Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering – Connor Maloney
Success Story — Connor Maloney
Hiring managers in the shipbuilding sector face an ongoing challenge – finding naval architects and marine engineers who have both domain expertise and the project management, communication and leadership skills to successfully guide teams and oversee complex projects.
The UBC Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was designed to address this need by combining graduate courses in marine engineering and ship design taught by leading researchers from the UBC Faculty of Applied Science with courses on business and leadership through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School.
This unique interdisciplinary education made the program very appealing to Connor Maloney, currently assistant project manager at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is part of a team working on the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship Project.
With a degree in mechanical engineering and a few years of work experience, Connor decided to go back to school to pursue his interest in the up-and-coming marine industry.
“There are typically two pathways when choosing a graduate degree – becoming a technical expert through a master of engineering program or focusing on business through an MBA,” he says.
“In today’s climate and with the challenges organizations face, I think having a broad understanding across both is key. The MEL offered both purely technical classes that were very detailed and taught by world-class researchers, as well as courses taught by profs at UBC’s business school, which is seen as one of the best in the country.”
An integrated understanding of marine engineering
Program co-director Chris McKesson says that the MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was designed to provide professionals in the field with a holistic understanding of all the systems that go into ship design.
“You need people who have a big-picture understanding of the integrated system, a working technical knowledge of multiple disciplines and the ability to synthesize all of that information and make decisions,” he says.
“There are 100,000 ships on the planet and there are only a few places where you can get the integrated training to develop the skill set needed to work in the field.”
This skill set is achieved through courses on ship production and industrial engineering, ship dynamics and control, structural analysis, marine engineering, ship design, and ship hydrodynamics and structures.
Students also participate in an internship over the summer where they work with an organization to gain hands-on experience. Through his internship, Connor worked for three months as a project engineer at Seaspan, focusing on the offshore oceanographic science vessel project.
Although Connor hadn’t worked in marine engineering before starting the MEL, the technical knowledge he gained over the 12-month program gave him the credentials and expertise he needed to be hired as an associate project specialist at Irving Shipyards.
Just 18 months later he was promoted to assistant project manager, a role that he says requires him to “wear a lot of different hats” as he focuses on contract design verification for the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship project. In 2019, Irving delivered Harry deWolf, the first ship in the new arctic fleet and the largest naval vessel built in Canada in 50 years.
“I’m working on teams with technical experts who have years more experience than me,” he says.
“Having the broad technical understanding from the MEL is useful because when you’re managing a team or leading a project, you really need to be able to speak the lingo of everyone’s specialty if you want to influence the team to get the result you’re after.”
Strong business leaders and communicators
Leading complex projects and managing interdisciplinary teams requires skills in project management, communication, change management and leadership.
Students in the MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering learn these skills through business and leadership courses taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School.
They take classes on organizational leadership, strategy and innovation, data analytics and data visualization, and strategy and leadership.
An intense four-week business boot camp exposes students to six core business competencies, from accounting and contract management to business case development, and students can also take an additional business course of their choosing.
Case studies, class discussions and group projects empower students to strengthen their skills in communication, collaboration, leadership and group dynamics.
“The program doesn’t make you an overnight expert,” says Connor.
“But it gives you many opportunities to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It gives you some solid theory and an understanding of the best practices for getting results, even when you don’t have direct control.”
The marine engineering leaders companies need to succeed
Connor believes there is enormous value in organizations hiring employees who have graduate education that straddles both engineering and business.
“Someone with a business background would not be able to evaluate the technical accuracy of their team’s solutions – they wouldn’t be able to gauge risk,” he says. “Similarly, someone with just a pure engineering focus is going to have a harder time on the financial side, or perhaps not have the communication skills needed to get a team aligned.
“The MEL is a very intense program that gives you a combination of technical knowledge from the engineering courses, business acumen from the leadership classes and practical experience from the internship. It adds up to a winning combination.”