ChemE Future Leader: Muskan Malek

Muskan Malek (ChemE 2T2 + PEY Co-op) has always been drawn to new challenges, and that goes beyond engineering problems. “At ChemE, I am able to build a strong foundation in chemical engineering principles, but through leadership courses, internships, and extracurricular activities, I have been able to explore a variety of different subjects,” says Muskan. “The ChemE community is a gift and has become my home! My 18 year old self made a wise decision,” she elaborates.

Most of Muskan’s professional identity has been shaped by leading U of T Engineering clubs. She currently serves as the President of The Canadian Association of Food Engineers (@uoftcafe) and is the Co-President/Founder of Skule™ Financial Literacy Club (@skuleflc) but her professional identity is now expanding through her Professional Experience Year (PEY) Co-op placement with Kellog Canada Inc. where she is a Packaging Development Intern.

Jennifer Hsu, ChemE’s Manager of External Relations, recently caught up with Muskan to chat about her placement and experience so far.

Why did you choose to do PEY Co-op? What were your expectations before starting your placement?

I initially did not want to do PEY Co-op. I wanted to graduate as soon as possible. As I learned more about the program I realized that having internship experience before graduating makes you much more competitive in the job market. Imagine you were an employer, would you rather hire the recent engineering graduate with a year of professional experience, or the one without? It was just a no-brainer when I thought about it like that. When I got to Kellogg, I was told the same thing repeatedly, that it was great that I had this opportunity. It’s something I’m grateful for and I would encourage all students to consider it.

Is your placement meeting your expectations?

Mostly, it is quite early on, so my tasks are still simple. I am helping push Kellogg’s innovation projects forward and my work is genuinely impactful to the success of these projects, which is something I really enjoy. I am hoping over the rest of my internship I have more technical challenges coming my way. I have had the opportunity to travel to the distribution center and plant which was a lovely experience.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Currently, I can work from home or in the office. I start my day at 8:30 AM with reviewing, sorting, and replying to emails, and flagging anything I need to follow-up on later. An organized inbox is key for my job because it is a lot of asking questions, procuring information, and providing the project team with key packaging-related information. In a typical day, I will have anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours of meetings where each project team gets together and provides updates on work progress. The rest of the day I spend working on my projects. Packaging artwork reviews, specifications, researching cost-savings and sustainability initiatives, procuring quotes, etc. Everything packaging related for the innovation projects at Kellogg Canada, my manager and I cover. She assigns me some of her simpler projects and I support the project team on them. We connect every week and she supports me through the process and gives me tips and feedback on my performance.

What challenges have you encountered during your placement and how have you navigated them?

At the beginning of my placement, I really struggled with what to do during meetings. 99% of the time, they have no information that is relevant to me. I would multitask because I hated sitting idly on those calls. I decided to talk to the project managers, and I was taken off certain calls that were irrelevant to me. I also realized that I needed to speak-up more during calls, making sure that my updates are heard. No one is going to ask you in a corporate setting, you have to be proactive.

What opportunities and projects have your placement exposed you to?

Seeing a plant where cereal is made, seeing the distribution center, innovation projects, cost-savings projects, troubleshooting opening boxes, packaging sustainability, orienting a giveaway box, and working towards developing an adhesive quality check.

What have you learned from your placement that will help you during your last year in the Department and beyond?

I haven’t been here long, but the greatest thing I’ve learned is prioritizing. It takes time to learn, but not all tasks are equally important, and it is so easy to lose track of a certain project, especially when you have six or seven going on at the same time. Staying organized is the key and I’m still working on it!

What industry would you like to work in after graduation?

I would love to continue working in the food industry, or beginning working with non-profit organizations.

Where would you like to be in five years after graduation?

I would like to have an MBA or MASc, and work experience in a field that I care about. I really want a job that helps people and makes the world a better place.

What are you great at?

Leadership, Communication, Problem-Solving.

Interested in hiring a PEY Co-op student? Click the link to learn more about U of T’s PEY Co-op program.

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