Alumnus Story — Syed Athar Bukhari
With a degree in civil engineering, an MBA and more than 15 years of international experience in construction and infrastructure projects, Syed Athar Bukhari came to the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) program with considerable – and impressive – experience. Yet he wanted to take a year away from work to deepen his technical and business skills within a Canadian context.
“I was looking for a program that combined technical and leadership skills,” he says. “I had done my homework and the Master of Engineering Leadership was for me. The Urban Systems program appealed because it aligned with my background in civil engineering and offered a broad perspective on leadership and project management issues in the sector.”
Industry-focused projects expand professional network
About 60 per cent of the MEL in Urban Systems classes explore urban systems from the perspective of both engineering and planning, with courses taught by faculty from the Department of Civil Engineering and the School of Community and Regional Planning. Two courses that stood out for Syed were asset management and urban systems engineering.
All technical classes were built around an industry-centric approach, he says. In one class, students developed a planning and design framework for a new carbon-neutral community just outside downtown Edmonton, Alberta. “We were asked to come up with innovative solutions to help the community reach sustainability goals, and we did that through the use of value-engineering techniques to develop two distinct design ideas that addressed transportation, energy use, utilities and public spaces.”
Other classes saw Syed working with his peers on asset management for the District of North Vancouver and developing multimodal transportation concepts for the City of New Westminster, BC as part of its Intelligent City initiative.
One of Syed’s goals in taking the MEL was to familiarize himself with urban systems issues in Canada. He received permission to take three engineering electives to deepen his technical knowledge in project management, virtual design and construction (BIM/REVIT) and legal aspects of project and construction management. “These were important courses for me to expand my knowledge of the legal aspects of engineering management and to familiarize myself with Canadian case studies and examples,” he explains.
New perspectives in business
Although Syed came to the program with an MBA in finance and was familiar with the language of business and management, studying the foundations of business alongside other students from the MEL program offered new perspectives.
“Learning these concepts alongside my peers from engineering was a different experience,” he says. “The curriculum is one thing, but the learning environment as a whole – the professors, your classmates and the context – make it new.”
Highlights included the organizational leadership class, with Syed finding the case studies particularly relevant. The sustainability and leadership courses were also structured around case studies, and, he says, “was very much aligned with BC’s and Canada’s sustainability vision.”
Recruited right away
Syed was approached by a recruiter before he graduated, and he landed a position as a construction project manager with Freedom Mobile (owned by Shaw Communications).
“Although I had more than a decade of experience in telecommunications, I believe the MEL played a big role in my success in getting this job. My work experience has been in Europe and Asia, and this degree gives me proof and legitimacy within the Canadian market.”
His sense is that many public and private sector organizations are looking for people with technical and business skills. “There are many opportunities coming up, particularly because of retirements. If you have the passion for this field and you want to do something for your community, this is a great area to get into.”
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