philosopher of Ancient Greece who created the first university in the world. In the Information Technology (IT) world; however, PLATO is an Indigenous Software Testing company that develops and employs Indigenous software testers across Canada, providing rewarding and sustainable careers in remote communities.
Our very own software testing interns Madeline Desjarlais and Trudy Alexson were true adopters of the program when they joined our Information Services (IS) department in February from PLATO Testing.
“The PLATO program is extremely impactful to the students involved,” says Raylene Charron, Director of Strategy and Analytics, Technical Centre, who championed TC Energy’s participation in PLATO’s internship program. “In many cases, it’s a life changing experience for the students because it opens the door to opportunity. There’s something really meaningful about being part of a company that supports education and enables students in local communities, especially underrepresented ones like the Indigenous community.”
Bringing impressive experience in IT, Madeline and Trudy were curious when they heard about the opportunity with PLATO. They’d get a chance to shift their IT focus from hardware to software; to learn new skills, expand their capabilities and ultimately make a career change. The bonus, of course, would be getting to learn with peers from similar cultural backgrounds.
Trudy and Madeline joined the Gas Management System (GMS) Modernization team aimed at replacing the existing legacy application with a third-party product, FlowCal. They are actively involved in testing the integrations and relevant custom development.
Madeline and Trudy graduated from PLATO’s software testing training program in May – which included six months of in-class training followed by their three-month internship. While this is a tremendous accomplishment on its own, what truly stood out was their resilience, dedication and perseverance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its challenging circumstances.
Madeline is a Métis woman and devoted mother to her 11-year-old son. She joined our team with over 15 years of experience as an electronic assembler building printed circuit boards – essentially the inside of laptops, cellphones, televisions and other electronic devices.
“I loved it! Building circuit boards was like building a new puzzle every time,” she reflects.
Unfortunately, Madeline was laid off from her job in 2019 and felt the weight of uncertainty. Determined to press forward, two days after being laid off she came across the PLATO program and applied immediately.
“At the time, I was devastated that I lost my job,” Madeline shares. “Now, I count my lucky stars that I did! If I hadn’t lost my job, I wouldn’t have pursed a career in software testing, or had the opportunity to gain invaluable hands-on experience at TC Energy. I guess things happen for a reason.”
Having a diverse, highly talented workforce is fundamental to TC Energy. Students and interns play an important role to bring new perspectives and drive innovation on our projects, while gaining valuable work experience where they can make a difference.
“TC Energy has allowed me use my learned skills from the PLATO course and apply them to real-life experience in software development and testing,” says Madeline. “I am actively involved in the project and fully accepted as one of the team members. I am not treated like a student. I am given valuable work that contributes to not only my personal and professional development but the success of the project.”
Trudy is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation in southeast Saskatchewan and is a proud mother and grandmother to four children and three grandchildren.
With over 18 years of experience in IT, Trudy completed several certifications during that time and even built computers from scratch to donate to kids and families in need. Like Madeline, Trudy was ready to grow her skillset further and embrace a new challenge by focusing on the software side of IT.
Trudy admits she knew nothing about the software realm or that it was even a career path before PLATO. She was really surprised when she started the program by the complexity and challenges of software testing. In fact, that's what inspired and excited her in her new career path.
“I love learning new things and finding solutions to make even things like software better,” says Trudy. “And, when I finished my first work project – that was a reward in its own. It just blew me away, I was in awe and very proud of my work. It reaffirmed the value of the internship at TC Energy.”
The classroom experience brings value to a well-rounded education; however, there is nothing more valuable than putting that into action in the real world.
“When you’re in class you don’t have access to the applications to test scenarios,” says Trudy. “The internship has allowed me to put my skills into action, and we’re all interns at one time, so the support from the team, collaboration and sharing of ideas, and guidance to stay on the right track has inspired me to rise above.”
“We were incredibly excited to foster an environment where Madeline and Trudy could put their skills to use and further develop with mentorship from our project teams and business partners,” says Sweta Singh, Manager, IS Canada Projects. “It’s important to me that we give them high-value, meaningful work and challenged them to continue to grow with our support.”
So, what has been the secret ingredient to succeeding in the program as interns? Showing up with the right attitude, a willingness to learn and go beyond the ask, while accepting feedback and reaching out for help have made Madeline and Trudy valuable members of the team.
“I am honoured to have them on my team,” shares Sweta. “That’s why I am so excited that their internships with TC Energy have been extended until the end of the year – working on one of the largest IS projects in Canada Gas.”
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