Category Archives: Where Are They Now?

Brewing a passion for NC graduate

Ian Evans is a spring 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program. He worked as a Brewery Student with Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is now employed with Kensington Brewing Company Inc., as a Brewer.

Tell us about where you work:

I work as a Brewer at Kensington Brewery Company Inc. This brewery has a small brew pub in Toronto’s Kensington Market and a larger production site in Vaughan.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

As a Brewer, I work with a small production team which means you get your hands on all parts of the process – from brewing to cleaning tanks, filtration, and packaging.

I enjoy the work and how it varies day-by-day and the sense of accomplishment seeing what you have achieved at the end of a work day.

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

My time working with Research & Innovation definitely helped me bring lab skills to my real-world brewery career. It was valuable to be able to tell employers that I’ve helped work on bringing a new product to market at my time with R&I.

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

As a brewing student, getting to see the long process it takes to test hops was interesting. It is a lot of hard work and time to get the information that is important to hop growers and brewers.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

The Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program brought me to Niagara College. I had decided I wanted to pursue brewing and this program is highly regarded. I was able to attend Niagara’s Brew Academy before signing up for the Brewmaster program and it was during that event that I knew I wanted to study at Niagara College.

Most memorable experience at NC?

I was lucky enough to participate in the Be World Ready trip to Munich, Germany. We got to go to places and see things that we would not have been able to see as students. It was a great, informative, and fun trip.

 “Your time at the College is very short, and you have access to the best equipment and people to teach you. Use that time wisely, learn as much as you can, and be hands on as much as possible.”

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

Victor North, Brew Student Liaison, in the School of Food & Wine Sciences, is the reason I signed up for the Beer Judge Certification Program test. I passed and am now a Certified Beer Judge. This has opened many opportunities for me and has led me to judge many competitions since graduating. I’ve also gotten to meet many people in the industry through judging and it has helped me expand my professional network.

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

Your time there is very short, and you have access to the best equipment and people to teach you. Use that time wisely, learn as much as you can, and be hands on as much as possible.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

There is always a lot to continually learn. I think it’s important to keep asking questions and learn why things are done a certain way. Knowing and understanding new concepts can lead to improved ways of doing things.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

I worked with my Head Brewer at Kensington Brewing Company Inc. to design a beer that went on to win a gold medal at the 2020 Canadian Brewing Awards, a silver at the 2022 Ontario Brewing Awards, and a silver at the inaugural Canada Beer Cup. So, I have to say this is one of the proudest achievements I’ve gotten since graduating from NC.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

NASA is currently testing a new rocket to bring humans back to the moon. The pictures they are able to send back to show the world of the moon are awe inspiring, so I’m pretty interested in that right now.

Interests outside of work? 

I read a lot, with my favourite genre being science fiction. Outside of work, you can also find me playing video games or enjoying biking in the summer.

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

“Be you.”

NC grad gained key marketing skills working with R&I

Andrea Lopez is a 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Business Administration, International Commerce & Global Development program. She worked with the Business & Commercialization Solutions team as a Business Research Assistant from May 2019 to April 2020, helping solve business needs relating to operations management, sales and marketing. Andrea is now employed with Wavemaker in Toronto, Ont., as a Junior Analyst, Data & Analytics.

Tell us about where you work: 

Presently, I am working at Wavemaker Canada, located in Toronto. Wavemaker is a media agency, and they work with numerous clients such as L’Oréal, Kruger, Danone, and World Vision. 

Describe your role and what you like about it: 

My current role is a Junior Analyst in data & analytics. I work as part of the e-commerce team and with our client, L’Oréal. My role as part of the e-commerce team is to extract data from various platforms and create visuals with the data for our client. In addition, I aid the account managers in writing reports for the client. This role has allowed me to learn about digital marketing as well as learn about the Amazon and Instacart platforms.

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

My experience at Research & Innovation has supported me in every aspect of my current role. While at Research & Innovation, I was able to gain an understanding of the marketing industry. Furthermore, it was effective in developing my business writing skills and the ability to interpret information to develop stories for the clients. These are skills that I continuously utilize in my role every day.  

