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Student Experience – Daniel Eden

October 16, 2019
UBC MEL Student Experience - Daniel Eden

UBC Sustainability Scholar, VP of the High Performance Buildings program, participant in the Lean LaunchPad – Daniel Eden has made the most of his time in the Master of Engineering Leadership program. We spoke with Dan in late September 2019 about the highlights of his year so far at UBC.

Why did you choose the MEL in High Performance Buildings?

I did my undergrad in civil engineering and had been working in the green building industry, mostly on the mechanical engineering side. I saw this program as an opportunity to dive in and sharpen my technical skills while also learning about the business side of engineering. I’ve often thought about starting my own business some day, but I knew that to do so, I’d need to learn some of the basics of business and entrepreneurship.

What has been your experience of the program?

It’s been great, and I’m really enjoying it. The program is multidisciplinary so students come to it with a range of technical skills. While the classroom instruction is at a level that ensures everyone can participate given our diverse backgrounds, the professors are very supportive if you want to dive in deeper. This can be everything from doing additional readings to pursuing a project that interests you.

I’m loving the business classes. They’re taught by professors who also teach the MBA program, and there is a high level of quality expected and a fast pace of learning. There’s also a lot of teamwork. You’re in groups with people from many different backgrounds who you’ve never worked with before and you have one week to dissect a complicated business case and present back to the class. It’s been a great opportunity to gain business knowledge and practice our presentation skills.

There’s also such a long history of leadership in sustainability at UBC, and as a student you can access that network. One of our High Performance Buildings classes were taught by the Director of Sustainability on campus, one of our big projects was done under the guidance of UBC’s Green Building Manager (we were tasked with continuing to develop the campus’s green building action plan), and we did site visits with the UBC Community Energy Manager.

You were selected to be a UBC Sustainability Scholar. Tell us about this experience.

The Sustainability Scholars Program is a paid internship for graduate students. There were about 50 positions available, of which 10 were relevant to me as a High Performance Buildings student. The application process was an opportunity to polish my cover letter and CV and practice my interview skills!

I got a position with the Zero Emissions Building Exchange (ZEBx), a not-for-profit industry hub that promotes the adoption of zero emission buildings. I developed a toolkit for residential net zero energy homes based on interviews with leaders in the high-performance home industry, and also identified gaps in resources and summarized recommendations. ZEBx’s offices were at the HiVE, a social entrepreneurship co-working space, and that was also a great way to meet others working in this industry.

What extracurriculars were you involved in?

Each MEL and Master of Health Leadership and Policy program elects someone to represent them on the executive. I was elected vice president for the High Performance Buildings program, so I have been hosting a regular meeting with the class to get their feedback on what’s working and what’s not, and I then share this with MEL staff. I also meet with the executives from the other programs, and it’s been great to talk with them about our vision for the program. For example, we don’t yet have an alumni association, so that’s something we’ll be meeting with staff to discuss.

What about your involvement with the Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program?

UBC’s Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program gives students the opportunity to validate – and potentially pursue – ideas for business ventures. I got together with a few classmates from some of the other MEL streams and we applied to be part of this program. Our idea was to validate 3D printing of buildings using recycled materials.

We were accepted into the program, and we then participated in some sessions where we were coached on how to validate the idea – exploring answers to questions about whether it meets customer needs, the market size, etc. We developed our concept and then pitched our idea to a room of potential mentors and investors. Although the pitch went well, we took ourselves out of the program as we didn’t want to commit the financial and time resources to developing our idea further. Nevertheless, this was a great experience as it allowed us to apply what we were learning in the business classes and tap into the entrepreneurial world at UBC.

What’s your favourite place to study or do group meetings on campus?

I love the variety of study spaces on campus. If I want a really quiet space, I either go to the Woodward Library or the IK Barber Library. For meetings, I’ve tried them all, but especially liked using the David Lam Library meeting rooms during the summer session, when the library was practically empty. The MEL/MHLP studio is also fantastic for quiet studying in the morning or informal group studying with my classmates.

Any advice for others thinking of pursuing an MEL or MHLP?

Do it! Come ready to learn from others. Your classmates will have skills that are both the same as and different from yours, and will come from a range of industry backgrounds and countries. You’ll also quickly develop a sense of community with others. There’s a lot of group work and the groups are always changing, so in pretty short order you’ll know most of the people in the program.

Also, come to the program with a sense of what you want to get out of it. There’s a lot happening, so if you know what you want, that can help with time management and focus. Finally, get engaged and provide your feedback! The faculty and staff are interested in your ideas and want your feedback to continue improving the program.

What’s next?

We’ll have to see. I’ve applied for a few jobs, some that are more entrepreneurial and others that are more formal. I’m interested in a position where I can contribute my technical skills while adding value on the business strategy side.

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