Everything changed for Mr. Alam in February, 2016, when he earned the chance to shadow one of Canada’s most powerful chief executives, Dave Mowat, who leads Alberta-based financial institution and Crown corporation ATB Financial.
“Dave told me not to really focus on that career mind-map, and instead follow my passions,” Mr. Alam said, adding that Mr. Mowat advised him that, “as long as you love what you do, you’re going to succeed in the end.”
With that advice, Mr. Alam decided to organize a small campus team to answer a request from the Alberta Government calling on students to help develop sustainable energy resources in the province.
“We came up with the idea of taking canola oil and making marketable fuels such as diesel, jet fuel and gasoline,” said Mr. Alam, adding that Alberta’s government liked the idea enough to dedicate $10-million collected from the carbon levy to design a renewable-energy biofuels pilot plant. If successful, the province plans to build a larger facility in 2018 that can process 200 million litres of canola oil annually, which could save 112,000 tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions by the year 2020.
“Dave really inspired me to take on that project, because I saw it as an opportunity to really help Alberta and Canada and the world through renewable-energy development,” Mr. Alam said.
The job-shadowing experience that paired the two was part of an annual program by executive recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson. Now in its fourth year in Canada, the CEO-for-a-day program matches students with executives to help bridge the gap between millennials and business leaders.
“Every generation has an almost built-in resentment or criticism of the generation that follows,” said Eric Beaudan, the global head of Odgers Berndtson’s leadership practice, adding that this reflex can be counterproductive and even damaging to employer-employee relationships. “One of the statistics we better get used to is that by 2020 the global work force will be 50 per cent made up by millennials.”