Category Archives: Where Are They Now?

Rafael Almeida on his strategy for life

Rafael Almeida

The Niagara region has a particularly sentimental meaning for Rafael Almeida. When searching for a Canadian school to enrol in computer programming, it was the beauty of this region that reminded him of his honeymoon locale in his home country of Brazil.

While it may not seem a likely comparison given the tropical South American climate, the southern tourist town of Gramado is a scenic four-season destination, with an array of food, culture, wine … and snow.

“Niagara really got to my heart because of the memories from my honeymoon,” says Rafael, a Research Assistant with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division. “Then when I learned about what Niagara College had to offer for me, everything was a perfect match.”

His quest to further develop his specialized knowledge in information systems was just part of a bigger plan. In leaving the political and economic upheaval of Brazil, he and his wife also wanted to make a better life for their young daughter.

With a Bachelor’s degree in information systems and post-graduate education in IT Management, Rafael spent 15 years working for one of Latin America’s largest software companies. And while he had a comfortable financial footing back home, he knew that his education needed to be broadened to have security for the future.

“It was not only specialized, and a proprietary language that I was experienced in, it was very old technology,” he explains. “If they suddenly closed, I would be in trouble … it’s not a programming language that could be transferred easily.”

“In my job in Brazil I would never have the opportunity to work with lasers. Here, I have real-world problems that I’m solving with my knowledge – my college knowledge and my past business knowledge.”

Since arriving in 2018, Rafael’s strategy has been to work extremely hard at his grades, provide for his family, learn the language and give back when he can. To date, he has earned near perfect grades in his first two terms, holds down two jobs, he’s nearly fluent in English, and peer mentors, and tutors other international students.

At 35, Rafael has the maturity to understand the importance of all his actions.

“I knew that it would be hard mentally and financially, but it’s all part of the strategy. I came here with this in my mind,” he says. “I had to be the best one in class and get as much knowledge as I can. I need to make it work. I need to do whatever I have time to in order to hopefully establish here.”

He realized it was going to be a challenging schedule, leaving little time to spend with his wife Priscila and five-year-old daughter Alice, given his school work, his R&I position and a part-time job at Walmart near his St. Catharines’ home. “That’s the only thing that makes me a little sad. But we all know it’s temporary and it’s good for our future.”

Since starting with Research & Innovation earlier this summer, Rafael has had the opportunity to work on projects he never dreamed possible – lasers, 3D printers, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and more.  

His first assignment was helping his team with a project for industry partner Speed Composites, who had invented a product to provide precise measurements and optimum adjustments of a race car’s chassis prior to a race, and wirelessly transmit the data to an app. The company needed help building the electronics and programming the software/firmware.

Rafael was brought on board to help troubleshoot issues with the laser measurement sensor. He soon discovered that various surfaces made differences with the measurements and his team was able to adjust the sensors.

“In my job in Brazil I would never have the opportunity to work with lasers,” he says. “Here, I have real-world problems that I’m solving with my knowledge – my college knowledge and my past business knowledge.”

As well, with his expertise in process management software in fields such as logistics, manufacturing and financial services, he has been putting his experience to good use in helping to revamp the R&I platform work management software, Tracksuite.

“The experience I’m gaining will definitely make a difference on my resume.”

Rafael understands that his current experiences will shape his future. So, when he was invited by R&I staff to be the student representative guest speaker at a $14-million funding announcement by the federal government to Niagara College, he knew he could not pass up the opportunity, even if he was hesitant to speak in front of a group of dignitaries in his second language.

“I was told the federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities would be there, and I was like, ‘for all of Canada?’” he jokes. “But I’m pretty sure this is going to help me in the future. The videos and photos of that day will definitely be part of my portfolio.”

For every milestone so far in the region that’s so close to his heart, he is grateful. “It’s been very good for us here,” he says. “For my daughter she’s learning things and having opportunities that she didn’t have. Brazil is a good country with good people, but here in Canada we have opportunities that we wouldn’t have there, mainly for our daughter.”