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

There were many memorable projects I had the opportunity to be part of while at R&I. However, the most memorable project was with Theo’s Eatery. This was my initial project at R&I and with this project I gained a deep understanding of the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry. Moreover, I enjoyed learning about consumer shopping behaviors and market trends.  

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I chose to attend Niagara College because of the International Commerce & Global Development program. The program was interesting and there wasn’t one like it available in my area.

Most memorable experience at NC? 

My most memorable experience was being part of the international case competition in Buffalo. Although my team and I came in second, it was a memorable experience. I was able to put into practice what I had learned in school, along with the skills I had obtained at R&I. 

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

During my time at Niagara College, I came across many influential professors. However, the person I believe that influenced me the most is Paula Reile from the Business & Commercialization Solutions [now the Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre] team with R&I. She was an excellent manager and supported me in developing a passion for marketing by recommending resources to better understand the industry. 

“My experience at Research & Innovation has supported me in every aspect of my current role. While at Research & Innovation, I was able to gain an understanding of the marketing industry.”

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

My advice would be to learn as much as you can and that the skills you obtain while at R&I can be transferred to any role in the future.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned? 

I have learned that it is important to be constantly developing yourself. This will help in developing new personal and professional skills. 

Proudest achievement since graduating?

My biggest achievement would be the development of my Excel skills. I am constantly looking at ways to improve my skills, as it is important for my role. 

What are you passionate about at the moment?

I am passionate about developing myself personally and professionally. I am always seeking ways to improve my skills. 

Interests outside of work?

I don’t have a set hobby, but I enjoy trying creative activities such as painting classes. I also enjoy reading! 

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

Live in the moment, you never know what tomorrow will bring. 

Grad gains ground in career with position in quality assurance

Thao Nguyen is a 2021 graduate of the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program at Niagara College. Her work as a research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre helped inform her career choices(plural?) once finished her studies. Today, she works with Mérieux NutriSciences.

Tell us about where you work (name and type of company) and your current position/title:

Mérieux NutriSciences is well known for offering testing, consulting, auditing work and solutions for manufacturers, processors, retailers, either food or non-food. With more than 50 years of experience, Mérieux has expanded into/grown to 27 countries with more than 100 accredited laboratories worldwide. It has also broadened the capacity to certification, labelling, sensory and so on to meet customers’ growing demands.

Describe your current role and what you like about it:

Working as a Quality Assurance analyst, I am in charge of conducting physical tests on a variety of samples including ready-to-eat, raw products to pet food, and even non-food. Regular daily tasks would include monitoring temperature and the working condition of equipment, conducting water activity, pH, Brix and other tests regarding physical attributes of samples. I also participate in the sensory panel to evaluate organoleptic aspects of products over time. What I like most about working here is that I get to work with different types of products everyday which gives me experience and understanding of all food products in the market.

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

Working at Research & Innovation, I was used to planning my day ahead and creating convenient, easy-to-use templates that made my work flow smoother. Product-wise, with hands-on product development experience, it is easier for me to understand what clients are aiming for and trying to do with their products, thus, looking at a sample, I know what I should focus on. 

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

COVID was one of the biggest challenges with all the safety procedures and limited access to the campus. I learned to optimize the sample preparation process that can bring the best understanding of products without having to go back and forth. Savoury tea was one of my favourite projects with a lot of sensory involved. This was also when I gained the experience of how such a small change in the amount of ingredients could entirely affect the whole product. My sensory ability was also improved after that, which helped me in my recent job.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

It was the chance of getting hands-on food technology experience that attracted me the most, including course scopes, class activity, the co-op program and working at Research & Innovation. The Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program also exposed students to different aspects of Food Science that really broaden their career path. A graduate from the program can confidently work in a kitchen, a food manufacturer, a retailer, or a laboratory, from product development to quality assurance or even start their own business.

Most memorable experience at NC?

One of my courses was Food & Wine Dynamics, in which I had to taste and evaluate attributes of wine to pair with a meal. The main thing was I was never a fan of alcohol. After that day, I learned that no matter the situation, I have to consume my alcohol responsibly; I should eat before taking alcohol and I can get affected without swallowing. This was also one of the reasons I got my Smart Serve certification, to have a better knowledge of how alcohol triggers your system.

