When alumni reconnect with their alma mater, often one of the most important things they can give back is their experience. In this regard, Larissa Rodo’s (ChemE 1T3 + PEY) generosity with her time as an alumna has been felt across U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Larissa not only formally mentors two students through the Skule™ Mentorship Program, but is also an active member of U of T Engineering Connect, the Faculty’s online community, where she is willing to support any student looking for advice.
“For me, the transition from high school to university was incredibly difficult. There were many students from all over the world who had taken advanced classes that I didn’t have access to, so I had a hard time keeping up in first year. After that, the playing field leveled out as new material was introduced to everyone,” recalls Rodo.
She offers this piece of insight as an experience that felt very singular to her in the moment but was in fact shared by many, as she would learn.
“I was very lucky to have several great mentors during my undergrad education, including Professors Grant Allen, Graeme Norval and Joseph Paradi. Not only were they all professors in the Department, but they were all also former ChemE students. Just learning about their individual experiences and how they got to where they are now helped me realize that I could do it too,” says Rodo who remembers discovering her confidence in second year.
By third year, Rodo was seeking out leadership positions in student clubs, such as the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering, and looking into professional organizations that mattered to her, such as the Canadian Standards Association, which unearthed a huge interest for her in pursuing work in safety.
Between third and fourth year, she undertook a PEY Co-op position at an electronics manufacturer, performing a quality engineering role for the firm’s Renewable Energy team.
“We manufactured solar panels – it was high volume, relatively low complexity electronic manufacturing. I learned so much about quality engineering, including defect identification and root cause analysis leading to a corrective action, dealing with customers, creating specifications, reviewing documentation and managing projects. PEY Co-op is such a great experience,” declares Rodo.
After graduating, Rodo was hired by her PEY Co-op employer where she performed quality control within the Aerospace and Defense team, and later with the firm’s HealthTech group. After five years with the same company, Rodo was ripe to make a career change.
“I love continuous improvement, so making sure that I am always learning and growing is really important to me,” explains Rodo. “I moved into my new role as a risk advisor for a public agency. Having worked in highly regulated environments, in which risk management is mandated by those regulations, I had a lot of relevant experience, especially from a theory standpoint. It’s the same theory, just applied to different scenarios now.”
Thinking back to her undergrad experience, Rodo is truly grateful for the skills she acquired. “I learned essential strategic problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, where complex issues can be broken down into manageable pieces and thoughtful processes can be applied to create sustainable resolutions. Risk management through design was heavily stressed in engineering design courses, especially when you consider unintended uses of designs. I’ve actually pulled out my notes from the Risk Based Process Safety Management course I took in fourth year at my job because the lessons we learned there are so important to the field. Beyond the technical skills, I learned so much about time management and how to work under pressure – both crucial life skills.”
Rodo, only 27 years-old, has accomplished so much in just five years and feels luckily to have met mentors who continue to support her along her career path.
“ChemE has such a strong sense of community. The students, professors and staff really make it what it is. The Department has had such a profound impact on my life, so it feels really important to me to stay connected and to give back where I can. Being a mentor seems to be a great place to start!”
In 2018, Rodo was awarded a U of T Arbor Award for her continued dedication to the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Not only is she a mentor to aspiring engineers, she is one of the Faculty’s most engaged alumni by reviewing nominations for awards and scholarships, planning student programs for conferences, and speaking at high school recruitment events, just to name a few of her contributions.
To connect with Rodo and other alumni like her, visit uoftengineeringconnect.ca