Upon graduation, Rafael says his plan is to apply for a post-graduate work permit with the hope of staying in Canada another three years.

In the meantime, he continues to find time to mentor other international students who may be struggling to adapt to the region or their academics. 

“It’s always good to help others achieve success,” he adds. “We are more than only ourselves in this life. If at the end of the day you make someone feel better about themselves, I call it a good day.”

 

Where Are They Now?: Amanda Galenkamp

 

Amanda Galenkamp graduated from NC’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program in 2018 and served as Research Assistant for Research & Innovation for one year during her time as a student. Since September 2018, Amanda has been the Product Development Coordinator for Steeped Tea.

Tell us about where you work:

 Steeped Tea is a direct-selling loose-leaf tea company based in Ancaster, Ontario. Founded in 2006, Steeped Tea Inc. quickly became one of the fastest-growing social-selling companies in North America. In 2012, they were featured on CBC’s “Dragons’ Den” where Jim Treliving and David Chilton signed on as business partners and investors. Since then, they’ve been ranked on the Profit 500 list four years running – 24th in 2016. The company is built on superior quality, taste, and service, with more than 100 delicious varieties of premium loose-leaf teas, along with accessories. They also feature tea-based lattes, spices, salad dressings, hot chocolates, and sweet dip mixes.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

My job is all about creating new products for Steeped Tea. My main tasks include formulating new products, researching current and upcoming trends, sourcing new and unique ingredients, conducting sensory panels to get feedback on new tea blends, creating any necessary nutrition facts panels and product information, and coming up with new innovative ideas. I love being able to work with tea all day long and learn and participate in product development and marketing meetings.

Please give us an idea of what types of related things you’ve been doing prior to this recent position.

During school, I ran my own small hobby tea business selling tea at markets and at select retail stores. This really helped me learn about the tea and beverage industry, and gain valuable knowledge about marketing and business.

How has your Research & Innovation experience helped you prepare for your current role?

Working as a research assistant was such a great experience! I had some amazing mentors and was able to work on multiple projects doing a wide variety of tasks. I did a lot of product development and learned the importance of tracking and compiling all of your formulations. I had to come up with new product and flavour ideas, communicate with clients, create nutrition facts panels, participate in sensory panels, and much more. I use all these skills in my current role on a daily basis. Having this framework of useful skills really set me up for success in my career.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

Broya broth and jerky: I worked with other research assistants and we came up with multiple bone broth flavours and meat “protein bites.” It was a ton of fun to collaborate and innovate with other research assistants, and we had some trials but also some great breakthroughs. The client loved the products. It is so awesome to be a part of creating the products you see on the grocery store shelves.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

The Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program was a unique program because of the combination of culinary skills, food science, and product development. I liked the fact that it had a co-op to help gain work experience, and that it gave the potential for a whole range of jobs from product development to quality control.

“It is so awesome to be a part of creating the productions you see on the grocery store shelves!”

Most memorable experience at NC?

The culinary labs! It was so much fun to create things from scratch, like using cheese and bacon to come up with crazy inventions. I was also part of a close-knit class at NC. We would go out for wine tasting nights, have study groups in the library, and struggle together through the labs. It was great to be a part of that community.

A faculty member who influenced you?

I met Dr. Amy Proulx at a Niagara College Open House and she was a big part of why I chose the program. She works so hard to help everyone succeed and was such an encouraging and knowledgeable mentor during my three years at NC. She always believes in you 100% and is always there to help you through any struggles you are having.

A mentor at R&I?

Everyone at Research & Innovation was so amazing to work with. I had some great mentors and managers who showed me how to be organized, how to use the lab equipment, and gave helpful feedback countless times on product development.  

What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?

