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Q&A with Vinay Shandal, the global head of Sustainable Finance & Managing Director/Partner at Boston Consulting Group, at this year’s Hack the Globe, which kicked off Feb. 29. (Photo: Michael Tenaglia)

Instead of asking, “how do I build the best optimization model?” Malik Ismail (EngSci 1T6 + PEY) wants engineering students to ask themselves, “How do I build the best optimization model to serve the needs of this community?”

That’s the impetus behind Global Engineering Week (GE Week), happening March 9 to 15.

Founded by Ismail, GE Week aims to empower students at U of T Engineering, and across the country, to shift their perspectives and apply their engineering knowledge to solve big-picture problems, from climate change to the global refugee crisis to health-care accessibility. This year, Ismail and organizers anticipate GE Week will engage nearly 10,000 students across Canada.

Now in its fourth year, GE Week has expanded to five universities with events at U of T Engineering, Western University, University of Waterloo, McMaster University and University of British Columbia.

At U of T, events include a Global Engineering Fair, in partnership with U of T chapters of Engineers Without Borders, Sustainable Engineers Association, and Women in Science and Engineering, as well as Hack the Globe, the first social-impact hackathon of its kind in Canada.

The main event is a speaker panel on the applications of artificial intelligence in the developing world, moderated by Marieme Lo, the associate director of the School of Cities and director of African Studies at U of T. Panelists include:

  • Omar Dhalla, senior vice president of solutions and strategy at Element AI;
  • Sarah Cairns-Smith, senior advisor, senior partner, and worldwide health care and global health lead at Boston Consulting Group (BCG);
  • Mark Wensley, financial technology specialist, and former associate director of inclusive digital economies for Africa at the Mastercard Foundation; and,
  • Professor Joseph Wong, U of T’s vice-provost and associate vice-president of international student experience

Since graduating from U of T Engineering, Ismail has worked as a consultant at BCG, where he’s seen firsthand how an increase in social consciousness has changed how companies operate.

“Today we are facing massive global challenges that are underserved, impacting every facet of life — the investors care, customers care, and so doing social impact is now just doing good business.”

In order for industries to continue to want to make a difference, such as establishing carbon-neutral operations, for example, “we need students — the future faces of these companies — to think this way,” he says.

By the end of GE Week, Ismail hopes that students walk away from the experience with the understanding that global and social impact is not divergent from their engineering careers. “A global perspective is imperative.”

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Fahad Pinto
Communications & Media Relations Strategist