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?

There are many faculty members that had a great impact on me during my years at Niagara College. Professor Amy Proulx influenced me the most with her passion about the food industry. Talking to her or watching her videos, you can always see that she is looking to orientate the food industry to a sustainable industry that provides safe and quality products. She is also trying to inspire the young of how great and why they should consider a career in food and beverage processing industry. I am always amazed at the energy and effort she has been putting in the Culinary Innovation program specifically and the food industry in general.

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

College is a great place and time for you to try and experience whatever you are looking to do. Don’t hesitate to try new things. If you succeed, great, you made it. If something fails, great, you taught yourself a valuable lesson.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I learned the communication is an important aspect to keep the work moving forward. Even daily small talks or update would bring more information to your team than you expect. I also learned that even for things that you have never touched or known about, you can still do it if you have time to try and experience.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

My achievement would be small to many, but I am proud of myself for being better every day. The me of today is learning a new language, an instrument and a sport. The me of today will have a lot to talk with the me of 2021 who was so uncertain of everything back then.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

Even though college is done, I am still collecting other program-related certificates that can help me in the future. I am also learning a new language to broaden my career choice and travelling choice.

Interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I take buses to explore my neighbourhood area. I enjoy seeking beauty from people around me, the scene, the nature or whatever I find that day.

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

Don’t just think, do. It’s either you make it or get yourself a valuable lesson.

R&I project time like long job interview for current position

Danylo Kukanova
Danylo Kukanov works remotely most days, but every so often he checks into the office of his employ-er, Soil Optix, in Tavistock, Ont.

Danylo Kukanov graduated from the Computer Programmer program in 2021, earning the Dean’s Award from NC’s School of Media for his efforts.  While working with the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (now the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre), Danylo worked on projects for Soil Optix, a company that was so impressed with his student work, that they hired him after graduation. 

Tell us about where you work and your position/title:

I work for SoilOptix Inc. as software developer and junior data scientist.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

Currently I am responsible for developing scientific applications for soil analysis. In other words, I translate scientific language to computer language.

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

While working at R&I we worked on soil analysis tasks, statistics and web development. This experience later was used as a base for my future employment.

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

While working for R&I I implemented soil analysis tasks using statistics and Python libraries. It opened the world of data science for me.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

Since getting my BSc in Ukraine in System Engineering [from Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute], I wanted to further expand my knowledge in electronics and software. Niagara College looked like a good option to learn software development.

Most memorable experience at NC?

My most memorable experience at Niagara College was tutoring other students. I like learning and I was glad to share my experience with others. It was my first experience teaching.

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you? 

There are a couple former members who boosted my skills and helped me gain a lot of experience. They are Sarah Lepp and Mike Duncan. I do appreciate their efforts.

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

Always look for new knowledge about your field of study, even if it is not covered by your curriculum. For instance, if you are working as a web developer, be sure you learn modern design patterns (like gang of four), SOLID principles etc. As far as I know they are not mentioned during your studies, but they are must-have knowledge for your future career.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Primarily how to work in a team.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Worked with Convolution Neural Networks during one of our work projects.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

I really want to dive deeper into data science.  During my work I realized how interesting this field of study can be.

Interests outside of work?

When I’m not working, I usually play the guitar and care for my little garden. In future I plan to start again playing with electronics and make my own microelectronic projects.

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

The more you learn, the more bizarre the world looks.

Hard work pays off for computer programmer graduate

Rafael Almeida sitting at his desk in his new position within Niagara healthcare as a systems administrator.

Rafael de Castro Almeida is a 2018 graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programming program and was a research assistant with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre from April 2019 to August 2020. Today, Rafael is a systems administrator with Niagara Health. 

Tell us about where you work:

I was hired in April 2021 as systems administrator for Niagara Health, a regional healthcare provider with multiple sites (including five hospitals), serving the residents of the Niagara region.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

The role of the systems administrator is related to the management of the various systems to support the day-to-day systems operations of the hospital. My responsibility is specifically to administer SharePoint servers, a Microsoft tool that is used at Niagara Health to provide a platform for all intranet websites within the company. In addition, it serves as a collaboration and document management tool, used to spread the news about new procedures inside the organization and share documents securely. 