Work hard and focus on what you are passionate about; but also, don’t be afraid to try multiple things to find your passion. Talk to your teachers and learn everything you can from them. I am very passionate about tea and product development, and it showed in my resume and job interviews, which led me to find my dream job. This doesn’t always happen right away, but if you keep on working and keep networking you will find something that uses your strengths.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Keep learning and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

I have created more than 20 new products for the upcoming Steeped Tea Catalogues. I can’t talk about any of them yet but they will be available soon!

What are your interests outside of work?

Being outside: hiking, running, travel, and climbing mountains. 


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Innovation in Action

Through applied research activities, Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is preparing the workforce with the right know–how by providing an array of researcher expertise, supported by leading-edge facilities, technology and equipment. See how graduates and R&I alumni are applying their skills and knowledge in the real world.

Where Are They Now?: Ryan Tunis


Ryan
Tunis graduated from the Computer Programmer, Computer Software Engineering program in 2016 and worked in the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre at Research & Innovation for four years, first as a Research Associate, and then, as a Senior Research Associate. Ryan began his new role as Software Developer in June 2019 with Anova, a global leader in remote monitoring, and industrial technology.

Tell us about where you work:
Anova does sensor networking for the industrial industry. Anova has a growing network of over 350,000 cellular, satellite, and LPWAN devices in 65+ countries around the globe.

Describe your role and what you like about it:
I am a software developer. The sheer volume of data that flows through this system is astonishing. The environment is very start-up like with all the newest tech and a comfortable working environment. Sit/stand desks, you get your own high tech laptop, which is easily one of the best you could possibly buy in terms of hardware.

Please give us an idea of what types of related things you’ve been doing prior to this recent position.
I worked at a company called ServicePRO, which does workflow management software and quickly moved into a senior role after a few weeks of working there. It’s not my cup of tea though; I prefer the big data scene.

How has your Research & Innovation experience helped you prepare for your current role?
If it weren’t for R&I I would not have had the time or opportunity to experiment with the latest and greatest technology that everyone is moving towards today. I would not have the experience to know how to handle situations where I know very little about it and still walk out on top. I also know a lot more about farming than I ever thought I would.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Re-architecting the Crop Portal, AgroTelligent, RRx, and RTAG into one massive micro service application really allowed me to grow my skills as a full stack developer. I can now confidently say that I can build any application from the ground up and take it from alpha to production ready code.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
I was a framer for seven years prior to going to Niagara College to study Computer Programming. I have always loved the idea of creating something and looking back at it and thinking, “Yeah, I made that… nice.” The challenge was trying to get that same feeling without having to push your body to its physical limits every day and endure the cold and heat throughout the year. So naturally, I thought, “well, programming is kind of like building houses, so let’s give that a go,” and I fell in love with it. The best thing about it is if you make a mistake, you just have to delete the lines of code that don’t work, if you make a mistake building a house you could end up ripping an entire wall down and having to rebuild it again.

If it weren’t for R&I I would not have had the time or opportunity to experiment with the latest and greatest technology that everyone is moving towards today.”

Most memorable experience at NC?
I attempted to create an autonomous rover that was wired up with an Arduino and a whole slew of various sensors. I then programmed coordinates into it to feed to the GPS, compass, and servo, to get it to try to follow a path. After hundreds of test runs, I only succeeded once. I think it was a pure fluke or something to do with GPS drift because it never followed the route again, it would only go in the route’s general direction to the way point. Either way, that’s still a victory. Oh, and you could also control it manually with an Xbox controller.

A faculty member who influenced you?
Cliff Patrick was a fantastic teacher. I remember the day I had the “A-HA” moment when I finally understood the fundamentals of programming and I owe it to his teaching methods. He gave the best analogies. I frequently use some of them to explain what I do to people who don’t understand programming.

