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More than 400 students and 125 mentors connected at this year's Backpack to Briefcase eventJanuary 25, 2019

Students and alumni had the opportunity to network and connect at annual Backpack to Briefcase event.

Imagine being in a room filled with leading experts in the field you want to pursue who are there for the sole purpose of mentoring you? For more than 400 McMaster Engineering students, this wasn't just a dreamy thought — it was an unmissable opportunity brought to life by our annual Backpack to Briefcase event.

More than 125 mentors who work in a variety of engineering fields came to McMaster on Wednesday, January 23 to network and connect with students. Representing a breadth of backgrounds and insights from their days at McMaster and in their respective industries, they spoke about their experiences with academics, study skills, day-to-day issues, career planning, networking and professional development.

Gabrielle Bouchard, B.Eng. '13,  Jessica Radko, Mechanical Engineering and Management Co-op III student and Jordan Van Schyndel, B.Eng. Society '08 (Software Eng.) kicked off the evening with a panel discussion about how past Backpack to Briefcase sessions helped them make connections that led to co-op and employment opportunities.

Couldn't make it to the event but wish you did? Here's what alumni and students had to say.

 Backpack to Briefcase.

Jodie Atkins, M.Eng. '98, Manager for Bridges, Structures & Expressways for the City of Toronto

What's the best piece of advice you'd give a Mac Eng student?

The best piece of advice I'd give a Mac Eng student, especially students in first or second year, is to really make sure you're choosing a discipline that you genuinely enjoy. Make sure you're picking something that would imagine enjoying for an entire career.

What kind of experiences should Mac Eng students be looking for?

Mac Eng students should be looking for experiences that can really help them build kind of a breadth of experience. If you're interested in structural engineering and your co-op placement is something to do with construction, even though it may not seem like it's related, all the experiences you can gather are going to feed into something that builds toward a really successful career.


Jordan Van Schyndel, Software Engineering B.Eng Society '08, Vice President of Spira - Toronto

What's the best piece of advice you'd give a Mac Eng student?

The best piece of advice I would give a Mac Eng student is not to be shy and to recognize that the stereotype of engineers not being good with people is false, because business and the world is people.

What kind of experiences should Mac Eng students be looking for?

Students should be looking for a mixture of academic and social experiences. I got a good mix; I was part of the football team here, as well, which was a fantastic boost to my personal growth and my experience at McMaster. So, get involved with clubs. Get involved with your faculty. Meet other people in different faculties. Try not to silo yourself with just the engineering crew. I think you'll come out a better person for it.


Isabela Ozamiz, B.Eng Electrical & Computer '17, Software Developer at Evertz

What's the best piece of advice you'd give a Mac Eng student?

Take advantage of all the things happening on campus. There's a lot of different industry nights, and when I was in first year or second year, I thought that I didn't have the experience necessary to attend those events. Looking back and coming back now as an alumni to those things, it's when you're in first year and second year that you get the best advice. You kind of learn about the different jobs that are out there, and you kind of see where you want to go. In Eng. 1, I had no idea which stream I wanted to go to, and after going to industry night, that's when you figure out what kind of job you get when you graduate from those streams.

Why did you want to give back and mentor current Mac Eng students?

I really wanted to give back because I benefitted from having a mentor.  When I was a first-year, I met a girl, her name was Alexis, and she really helped me find what I liked. Even though electrical was a really male-dominated field, she talked about her experience in electrical engineering and she really helped me to feel comfortable in what I liked.  She also helped me look into industry jobs, and I'd love to do that for someone else.


Yohann Printer, B.Tech '17, Project Engineer at Darcor Casters Limited

What's your fondest memory of being a Mac Eng student?

My fondest memory of being a Mac Eng student was going out to competitions with my peers. We got to engage in the Baja SAE competition, which took me across the United States to several races. That was a lot of fun to do that outside the classroom with my peers.

Why did you want to give back and mentor current Mac Eng students?

I wanted to give back and mentor because I came to this event myself when I was an undergrad, and I found that the connections I made here, even if they didn't result in a career, definitely shaped my knowledge and my career path moving forward, so I think it's important to build these networks and these relationships.


Gowri Gowda, Eng. I Co-op student

Why did you come tonight?

I came tonight mostly because, as a first-year, as someone really new to engineering, I wanted to know what was actually out there. Like, "Yeah, I know that I can choose mechanical engineering — what does mechanical engineering look like in the real world?" I definitely found out engineering is way more exciting than I could even think.

What is the most valuable thing you took away from this event?

The promise of networking. Everyone here is so enthusiastic, so willing to answer everyone else's questions. The knowledge that the work force isn't this big, scary monster that has hidden rules.


Andrew McBride, Mechanical Engineering V student

Why did you come tonight?

I'm looking for the opportunity to continue to build my network. This is a room full of alumni that have been in my shoes. Some more recent than others, but all of them have gone through McMaster Engineering and out into the professional workplace before, so I'm looking to ride on that commonality between the two of us and hopefully build a network and learn from them. I'm really looking for someone that can help teach me all the things that I don't know when heading into this graduation year, as well as potentially look to find a career and plan my career path better going forward.

What do you think you'll enjoy most about being a Mac Eng grad one day?

I think the first thing would be the network that comes along with being a Mac Eng alumni. There's thousands of us out there, and being able to have that one common thing just makes it easier to break the ice when you're trying to meet new people, as well as work in a professional setting. So, being able to have that massive network of people that have both come to Mac and gone through the same program as me, as I continue to try to meet future mentors and people that I can learn from in my career, I think that's what I'm most excited about.