Former WIL Students - Where Are They Now?

Carson Gdanski

Diploma, Forestry Technician - Ecosystem Management, Confederation College

Geological Technician, Bayside Geoscience

A lake located a short walk from the camp where he was staying, held the promise of early morning fishing before the start of his workday. In the stillness of that summer morning, came a rustling sound from the bushes. A mama black bear and four cubs emerged from the dense bush to enjoy some fishing too. Carson Gdanski quickly retreated to camp and left the fishing to the bears.

During the summer of 2021, Carson was employed as a Geological Technician co-op student for Bayside Geoscience, a mineral consulting service services company in Thunder Bay. He spent his summer work term prospecting for gold for one of the company’s clients.

The position involved working in camp for 10 - 30 day periods followed by time off. The camps were located in remote areas of northwestern Ontario and some were only accessible by bush plane and boat access.  The days were long and involved long traverses over difficult terrain. In addition to packing equipment, Carson also had to carry enough food and water for the 10-hour workdays. Bears, partridge, bald eagles, lynx and moose were native to the areas that Carson worked in.

Carson grew up in Toronto but developed his love of nature and forests during regular visits to the family cottage in the Haliburton area, a two-and-a-half hour drive north of Toronto. When he graduated high school, he had narrowed down his options to pursue post secondary education in either forestry or law. His love of nature led him to Confederation College’s Forestry Technician program. The broad curriculum offered and mandatory co-op component were exactly what he was looking for.

Unfortunately, his first work term was cancelled due to the pandemic lockdown, but his second placement was with Bayside Geoscience. The company works with mineral and mining exploration companies throughout northwestern Ontario providing services that include geologic modelling, mapping and prospecting, geochemical surveys, petrography, reporting, drilling programs, contractor management, work assessments, and other services. The company was looking for someone new to geology yet had specific skills. Many of the skills that Carson acquired in his forestry courses were transferrable to geological work including soil and tree sampling, the use of maps, LIDAR and GIS.

“Measurements of rock outcrops were also an important activity; these measurements could tell us how the outcrops were formed 1.8 billion years ago during the formation of the Canadian Shield and these measurements could tell us what types of minerals moved through this rock system.”

Bayside Geoscience was impressed with Carson’s work and offered him a full-time job at the end of his co-op work term. He is eventually considering returning to school, this time at nearby Lakehead University to obtain his Forestry degree and apply for his Registered Professional Forester designation.His long-term goal is to move into mine reclamation work but he would like to get some underground drilling experience first so that he has experience in the entire mining process.

And what about his interest in law? This is still a possibility and by combining his knowledge and experience in forestry, geology, and law, Carson would specialize in environmental law.

“I was surrounded by people who have been in the mining and mineral exploration field for quite some time. The best advice that I gathered from my experience would be that its ok to change what you do if it makes you happy and to always work hard and seek fulfillment within your work, having a long and difficult workday, being out in the woods for 10 hours and leaving back to camp knowing I gave it my all.”


Shirin Sajjadi

Ontario College Graduate Certificate, Big Data Analytics, Georgian College

Ontario College Graduate Certificate, Research Analyst, Georgian College

Data Analyst, iHUB, CEWIL

Shirin Sajjadi has a 4-year undergraduate degree in Computer Science and a Masters degree in Artificial Intelligence from the Islamic Azad University in Iran. When she chose to focus her studies on artificial intelligence, many of her classmates did not share her curiosity for the emerging technology, but Shirin had an inkling that it would be a big deal.

After working for a couple of years as a Software Engineer, Shirin started to have the same inkling about data analytics. With a solid educational foundation, Shirin started to look for a post secondary program that would complement her existing education. The Data Analytics program at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario was exactly what she was looking for. The two-semester program provides students with a mixture of theoretical knowledge and real-world application of data analytics.

However, she decided that it would be good to learn about the work culture in Canada first, so she took a position with Honda in their Alliston, Ontario plant. While in this role, she observed how people communicated and worked together in teams. These would be useful skills when she started school and would be interacting with her fellow students.

The Big Data Analytics program requires that students have a previous post secondary diploma or degree. Students learned why they would use a certain formula and how to use it. By combining the theoretical knowledge she gained from her university education, and the applied skills from her college program, Shirin emerged from the program with marketable skills.

"In college, they are trying to prepare students for work. The instructors have a lot of experience and introduce students to the application of what they are learning in school."

After graduating from the Big Data Analytics program, Shirin decided to enroll in a second technology program at Georgian College. The Research Analyst program is similarly structured to the Big Data Analytics program but also had a mandatory co-op component.

"Data is the language of math," Shirin explained to me. "You can tell a story with data. It allows people to understand the stories that the data reveals and then they can make a decision based on the data."

The Research Analyst program provided Shirin with research skills that would allow her to further analyze data. These skills were utilized during her co-op work term as a Junior Data Analyst with iHUB, a program offered by CEWIL Canada that provides grant-based funding to promote work integrated learning. She used her knowledge from both college programs in this role as she analyzed qualitative and quantitative data from students and employers participating in iHUB- funded projects.

Shirin’s co-op role was completed remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic and she was able to stay in Barrie, a community that she had grown to love because of its natural beauty. In addition to exploring all that Barrie had to offer, Shirin tried skydiving for her first time with Skydive Toronto. When she was 18, Shirin learned how to fly a glider so was experienced with airplanes but had never jumped out of one before. The experience brought back good memories from her glider training and she proved to herself that the sky is the limit and anything is possible.

In August 2021, Shirin graduated from the Research Analyst program with honors and accepted a full-time position with iHUB as a Data Analyst. She is continuing to work on the project that she started as a co-op student and is using Power BI to complete the dashboard for iHUB.

Shirin's co-op experience led to her full-time position after graduation. For students who are not sure if co-op is right for them, Shirin says, "Take everything seriously and learn as much as possible. Employers are always looking for bright minds. If you have an exceptional co-op work term, your chances of getting permanent employment with the same employer are greater."

Looking ahead, Shirin is interested in working in data modelling where she can focus on a specific problem. With her extensive education, skills and experience, Shirin will have no problem finding work in data science.