Clean Energy Engineering
Alumnus Story — Ryan Prosser
For entrepreneurially minded Ryan Prosser, the MEL in Clean Energy Engineering program was a unique opportunity to pursue his dual interests in engineering and business leadership. And after landing a job with a start-up solar energy company, he’s already contributing to the clean energy future.
Ryan Prosser came to the Master of Engineering Leadership program with undergraduate degrees in finance and civil and environmental engineering. He was seeking opportunities to deepen his technical knowledge in clean energy, and the MEL — with 40 per cent of the curriculum focused on business and entrepreneurial leadership skills — turned out to be the hybrid professional program he was looking for.
Plus, says the US citizen, “I was very interested in living in Vancouver and experiencing its environmental mindset and amazing location!”
Technical classes with a holistic perspective
Ryan was part of the first cohort of 20 students in the Clean Energy Engineering program. He and the other students took classes that both broadened and deepened their knowledge of energy systems, policy, life-cycle analysis, energy storage and transmission, big data analytics and energy conservation.
Of particular note was the four-month capstone project, where students collaborate with industry partners on multidisciplinary design projects. Ryan worked with the non-profit Haiti Outreach, looking at the various solar technologies being implemented in developing countries, while also examining policy issues that impact widespread adoption of the emerging technology in Haiti.
“The skills we developed are a reflection of the traits employers are seeking,” he says, adding that the culminating conference and networking event offered a chance to connect with employers in the local clean energy industry.
Business classes foster entrepreneurial leadership
Ryan says the business leadership classes were transformational. He notes that the intense three-week summer boot camp taught by Perry Atwal was invaluable for “improving our presentation and public-speaking skills.”
Another highlight was participating in e@UBC’s Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program, where he and three other MEL students developed a business idea to optimize growth analytics for the greenhouse industry. “Tamara Etmannski guided us through what’s involved in starting up a business, giving us resources, pushing us in the right direction, helping us pare down our original six ideas to one concept, and mentoring us throughout the process.”
In Ryan’s opinion, “going through the process of customer discovery while trying to achieve product-to-market fit is invaluable and something everyone should go through.”
Ryan also says he benefited significantly from a strategy class taught by Allen Manser, who offered insights from his experience as a clean tech venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. “He gave us tactics for presentations and slide decks, focused on the skills needed for successful collaborations and offered advice on building our careers.”
A sunny future
Ryan followed Allen Manser’s advice on “how to actually get that amazing job.” Using the networks and skills developed during his year at UBC, Ryan approached a company that aligned with his values and interests. He’s now pursuing business development opportunities for Cambridge Energy Partners, a UK startup that provides large-scale solar generators to industrial customers in remote locations.
“One of the biggest advantages of the MEL program is the professional network you develop,” he says. “You simply can’t access this combination of engineering students, faculty and industry anywhere else.”
In his current position, he’s drawing on the technical skills he acquired during the year-long program, which enable him to “look at issues from an engineering perspective, working from first principles.” It’s proved helpful when talking with customers that he’s able to validate their requirements and provide specific technical feedback to the Cambridge team developing and building the products.
“The hybrid nature of the program gave me that balance I was looking for — building on my strengths and interests in both the technical and entrepreneurial sides of things.”