Badi Khan has worked on a variety of projects in his nine years at AMEC, including nuclear submarine decommissioning and power plant refurbishment. He tells us about the company's amazing graduate training programme, his tips on doing a Masters, and the future of nuclear energy!
What does your role as Senior Engineer/Project Manager at AMEC involve?
I’m a chemical engineer by education, but we actually do a lot of nuclear engineering work here in the Toronto office. We are a consulting company and support the full life cycle of nuclear energy, from new build and reactor support, to nuclear decommissioning and waste management. Our Toronto office gets projects from utilities in Canada and the US, so when we have expertise which they don’t have, they come to us. They also come to us if they’re overloaded with work.
I work in both a technical and project management capacity. Currently, I am involved with a lot of work in the area of nuclear station refurbishment and analysis of natural hazards like earthquakes, flooding and tornadoes. Natural hazards analysis has taken on a new importance after Fukushima and we are at the center of it. It’s a relatively new field, and we are fast becoming the experts in it. It’s a very interesting time to work for AMEC. I really enjoy working with experts in chemical, environmental and mechanical engineering because usually a multi-disciplinary approach is needed to solve problems faced by nuclear power plants.
What are you up to these days?
Right now we’re working on a giant nuclear refurbishment project. Actually, two of them: one has just ended, one is just starting. This is the kind of billion-dollar mega-project you hope you get once in your career. It's very exciting.
Most of my job right now is being a project manager. These days there’s a lot of follow-up work after the Fukushima accident in 2011. We're looking at external hazards and how they affect nuclear power plants, i.e. earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. Hazard work has come my way a lot, it’s a relatively new field, and we are fast becoming the experts in it. It’s a very interesting time to work for AMEC.
Are most of your colleagues also from a chemical engineering background?
It’s a mix. We have quite a lot of chemical engineers, but also a lot of mechanical engineers, nuclear engineers, physicists; there is a separate division for electrical, and instrumentation and control engineers, as well as civil engineers. And beyond that, there are also specialists in other areas, e.g. environmental scientists, mathematicians and chemists.
Do you hire fresh grads?
We have a strong graduate trainee program, not just in the nuclear business, but across AMEC as a whole. I was one myself. After finishing my Masters in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto, where I also did my Bachelors, I applied to AMEC. The HR staff held an information session and I was very impressed by the kind of work the company was involved with. There were only five places up for grabs and, from what I am told, nearly two hundred applications, but luckily I got in. The company has grown three times in size since I joined, and we do usually take more than five trainees a year.
The trainee program lasts for two years; you spend six months in a division, then move on to another one to learn something new. The mentorship program is excellent: For example, I was well coached through six months in reactor physics, an area where I only had basic knowledge beforehand. I also spent six months in the commercial operations division here, and it was great to pick up some business savvy to understand how the infrastructure of our company worked.
Do you have any tips for a current engineering undergraduate who what tips to join AMEC?
If your university has some kind of professional experience/co-op program, I would apply for an internship through that. It really is valuable experience, whether you get hired later by AMEC or not.
AMEC itself has partnerships with lots of universities in Canada, and the Toronto office does hold information sessions at Universities such as Toronto, Waterloo, McMaster, UOIT and Western Ontario.
But even if your university doesn’t have a partnership with AMEC or doesn’t get these information sessions, you can still get in to the company by applying through amec.com
. Once you get to interview level, you’ll be evaluated on your talent. At that point the playing field is even.
Did you enjoy your Masters?
Oh, yes. At the undergraduate level things go from course to course and you are given structure. At the Masters level, you have to create that structure. You are accountable to nobody except yourself. If that appeals to you – like it did to me – I say go for it. For me personally, when I did my Masters I knew exactly what I wanted to do; there was a very specific research project with a specific professor. Because I had that direction and clear picture, I completed my Masters degree in 15 months. Specificity of aims is definitely important.
What kind of salary does a starting engineer get at AMEC?
We’re an international engineering and project management company, and the pay can vary depending on experience, region and sector, but we are more than competitive.
What are the hot topics in the industry that undergrads applying to AMEC should know about?
The role of nuclear power has been impacted by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and the lessons learned. Following Fukushima, many countries faced political and economic pressure to back off from nuclear power. However, the reality is that there are countries like France and regions like Ontario in Canada where the lion’s share of electricity comes from nuclear. Other countries like the UAE are heavily investing in new nuclear power plants. So I believe nuclear will remain part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future.