West Def 2012

As some of you are no doubt aware CMSS sent a small delegation to the WestDef conference this week in Calgary. The conference was comprised mainly of representatives from industry, and while there were talks from government and military, the conference—like any industry conference—was really just an opportunity for networking and reconnaissance. As such, it seemed unlikely that our small delegation—armed only with some brochures, three posters (two after our centre unit decided to lose its vertical integrity), a fishbowl, and a whole lot of heart and moxy—could make any real headway in promoting our Co-op program. However, I think we surprised a lot of people—including ourselves! While we went in to the conference without a) a coherent sales strategy; b) a defined target market; and c) a prepared, rehearsed, and vetted sales pitch (perhaps it is becoming apparent that I have done some sales in my life) we grew these necessary components organically as the day went on. Over time we became a three headed monster; concisely and persuasively detailing the advantages for firms—always convinced at the start they had no use for anyone but engineers—in participating in our co-op program.

As this is a public blog (and I don’t want to jinx things either) I will not list the names of the companies we spoke with. Suffice to say we made many useful contacts in many different sectors of industry and government. Firms ranging from robotics and aviation, personal protection and armor, aeronautical design, and business development all seemed highly interested in discussing the potential of hiring a CMSS co-op student. Furthermore, contacts were made with several government agencies, all of which are highly relevant to our course of study. All told (and perhaps Erin or Nancy can correct me if I’m wrong) we had upwards of seven highly motivated companies leave our desk. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that we have raised the awareness of our co-op program, forged many new and useful links in industry, and significantly increased the likelihood of our CMSS co-op students (present and future) being placed in a worthwhile and beneficial position.

None of this could have been possible without the hard work of Nancy and Erin. Nancy’s comprehensive knowledge of the “whos and wheres” was helpful to no end; and her knowledge of university and department procedures and rules greatly expedited and facilitated the process. I would like to extend a personal thanks to her for all of her hard work, and for making the process enjoyable and fruitful.

I would like to extend special thanks to Miss Erin Charman. As many of you know Erin will be leaving us soon. While many people would simply have gone through the motions at this conference Erin was indispensable; without her the sales this process likely would have never got off the ground. We formed a formidable sales duo, and by the end worked as well-oiled as any machine ever has. Erin deserves personal thanks from everyone for her hard work in this regard, and I would hope any current or future co-op students offers the same heartfelt thanks for her efforts.

All in all the conference was an excellent and worthwhile experience for both me and the department. While I may not be a participant next year I hope that the CMSS considers participation next year and in the years to come, as contacts with industry—whether from a professional or academic perspective—are indispensable.