ChemE Future Leader: Mubashir Shaikh

Mubashir Shaikh (ChemE 2T3 + PEY) chose the University of Toronto for its Chemical Engineering program, as it offered a unique curriculum, state-of-the-art facilities, and a 12-16 month co-op program. The Profesional Experience Year (PEY) Co-op program allowed him to gain both theoretical knowledge and practical experience, building a valuable network of industry contacts. Additionally, U of T provided exceptional campus facilities and a vibrant student life, contributing to his personal growth. Currently, Mubashir is completing his PEY Co-op as a Rule Compliance Student/Jr. Market Analyst at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), where he helps oversee the electricity market in Ontario.

Tell me a bit about your university experience so far. Do you participate in any extracurricular activities?

As a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Toronto, I have been actively involved in a variety of extracurricular activities to gain relevant experience and hone my networking skills. I’m a member of the Undergraduate Chemical Engineering Council, also known as Chem Club. At Chem Club, I have held several leadership positions, such as Second-Year Class Representative, Academic Director, and I’m currently the PEY Class Representative. In these roles, I have advocated for and addressed the academic concerns of my peers, and worked to improve the student experience by collecting feedback and hosting academic town halls with professors. In addition to Chem Club, I have also been a member of The Canadian Association of Food Engineers (CAFE) as the Senior VP, as well as the VP External at Skule Financial Literacy Club (SFLC). Moreover, I have interned at the U of T Hatchery with a healthcare startup. Through these extracurricular activities, I have gained professional exposure within the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, developed leadership skills, and had the opportunity to work with industry professionals and collaborate with other students on various projects. Overall, my university experience so far has been extremely fulfilling and I plan to continue to stay involved in these clubs to gain more exposure to leadership opportunities.

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

I chose to do PEY Co-op because I wanted to learn the professional aspects of engineering that can’t be picked up in a classroom. I wanted to apply the knowledge I gained so far in my program and apply it in a real setting. Practical experience is crucial in engineering since it is the best way to hone my problem-solving and critical-thinking skill before I enter the job market after graduation. Hence, choosing to do PEY was the obvious choice for me since it would not only improve my professional network but also prepare me for a job post-graduation by giving me professional expertise in a chemical engineering-related industry. Since my placement is in the utilities sector – more specifically, electricity regulation – I had to go through a steep learning curve since I knew very little about this industry. However, thanks to my amazing peers and supervisors at the workplace, I was able to fit right in and the time has flown by!

Is your placement meeting your expectations so far?

My placement is exceeding my expectations so far! I love the work we do, I love the workplace environment, I truly appreciate the support my team has given me, and most of all, I feel important with the work I’m involved in. Since the start of my placement, I have learned numerous new skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise, I have discovered new strengths and weaknesses about myself that I wasn’t aware of previously, and I have had the opportunity to work with highly talented individuals who have taught me more than just industry knowledge. I highly recommend students consider doing PEY as a serious option because it’s a great way to gain valuable skills as an engineer.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I work in a hybrid setting, so I start my day by checking my emails to look for any new messages from my team, check for any meeting invites, or just read any relevant information I need to know. Then I look at my daily calendar to plan ahead, and if I have any meetings that day, I will try to make a rough outline of what I want to accomplish in those meetings, such as asking my supervisors questions or giving a progress update on my tasks.

My team works on a number of high-level investigations regarding rule compliance, so my primary job is to assist any of the senior investigators with the investigation. The support I provide also varies day to day depending on the stage of the investigation. Most of my tasks revolve around creating data queries using business intelligence software and simulation tools to test hypotheses, develop data models, and perform trend analyses. Some of my other tasks revolve around reviewing a wide range of evidence, drafting formal documents for non-compliance events, and assessing market and reliability impacts.

Oftentimes, my company hosts training seminars and town halls to teach new concepts or share new projects, so I attend those to stay up to date with the direction our organization is headed toward.

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

The biggest challenge I encountered during my placement was the steep learning curve at the beginning, as there was so much information to digest, so many terminologies, and several tasks that were handed over by the previous co-op students. Learning about the electricity grid of Ontario isn’t easy due to several geographic factors, laws, international standards set by numerous organizations, and several market participants, so learning about everything was a little exhausting at first. However, with time and a lot of guidance from my team, I caught up quite fast. It also took me some time to get used to working with both my teams and reporting to different supervisors for different tasks. I had to learn how to make connections between tasks and present quality work that met the requirements and standards set by the team. As I worked on more tasks, I got better at handling the workload and was able to find ways to optimize my time during my placement.

What opportunities and projects have your placement exposed you to?

I had the opportunity to work with a highly talented team of engineers, economists, and analysts on several high-level investigations that involved monitoring and enforcing compliance with market rules and reliability standards in Ontario’s electricity market, contributing to the reliable delivery of power to consumers across Ontario. As part of my training, I toured the control room that oversees the entire electricity grid of Ontario and it was a cool experience because we got to see the live supply and demand chart for electricity (MW) in Ontario along with other things.

The work I am involved in has engineering, business, economic, and legal aspects so I have had an outstanding learning opportunity. For instance, I have acquired knowledge of regulatory aspects related to maintaining the reliability of the power system as well as the compliance policy-making process in the electricity market. I have gained a deep understanding of competitive electricity markets, energy policy-making, and economic and power systems engineering theory. Lastly, I have developed skills in power plant engineering concepts, statistical modelling and analysis, and programming and automating processes.

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

I have gained a vast amount of knowledge and numerous skills that will surely benefit me in my final year at ChemE, as well as in my career after I graduate. For instance, I was able to hone my programming skills during this placement. Data modelling and analysis are important skills that will be useful in my academic as well as professional career. Similarly, I learned how to prioritize tasks and manage my time effectively. I also learned how to research effectively, analyze legal documents, and translate technical concepts using non-technical terms, improving my presentation skills.

What industry would you like to work in after graduation?

I would love to work in the energy sector. I believe that my PEY placement has taught me a lot about power generation, regulation, and reliability so I would love to work in the same field and learn more about this sector to improve it from within.

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

In five years, I’d like to have gained relevant experience that has helped me become a better engineer than I am today. I always want to be learning and finding new ways to benefit society. I aspire to be in an engineering role that teaches me new and hones my old technical and soft skills. Lastly, I’d love the opportunity to pursue an MBA or MASc degree within the next five years.

What are you great at?

Due to my undergraduate experience, my extra-curricular involvement, and my co-op placement, I believe that I am great at taking initiative, problem-solving, and connecting with people. I love working with people and solving problems together, I am a firm believer in lifelong learning so I always want to be able to teach and learn from others to grow as an engineer.

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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