“Make sure you don’t get confined to an office.”

Aly Elgayar has taken these words to heart ever since they were first uttered by one of his professors while working towards his Master of Applied Science degree at the University of Ottawa. Since then, he has sought opportunities to get outside, on site and deeply involved in projects.

As a promising student, Aly originally came on board as part of our geotechnical group, testing samples in a laboratory as a contract student while still working on his degree. This was in stark contrast to his professor’s advice, but when launching a career, rarely do we find an exact fit on our first attempt.

Talking to his manager about finding some data to complete his masters, he was introduced to Alam Ansari, the senior project manager for infrastructure and transportation. They hit it off right away. The interesting and wide-ranging discussion that followed thoroughly impressed Alam.

“He seemed like a remarkable young man,” Alam recalls. “One of the great intangibles when you’re building a team is whether they will fit. By the way he conducted himself, I could tell it was right. When he expressed an interest in structural design, I asked him flat out, ‘will you join my team?’”

Aly didn’t hesitate to accept. An opportunity in infrastructure engineering would get him outdoors, away from computer screens and into the real world. Best of all, he wouldn’t be alone to do it. He would have Alam’s support every step of the way.

That’s when Alam set Aly a challenging target – “I want you to learn as much as you can in one year.”

He invited him to absorb the industry lingo and get up to speed on the processes and procedures that would aid his progress. In that time, he gained exposure to other disciplines, observing the impact of his work and how it integrates into the whole. He shadowed inspections to see the issues that arise in the field.

“Every day is a learning opportunity,” advised Alam. “Like any structure, first build your foundation. If it is solid and strong, it’s quicker and easier to build on.”

In the two years since, Alam has provided the benefit of his 30+ years of experience to guide Aly through a series of important transitions. From student life to becoming a competent professional. From looking at projects in the abstract to understanding the practical implications of his designs. From the job in the lab to establishing a career in infrastructure engineering. Aly continues to learn all he can.

With Alam’s guidance, Aly feels unrestrained and free to take on  new challenges.

“I’m in the process of applying for my professional engineering designation right now,” says Aly. “Alam has always been very supportive of my development. When I need flexibility in my schedule, he helps me find ways to balance competing priorities … I’m not sure I could do it without him!”

Mentor: Alam Ansari, P.Eng. | Senior Project Manager, Infrastructure + Transportation | Ottawa, ON
Mentee: Aly Elgayar | Engineering Designer | Ottawa, ON

*Originally published in EXP’s Expresso: Mentorship