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

Working at R&I made a huge difference for me for various reasons. Firstly, besides helping me financially, it was my first job here in Canada in my area of knowledge. Secondly, I started working when I was studying, so I could apply the fresh knowledge I was receiving in the classroom to the research projects I worked on. Lastly, I was able to meet new people, and create great networking opportunities with knowledgeable and experienced co-workers that helped me to understand the market and the details about this new culture.

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

The most important project I worked with was Keyframe Studios, a project that we had to integrate different knowledge from engineering, software and business. It made me see beyond the code, but also look at challenges from an engineering perspective. In addition, it made me dig a bit more into the IoT (Internet of things) world. Being part of the task force to build the face shields was also important due to the meaning it had during the battle we were having against the [Covid-19] virus. 

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

The region of Niagara played an important role in my family’s decision to emigrate here from Brazil. However, in our research about colleges here in Canada, Niagara College stood out by its programs and good reviews online. Also, NC provides a scholarship to Latin American students, which helped financially in our decision.

Most memorable experience at NC?

When all my efforts materialized in a 96 per cent overall score (GPA) at the end of the program, despite all my struggles to manage two jobs and a family in a foreign country.

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

I had two people who influenced me the most. First was Alex Davis [former R&I research associate], who mentored me when I needed support with coding and understanding the legacy we had in our department. And the other person was Amal Driouich [project manager], who helped me in numerous situations regarding career counselling, project management and task direction.

“I would like to thank R&I and Niagara College for the opportunities I had and for helping me build the foundation – it will last forever in my life.”

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

Give your best. No matter what you are struggling with – in your personal, student or professional life – always give your best. It might sound cliché, but being comfortable with yourself throughout your journey, knowing that you are doing the most you can, despite all the workload and responsibilities you have, is crucial for your mental health and professional life.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

That all efforts count. I can see now that all I did is paying off today. All the nights with little sleep, having two or three jobs at the same time – it is all experience, no matter what field you’re in. I learnt from my time at Walmart collecting carts in the parking lot that being humble and treating customers well matters. I learnt that building a computer to meet the client’s expectations is important. And here at Niagara Health, I know that I have to do the best I can to provide the platform all Niagara residents will benefit from when they need health care (which makes me proud to be part of).

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Getting a good job to be able to provide for my wife and my daughter.

Interests outside of work?

Spending time with my family. Now that our life is starting to get back on track since we started from scratch since we came to Canada, I will probably be looking for some sports or physical activity to have a healthier life. I used to play paintball and soccer in Brazil.

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

Do your best and give opportunities to those you see are genuinely trying their best. Be kind, especially to immigrants.

Anything else you want to say?

I would like to thank R&I and Niagara College for the opportunities I had and for helping me build the foundation – it will last forever in my life. I’m truly grateful.

 

READ RAFAEL’S FULL PROFILE

Grad brings unique approach to job thanks to R&I

Artem Mekshun is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), International Commerce and Global Development program. During his studies, Artem spent time with R&I’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team as both a research assistant and then research associate. He is currently employed by General Mills Canada Corp. as a financial analyst.

While at NC, Artem received both a Niagara Scholar Award and an International Student Scholarship, was on the President’s honour roll three times and was a board member for the Niagara College Student Administrative Council.


Tell us about where you work:

I joined General Mills Canada Corp. as a financial analyst in November 2020. The company is a food manufacturer that operates in the CPG [consumer packaged goods] industry. It owns a strong portfolio of famous consumer brands such as Cheerios, Liberté, Yoplait and Nature Valley.

Before assuming my recent position with General Mills, I spent about nine months working as a data analyst at Acosta, a leading retail broker in North America.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

I work in the sales finance function and my main responsibility is partnering with our Loblaws sales team to deliver our company’s financial objectives, such as reported net sales, profit and return on investment (ROI).

