With a co-op offer from a financial technology company in Chicago in hand, Alek Piekarski thought his future was set. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he belonged in Europe instead.
While in Edinburgh for a study abroad stint last year, Piekarski, who is studying computer science and math at Northeastern, started applying to software engineering co-ops in the U.S. and throughout Europe, but London was where he really wanted to be.
“When I visited London, I absolutely fell in love with the city, so I was hoping to stay abroad and get an international experience,” he said. “London is a great place to be, especially for tech.”
“It really helps to develop practical experience. A lot of my courses tend to be theoretical, so getting out into the workforce is a different beast. I get to understand how everything I’m doing has an effect on the company as a whole.”
A search on LinkedIn serendipitously led him to a profile for OurPath, a London-based startup specializing in the use of behavioral science and weight tracking technology to change unhealthy lifestyles. To his delight, he realized he was separated by a few degrees from John Sirisuth, a recent Northeastern graduate who oversees the company’s growth. Piekarski wasted no time in introducing himself.
He received a response within half an hour, and shortly thereafter the interview process was underway. After wrapping up his last final exam in December, Piekarski went down from Edinburgh to London to meet some of the OurPath team members. He said he knew it was a fit right away.
The feeling was mutual, said Sirisuth.
“We’ve never had co-ops, so it was something entirely new for the company, but given the circumstances with Alek being as good as he is, we said, ‘yeah let’s go for it,’” he said.
Piekarski said when he was offered a software engineering position at OurPath, he accepted it right away. He started in mid-January at the company, where for the next six months, he will be working as a software developer.
“I really loved OurPath, especially because it’s focused on health and wellness, something I’m really passionate about,” said Piekarski. “And being able to have such a meaningful impact on people’s lives made it more enticing.”
Sirisuth said he was glad to help Piekarski land the gig, knowing how impactful his own co-op experience in Thailand was a few years ago.
“I think that changed the trajectory of my entire career; it put me where I am now,” said Sirisuth, who moved to London in the fall of 2016 after graduating from Northeastern with a degree in health sciences. “I think most employers are blown away by the level of professionalism Northeastern graduates have, which I think speaks to the program itself and the nature of the students.”
Piekarski echoed his new colleague’s sentiments, saying Northeastern’s co-op program is easily his favorite thing about the university.
“It really helps to develop practical experience,” he said. “A lot of my courses tend to be theoretical, so getting out into the workforce is a different beast. I get to understand how everything I’m doing has an effect on the company as a whole.”