A mentor at R&I?
Dr. Mike Duncan was my biggest influence at R&I. I remember many occasions when Mike would ask me, “Hey, do you know how to do this?” to which I would respond, “I have no idea, but give me 20 minutes and I’ll let you know.” The overwhelming support and trust Mike has given me has allowed me to become the software developer I am today and I will never forget that. He’s also a decent bass player, too. 😉

What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
As programmers, we often repeatedly have to put up with failure and you might often be asked to make the seemingly impossible, possible. But, if there is a will, there is a way, so don’t throw in the towel early because your next error message is your next victory. If that fails, you could visit Ballmer’s Peak. 😊

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
Not every company values the same things and as such, their work processes are different. Not all code follows all of the conventions we were taught. Not all code has meaningful comments that explain precisely what the function you are looking at is supposed to do, like we were taught. It’s unfortunate but that’s just the way it is. Code is art; you wouldn’t purposely draw a crappy picture, why would you purposely write garbage code?

Proudest achievement since graduating?
Currently working on what will be a revolutionary musician’s practicing application that adopts gamification to get users addicted to progress. Stay tuned…

What are your interests outside of work?
Music (I play guitar), badminton, table tennis.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
If you see a new error message, you’re heading in the right direction.

Anything else you want to say?
Thanks to everyone at R&I for being very supportive to everyone who works there, it is an amazing place to work.

  


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Innovation in Action

Through applied research activities, Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is preparing the workforce with the right know–how by providing an array of researcher expertise, supported by leading-edge facilities, technology and equipment. See how graduates and R&I alumni are applying their skills and knowledge in the real world.

Where Are They Now?: Brian Cunningham

 

Brian Cunningham graduated from the Electrical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program in 2018. He spent two years working on Research & Innovation’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team as a Research Assistant. Brian began his new role as Engineering Technician in February 2019 at Cimcorp Automation, a global supplier of intralogistics automation.

Tell us a little about where you work:

Cimcorp Automation is a manufacturer and integrator of pioneering material handling systems for the tire industry that has developed unique robotic solutions for order fulfillment and storage. These solutions are being used in the food & beverage, retail, e-commerce, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), and postal service sectors.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

Currently, I am assisting in coordinating new resource management software for internal company use. My main responsibilities regarding this software include maintaining our large catalog of design and commercial parts, as well as providing training to engineering designers to allow them to utilize our new software for a number of engineering processes.

As we transition into this new software, I have also been taking on challenges with troubleshooting some of our smaller automated robots. This has led me to work with and testing servo motors and servo drives, as well as various battery and battery management technologies. 

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

Much of my time at Research & Innovation was spent developing automated systems. This included programming PLCs and microcontrollers. I also worked on some electrical panel design, wiring prototypes, as well as designing and assembling printed circuit boards. 

I believe these experiences, that I enjoyed so much, led me directly into a career in the material handling industry. My constant exposure to electrical design as well as different advanced manufacturing processes has also allowed me to easily communicate between both electrical and mechanical designers to address their concerns, as we continue to roll out our new resource management software being used by our employees.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

The Grimo nut project was my first and most memorable project I was able to be part of at Research & Innovation. Grimo Nut Nursery breeds a walnut variation known as the heartnut, which is popular because of its heart-shaped shell. The nuts had to be cracked by hand using a hammer in order to keep the shell intact and the industry partner needed an automated solution for cracking.

Our team developed a proof-of-concept machine that employs pneumatics for quick feeding and positioning of the heartnut, a programmable logic control (PLC) system to control and fine-tune all of the operations on this machine, and a proprietary nut-cracking chamber. It was my first experience with PLC programming, and was one of the more intricate and complex projects that research had taken on at the time. It really challenged me and the rest of the design team to think outside the box.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I knew I wanted to get into engineering and was looking for something a little more applied. My program at Niagara College offered courses that spent large portions of class time in the labs. Small class sizes also allowed students to get plenty of one-on-one time with professors.

“If you can show that you are able to recognize mistakes – correct them, learn from them, and self-regulate – you can make yourself a very valuable asset within your workplace.”

