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Tap into a talent pool of technical leaders

April 16, 2024

In today’s competitive labour market, it’s hard to find people who have the combination of experience, technical skills and leadership abilities needed to drive projects and innovation. Since 2015, graduates of UBC’s Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) have proven to be invaluable additions to many organizations – including Solaris Management Consultants Inc., a Vancouver-based company at the forefront of the energy transition.

Solaris is an engineering consulting firm with close to 300 employees that delivers a full suite of services for the energy industry through the expertise of a group of companies – including OgeeDev (concept development), Solaris (project delivery, engineering/procurement), Ensol Systems (R&D, green power solutions/fabrication), Solaris Solutions (construction management) and Capstone ITS (operator training and competency management) – to provide integrated project solution services to clients, bookending the project life-cycle. While their client base has historically operated in the natural gas space, Solaris has been working on LNG, hydrogen and renewable energy projects for over a decade and is increasingly being engaged by existing and new clients for their energy transition pursuits.

In 2021, the company hired its first MEL in Clean Energy Engineering graduate, Deepak Ramakrishnan, a chemical engineering grad who had more than 15 years of global industry experience before moving to Vancouver to pursue the MEL.

“He picked things up very quickly and was fully integrated into our project team within days,” says Terence Portugal, the firm’s Project Development Team Lead. “With other hires, we’ve found there can be a long learning curve and training process before they get up to speed and are responsible for their own deliverables. That wasn’t at all the case here.”

Since that first hire, Solaris has hired another eight MEL grads.

Experience, technical knowledge and soft skills make for stand-out employees

Kevin Sy, Solaris’s Marketing and Communications Team Lead, says that there are a few things that make MEL grads stand out. First is the level of industry experience they bring to their work, with many having worked for eight to 10 years and having international experience in areas that are not yet widely adopted in Canada, be that LNG, hydrogen or renewables.

With Solaris working at the forefront of its industry, he says it can be a challenge to “find team additions with experience in some of the technologies that are newer to the Canadian market. The fact that many MEL grads come from outside of Canada with that direct experience is a huge advantage.”

The second differentiating factor of MEL grads compared to other hires is their knowledge of the latest ideas and innovations in their industry, acquired through the technical courses taught by leading experts from UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science. For Solaris, this means its MEL hires are very familiar with clean energy and sustainability and are able to support Solaris’s clients who are transitioning into renewable energy or pursuing decarbonization strategies.

“The MEL grads might be working on a more traditional energy project, but they bring a different perspective and ask questions or propose solutions we might not have considered otherwise,” says Portugal.

Finally, says Sy, “new MEL hires have extremely important soft skills on the leadership side. That translates into employees with effective communication abilities that can be positioned as team leaders, be put into client-facing roles, and who are able to mentor and coach junior employees from the get-go.”

Capstones and industry networking events identify promising talent

Solaris is an active participant in MEL industry networking events offered throughout the year, attending on-campus sessions to talk about the company and meet the MEL students who could become future hires.

In 2023, Solaris sponsored a capstone project, hiring MEL student Nurlan Smailov to do some work investigating green ammonia production in British Columbia along with export markets.

“He had extensive industry experience, so there were a lot of synergies and he got along very well with the team – making it an easy decision to offer him a position once he graduated,” says Portugal.

MEL grads at the top of the list

“When we see the MEL on a resume it stands out, and we will often interview these individuals even if we don’t have a role available to them at the moment,” says Aadit Sidhu, Solaris’s Organizational Development Generalist.

“With their technical experience, formal leadership training and knowledge about our industry, they bring a strong level of drive into our organization.”

Connect with us to connect with new talent

In addition to clean energy engineering, the MEL currently offers sector-specific specializations in high-performance buildings, urban systems, and naval architecture and marine engineering.

Get in touch with Career Strategist Jessi Guercio to attend a networking event, propose a capstone or other industry-led project, and connect with recent grads or alums who can add value to your team.