What I love about my job is the amount of impact that I can have on the company’s profit and loss statement with my actions. From day one, I was given a lot of opportunities to interact with our customer development managers and assist them with driving growth for our brands on the shelves of Loblaws Companies Limited. Also, I love the fact that I have an ability to work with brands that are enjoyed by millions of people in Canada.

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

My work experience as both a research assistant and a research associate were instrumental to my decision to further develop my career in the world of CPG. During my time there, I had a lot of opportunities to work with Niagara-based food and beverage producers and to learn specifics of this industry. As a result, I had a chance to utilize this knowledge and experience to bring a unique perspective to the table both as a data analyst at Acosta and as a financial analyst at General Mills.

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

My favourite project with R&I was a market research project that we conducted for a global manufacturer of alcoholic beverages. This was the first time that I had a chance to work with such a large company and the amount of responsibility that I felt was overwhelming. Nevertheless, together with my team, we were able to establish an effective framework for meeting all the required deliverables. As a result, we were able to deliver the project on time and to fully meet our client’s expectations.

My biggest lesson from this project was the importance of learning how to work in a team. This skill largely benefitted me in my future roles since the success of most of the projects I worked on heavily depended on my ability to effectively collaborate with my teammates.

“During my time [at R&I], I had a lot of opportunities to work with Niagara-based food and beverage producers and to learn specifics of this industry. As a result, I had a chance to utilize this knowledge and experience to bring a unique perspective to the table.”   

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I come from the Northern part of Ukraine, from a 1,300-year-old city called Chernihiv. Canada was my No. 1 country when it came to deciding where to pursue my post-secondary education. The reason I chose to go to Niagara College stemmed from its strong reputation in Ukraine and some great recommendations that I received from an agency that was helping me to immigrate.

I really think that Niagara College is unique in terms of the value that it can provide to its students. Can you name another educational institution that takes pride in providing high-quality education to its students and that brews its own beer, distills its own vodka, makes its own wine and grows its own cannabis? The choice to come to NC was an obvious one!

Most memorable experience at NC?

I have two most memorable moments at Niagara College: The first one took place in March 2017, when I heard the results of a student election to the NCSAC [Niagara College Student Administrative Council] office and learned that I had just been elected as a director of clubs for the [Daniel J. Patterson Campus] in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was filled with joy and happiness.

The second one occurred in March 2018, when I heard the result of a student election to the Board of Governors of Niagara College and learned that I had lost in that election. I felt quite devastated, but I did learn a lot from that campaign.

The bottom line is that two of my most memorable moments at NC are related to participating in the college life that goes way beyond pure education. I strongly recommend any NC student to take advantage of hundreds of extra-curriculum opportunities that the college provides. These opportunities will eventually comprise your most memorable moments of the student life.

Is there a particular mentor at R&I who influenced you?

I believe that multiple people at R&I were crucial for my personal and professional development. Among them are: Paula Reile [research project manager, Business & Commercialization Solutions], Kristine Canniff [research project manager, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre], Neil Wilkinson [former research project manager, Research & Innovation]. All of them made their contribution to my learning and development, for which I am very grateful.

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

Never underestimate the power of teamwork and diversity of opinions. Quite often, having a well-rounded brainstorming session with your project manager or fellow research associates (even if they are not directly involved in your individual project) can constitute a difference between a successful project and a failure.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

In the real world, simply being book-smart is not enough. Companies are built on relationships and therefore one’s ability to effectively bond with other people is valued much more than one’s college grades. During the college years, it is vital for students to learn how to build successful relationships and how to effectively collaborate with others.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

My proudest achievement since graduating is proposing to the most beautiful girl in the world (Yuliia) and organizing an amazing wedding celebration a mere two weeks later.

After proposing, Artem and Yuliia were married two weeks later and live in Toronto.

Interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I am pursuing the CFA designation and, as a result, I often burn the midnight oil studying corporate finance and preparing for the upcoming exams.

Also, I love travelling and exploring new places. Every long weekend, I am doing my best to discover another natural gem of this beautiful country. My other passions include football, exploring new cuisines and playing board games with my friends.

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

Every human heartbeat is an entire universe of opportunities. Take them!

Also, Bitcoin is overpriced 😊