Most memorable experience at NC?

Being able to participate in open house events at NC was always a great experience. It gave me the chance to highlight the potential opportunities that await those who are interested in the Engineering faculty as well as Research & Innovation at Niagara College.

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to learn and grow during my time at NC and Research & Innovation, and it would be an incredible disservice to potential students and program applicants if they were not made aware of these potential opportunities that await them. Whether I was giving a presentation or providing a group with a tour of the research lab, I’ve always seen it as a way of paying it forward and hopefully inspiring future students to realize their full potential at NC.

A faculty member who influenced you?

There isn’t one particular faculty member that had an influence on me, because they all did! Every one of my teachers had something different to bring to the table; they all had different experiences that they could draw from to supplement the content taught in the classroom. So without making the list too long, I want to say thanks to Paul Jiankos, Fred Graham, Paul Kendrick, Sarah Rouillier, and Mike van den Bogerd for making #myncstory a memorable one!

A mentor at R&I?

Again, there are almost too many people to list. If I had to pick, my Project Leads Gord Maretzki and Al Spence were able to provide me with literally decades of industry experience expertise between the two of them. They always encouraged me to think outside the box and to continually hold my work to the highest standard. Their experience in automation and robotics certainly played a role in the career I find myself in today.

Big shout out to Jim Lambert, Gord Koslowski, Carolyn Mullin and Marc Nantel for bringing me along to countless trade shows, research symposiums, and showcases. Thank you for pulling me out of my comfort zone allowing me to show faculty, local business owners, industry professionals, and even members of parliament what Niagara College Research & Innovation is really all about.

What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?

Don’t let uncertainty stop you from doing anything. In research, when we’re uncertain of what’s going to happen, we try it out ourselves to find out! The worst possible thing that could happen in the end is you learn something, and you’ll only be better because of it. 

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when you’re just starting out. That’s not to say you shouldn’t hold yourself to a high standard (because you should!), but employers recognize there is a learning curve to their processes and methods of operation. If you can show that you are able to recognize mistakes, correct them, learn from them, and self-regulate, you can make yourself a very valuable asset within your workplace. 

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Starting my career! It’s really encouraging to see all of my hard work beginning to pay off.

Interests outside of work?

In the summer months, I usually like to get out on my bike when I’m not playing on one of my slo-pitch softball teams. In the winter when the weather’s not great I’ll work on designing and building audio equipment for my home setup. My drums get played year round!

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Check out Taylor Wallace & Patch Bay (my band) on Soundcloud!

https://soundcloud.com/user-618944530

  


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Innovation in Action

Through applied research activities, Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is preparing the workforce with the right know–how by providing an array of researcher expertise, supported by leading-edge facilities, technology and equipment. See how graduates and R&I alumni are applying their skills and knowledge in the real world.

Where Are They Now?: Beatrix Csemer

Beatrix Csemer is a 2015 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program. She spent two years with Research & Innovation’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, first as a Research Assistant and then, as a graduate, was hired as a Research Associate. Beatrix is a Food Scientist with TreeHouse Foods, a private label food and beverage leader focused on customer brands and custom products.

Tell us a little about where you work:

At TreeHouse Foods we engage with retail grocery, food away from home, industrial and export customers, including most of the leading grocery retailers and foodservice operators in the United States and Canada. TreeHouse Foods is best known for food and beverages produced by our two largest businesses: Bay Valley Foods, LLC (including E.D. Smith and Flagstone Foods) and TreeHouse Private Brands. With more than 16,000 employees and a network of manufacturing facilities across the United States, Canada and Italy.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

When I first started at TreeHouse Foods, I was specialised to work within the condiments category. I worked on multiple projects for North American leading brands and I had the chance to be involved from innovation to commercialization. This means from ideation to creating multiple formulations through sensory panels and initiating a plant trial.

