Pivoting like the best of bots
For a kid who grew up watching Battlebots, built his own robots and even won the Battlebots IQ competition in Florida at age 13, Mechatronics Engineering was a no-brainer.
While Jeff McLay added the management option to his degree to broaden his skill set, the 2012 grad continued to build robots for combat through his university days.
Then he graduated and took a job in finance.
“I worked different engineering summer jobs over my first few summers, but I didn’t find a company or industry that I wanted to stay with long-term,” he explains.
“By chance, I signed up for a business competition at McMaster that was sponsored by PepsiCo Canada, and I was offered an operations role for the summer, which sparked my interest in a career in business.”
After graduating he worked in investment banking in Los Angeles for three years, before returning to Toronto to work in private equity with Onex and TorQuest Partners for five years.
In 2019, McLay joined Canadian contract beverage manufacturer Joriki Inc. as Chief Financial Officer.
The company has 230 employees across three facilities in Ontario and British Columbia, manufacturing and packaging beverages for major brand and private label customers.
Working alongside the company founder, McLay has responsibility for all aspects of the business, including sales, business development, operations and finance.
“Today, my engineering background helps me understand how our plants operate and increases my credibility with our customers and employees,” he says.
“And I still tinker with robotics, so my mechatronics degree hasn’t completely gone to waste.”
Given his mid-university pivot, McLay encourages students to keep an open mind, maximize exposure to different experiences and try out a range of summer job opportunities.
“And while your technical skills are critical, it is the soft skills – including your ability to lead and work in a team – that separate the good from the great,” he adds.