Jan. 5, 2021
Mitacs Business Strategy Internship program benefits students, employers
In August, the Women in Need Society (WINS) was able to hire their first Haskayne student with the help of the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship (MBSI) program. Umair Abbasi, a fourth-year finance student, has so far contributed to projects in finance, marketing and IT.
The MBSI program provides experience for students while at the same time supporting organizations to adapt to the economic environment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The first offering in July 2020 proved to be such a resounding success, the program has been extended to 2021 for both the winter term and the spring/summer terms.
“In the first couple of years in business, you have to do everything and then you move on to your more concentrated courses. So I applied those skills to whatever projects I worked on,” says Abbasi. “I have been able to use both specific finance concepts and also technical skills, especially using software in one way or another in every project that I have done so far.”
Many of the projects Abbasi has been working on have involved in-depth research that the staff at WINS often did not find time for between the regular demands of their positions. Replacing the donor database was a project that the staff thought they were going to have to carry over to 2021, until Abbasi came on board. He co-ordinated a request for proposal from vendors around the world, helping the organization choose a platform most suited to their needs. He's also been researching the feasibility of a new social enterprise for the organization.
“We have had to really shift the organization to adapt to the new COVID environment,” says Patti Brewin, fund development manager with WINS. “Having a younger presence on the team has reminded us of a different way to look at things that has been so useful.”
Brewin adds that Abbasi brought adaptability to the table during COVID, which is essential as the not-for-profit sector is being transformed rapidly in the face of social distancing. Fewer donations are happening in person and more gifts are being received through technology.
“A lot of these projects, I do not know how we would have gotten them done without Umair being here with us,” says Brewin.
MBA student contributes to strategy, gains full-time role
Devin Lacey started his Haskayne MBA in August 2019, coming from Newfoundland to UCalgary for the accelerated MBA program and the opportunity to be based in the heart of the energy industry in Canada. He committed himself full-time to the program, and had completed nine out of the 11 courses in the program by the spring of 2020.
“Coming into spring and summer it was time to figure out the next step career-wise, but with COVID happening there were only a few opportunities available, most of it short-term contract work,” says Lacey. Through the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship, Lacey secured a position with GLJ Ltd. (GLJ), one of the largest energy consulting companies in the market, where he started in July 2020.
GLJ has always been cost-conscious and COVID put extra pressure on the company’s business development team. Most of their staff are tied up on engineering and geoscience projects so freeing the resources to devote to business development and strategy can be a challenge.
“These projects are a pre-investment for our business strategy going forward,” says Greg Owen, vice-president, business development at GLJ.
Lacey, with his education in finance and his background in project controls in the offshore energy industry, was a perfect fit to help the company with the next steps in their business plan.
“I have been heavily involved in expanding our offerings to better serve clients in a more complex and dynamic energy industry,” says Lacey. “GLJ will always be known for its core business of oil and gas reserves assessment and valuation, but we are evolving to offer expertise in technical projects, sustainability and emerging energy. It is an exciting time to make a difference for GLJ and our clients.”
Over the summer, Lacey explored 11 emerging energy markets to see the potential for GLJ’s services, seeing great potential in the hydrogen market. “We’ve already sold some projects on hydrogen which we weren’t anticipating doing until 2021.”
In November, Lacey finished his final course requirements for his MBA and was offered a full-time position with GLJ as a senior business analyst.
GLJ began diversifying their business four years ago, but without the MBSI program, Owen estimates that everything would have been delayed a year. “The Mitacs program is such an easy investment for a company. In our case, investment with immediate return,” says Owen.
Employers encouraged to apply for four-month internship positions
Haskayne School of Business is continuing to partner with Mitacs to offer the MBSI program, which provides partial funding for four-month internships with businesses and not-for-profits. The Haskayne School of Business and the business will each contribute $2,500 (plus applicable taxes) and Mitacs contributes the remaining $5,000.
Employer applications for spring and summer 2021 open up Jan. 4. There are 50 internships available for each term so employers are encouraged to apply early for consideration for the program.