After a year, a new opportunity came across within the company. I have become part of a recipe/ingredient simplification team. This was a new challenge with new team members and I have been able to learn the logistics behind a company like TreeHouse Foods. In seven months, I learned four different ERP systems, such as SAP/PDM and was involved in a transition for efficiency and cost-saving project – moving the entire retired product development database to a brand-new leading database (SAP/PDM).

How has your experience with R&I helped prepare you for your current role?

R&I and NC has become my professional family in a foreign country. Working at R&I enabled me to utilize the knowledge and experience I have formulated throughout my academic years. It gave me the opportunity to work with small-to medium-size businesses, those who were facing multiple challenges and needed help to find the most effective solution. It gave me the foundation of how to deal with real challenges in the real workforce, as well as provided networking opportunities within the food industry.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

As a Research Associate, I was a lead on one of the most memorable projects with Community Living. Community Living operates a social enterprise whereby their clients, persons with developmental disabilities, are provided employment in their commercial kitchen. They wanted to expand their ‘Well Preserved’ line of hand-crafted condiments and jellies with a new product line, incorporating ingredients from local partners. Although they had their own kitchen, they lacked the necessary food science skills and regulatory expertise.

This challenge was different from any other project since our team was able to work/create/train on site. Our research team created and tested several recipes, keeping in mind the need for straightforward recipe instructions. In the end, four new recipes were chosen: an Asian-inspired barbecue sauce, a pepper peach salsa, a Mexican salsa and a pear brandy plum barbecue sauce. The research team then created Nutrition Facts Tables (NFTs) that met Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations and provided on-site training for each of the new products. Community Living has been producing and selling the pepper peach salsa since the summer of 2015 with great commercial success.

 

“[R&I] gave me the foundation of how to deal with real challenges in the real workforce, as well as provided networking opportunities within the food industry.”

 
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I always wanted to be a Food Scientist! I came all the way from Hungary, Europe to achieve my dream. I believe applied learning is what really caught my eye. Being an international student with English as my second language, I was able to receive the “hands–on” experience that made the course more transparent.

A faculty member who influenced you?

Many people influenced me throughout my NC years. I would call out Dr. Amy Proulx who provided endless motivational support throughout my academic years.

Most memorable experience at NC?

Being part of Research Chefs Association’s International competition, representing Canada’s Junior Research Chefs. Our team finished third place.

What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?

Have the passion to succeed, create and improve. Just as a painter has a passion for colour, light and image – have the passion for taste, texture and colour.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Most of the time I have to use my common sense and excellent work ethic before I use my knowledge and experience.

Proudest achievement since graduating:

Being a Food Scientist for a world-known company, TreeHouse Foods.

Interests outside of work?

I am a voice teacher part time. I used to be a child actress back in Europe for 17 years and I’ve played in several musicals and operas (Oliver Twist, Carmen, etc..). I love music. Plato said: “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Everything happens for a reason. Things go wrong, so appreciate them when they’re right. Good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Failing isn’t failure, until you give up!

  


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Innovation in Action

Through applied research activities, Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is preparing the workforce with the right know–how by providing an array of researcher expertise, supported by leading-edge facilities, technology and equipment. See how graduates and R&I alumni are applying their skills and knowledge in the real world.

Where Are They Now?: Jason van de Laar

Jason van de Laar, C.E.T., is a graduate of Niagara College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program. Jason worked for a year as a Research Assistant with Research & Innovation’s Advanced Manufacturing division. After graduating in 2012, Jason assumed the role of Quality Control Manager for JTL integrated Machine Limited in Port Colborne.

Tell us a little about where you work:

JTL Integrated Machine Ltd. is a full service welding and CNC machining facility. We serve customers in a variety of different industries including oil and gas, energy, mining, air compression, rail, valves and pumps.  

