Professional Skills Course: The Career Catalyst

Publié le lundi 18 janvier 2016

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I graduated with a MSc in Environmental Sustainability at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment in the summer of 2015. My graduate studies experience, like many other graduate students at the University of Ottawa was challenging, but very worthwhile

On our first day, my cohort and I gathered at the boardroom table and listened to our professors and other environmental professionals speak to the importance of  considering the most pressing environmental problems from multiple perspectives. With an environmental science background, I was unsure what to expect from an interdisciplinary program offering a unique curriculum focused on sustainable development and policy. I was unsure how such a program would prepare me for the professional world. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to learn how important a program like this is for kick startinga career in the sustainability field.


Over the course of the program, we learned about environmental economics, policy, legislation and technical approaches to evidence-based decision making, particularly within the context of Canadian policy.

However, one of the most advantageous components of the program was being able to work with Don Grant – the Executive Director of the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict. He taught us half of our professional skills course and this helped me start my career as soon as I graduated The networking skills I developed in ‘Professional Skills’ made it easy for me to strike a conversation with people I met while networking. From there, persistence paid off. I was able to send my CV to those I networked with and eventually land an interview. The skills I gained from this course equipped me for a career in many different disciplines.


My current title is ‘Financial Analyst’ for the Government of Canada, Ministry of Finance. The most common response I’ve heard from friends and family when I tell them this is, “Okay, so what does that have to do with the environmental degree?” This position is very relevant, as we now know that the environment and the economy are intrinsically linked. These two factors do not operate in isolation of one another. What occurs in the financial sector does have implications for the natural Canadian environment.

Lastly, It wasn’t just the classes, the administration, or the faculty that made this program what it was; it was also the experiences that I had outside the classroom in the heart of Canada’s capital. The friends and networks I made lead to me starting a career post-graduation. But by taking advantage of the many opportunities while studying and utilizing the skills I gained in this program have lead to my post-grad success.


If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would.  

Mallory Coles is a recent MSc Environmental Sustainability grad. 


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