Describe your role and what you like about it:

As the Quality Control Manager, it is my responsibility to ensure that products are processed through our facility, sparing no attention to detail. I prepare dimensional inspection reports for use by our quality assurance inspectors. I am also responsible for ensuring that dimensional measurement data produced by our inspection tools, including our CMM laser tracker, is included into these reports and that the data is thoroughly reviewed for accuracy and completeness. If any irregularities are discovered, I generate a non-conformance report and work with the customer to achieve a resolution to the problem. The best aspect of the job is knowing that I play an important role in our success by ensuring that the customer is satisfied with the work that we are performing.

How has your experience with R&I helped prepare you for this role?

Working at R&I helped reinforce my time management skills and independent work skills. In the real world, you are not always going to have a helping hand to point you in the right direction. Sometimes you have to be the person to take the lead and make the right decisions when it matters the most. R&I helped me in that they give you some guidelines to operate within, but for the most part, they let you think independently and use your best judgement to come to solutions to problems. It is these principles that have helped me out significantly at developing good communication, time management, and work-planning skills at JTL.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I:

In 2011—2012, we helped Calhoun Sportswear in St. Catharines develop a one-piece flow process that helped streamline some of their merchandise picking and processing operations. We began with mapping out their facility floor and performed an extensive analysis of how some of their products were moved from one area of the facility to another. We then developed a plan to transition their batch processing method to a one-piece flow method. In the end, this resulted in their employees using less energy and less time to accomplish more work. Prior to working at R&I, I never thought about all the effort that goes into getting sports merchandise manufactured and then processed and packaged so it was a very cool experience to see more of what’s involved and to help develop new techniques and processes for small businesses.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I had previously taken the automotive service technician program at Niagara College from 2004 to 2006 prior to my most recent program in mechanical engineering technology from 2008 to2012, so I knew what to expect in terms of quality of programs, staff, and facilities. Niagara College offered the program I needed and was very close proximity to my home so it was definitely the right move for me.

Most memorable experience at NC?

I met my wife, who I am happily married to for over seven years while I was at NC. So, I would definitely say that is my most memorable experience.  

“I met my wife, who I am happily married to for over seven years while I was at NC. So, I woud definitely say that is my most memorable experience.”

Any faculty members who influenced you?

Alan Munro, C.E.T. and Lois Johnson, P.Eng. and Rick Baldin, P.Eng. were excellent role models and mentors. They are very knowledgeable and really push you to be your best and bring your best effort to the classroom, the lab or the office.

What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?

Learn as much as you can from faculty and people in the workplace and co-op placements. Look for employment well before graduation. Life moves very quickly once you’re out in the working world so set yourself up for success by talking to people at potential employers about the nature of the work they do and what the culture is like at those facilities to help strengthen your communication skills. Focus on growing as a person and not just a student, the transition of going from being a student to an employee is easier if you develop good communication skills and interpersonal skills early on prior to graduation either by practicing with your peers or taking classes outside of work or school.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I have learned that you have to be mentally tough to succeed in business and in life. School and work give you some tools for success but ultimately your mind is the greatest tool you have. You have to look at yourself and decide what you are good at and use that to your full potential. Work will throw curve balls your way and present challenges you may not have experienced before and things will not always go the way you planned. You have to be strong and be confident that you can take that situation and turn it around into a positive thing.

Proudest achievement since graduating:

I am very proud to have developed our ISO 9001:2015 quality management system program at JTL. It was a lot of work and a lot of responsibility, but it was also a very rewarding experience.

Interests outside of work?

I love spending time with my amazing wife and our four beautiful children. I’m an avid player of hockey and I love to be out on the ice every chance I get. I have been the treasurer of the board of governors for OACETT (Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists) since 2015 and have been an active member of OACETT since 2009.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Think of the things that matter most to you in tough times; positive thoughts are contagious and will encourage you and others around you!

 


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Innovation in Action

Through applied research activities, Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is preparing the workforce with the right know–how by providing an array of researcher expertise, supported by leading-edge facilities, technology and equipment. See how graduates and R&I alumni are applying their skills and knowledge in the real world.