Ishani Dasgupta (she/her), a fourth-year Environment, Resources and Sustainability student, gives us an exclusive look into the various positions she has done in the environmental sector, and teaches us to always be ourselves no matter what!
Ishani has completed a total of four co-op terms:
- Work term 1 & 4: Liberty Utilities, Sustainability Analyst
- Work term 2: Natural Resource Solutions Inc. (NRSI), Biologist
- Work term 3: Alternatives Journal, Environmental Journalist
Although each of the roles she took on for her co-op work terms were quite different from one another, each one had at least some sort of involvement with the environment. All of these experiences have provided Ishani with the opportunity to work on many projects, and here are just a few of them.
This first project she took on was at her very first co-op term at Liberty Utilities. As a Sustainability Analyst, Ishani did a lot of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) work, as well as consulting and analyzing.
“There's a thing called rating agencies, which will look at your company and will say, ‘how exposed to risk are you?’ ‘How good are you at being sustainable?’ and that's very important for a company to actually be in the market,” says Dasgupta.
“So I was doing a lot of large consultancy projects with some very high-level rating agencies. I had to spend a lot of time talking on the phone with them, kinda haggling a little bit to be like, ‘please improve our score’, and they did in the end, so that was a great success for me."
"It was also a very big learning experience. It was my first co-op term. I was dealing with pretty large projects at the time. But the team was pretty small and kind of felt like a family, so it was a good sort of atmosphere there.”
Now switching gears over to another project Ishani completed while at NRSI, where she was actually working in the field with a rare species - pretty cool, right?
She says, “I was looking at a rare endangered snake species and how it adapted to prescribed burn lands, which are just like lands that have been burned purposely to kind of improve its overall ecological state. We wanted to see like, ‘how the biodiversity in that area improved, yes or no?’ ‘Should we be doing this to farmlands that need to be remediated?’"
"So, we were looking at an endangered fox snake, her name was Sarah, she was very cute. I know that's weird to say, but she was, a very great snake. We were following her around, tracking her, she seemed to be having a good time with the environment, and it said a lot about how to restore it.”
She then steered into a completely different direction, and worked in journalism. Ishani goes on to say, “Alternatives Journal was interesting. I did a lot of writing. I did a lot of interviews. I spoke to someone on the BBC for a movie on an endangered whale."
"I wrote an article on Imperial Oil, and then Imperial Oil messaged me, which was really scary, but I made it through, I'm alive at the end of it, they didn't send anyone for me. The magazine was the biggest thing. So, finding writers, asking me to write different content for the magazine, and overall putting it together. Then throughout, kind of just managing the social media and the page.”
For her fourth co-op term, she returned to her first employer, Liberty Utilities, and spent a good chunk of her time working on the company’s annual ESG report. She mentions, “A lot of companies don’t spend that much money on it, but investors will spend millions and millions of dollars depending on how great the report is.”
How do you adapt to a culturally diverse work environment?
“It's a bit complicated actually. It's kind of like, you just have to go into it, and no one really prepares you on how to adjust to environments, sometimes you're just literally thrown into it, and that's actually what university is like when you jump into first-year and it’s scary, and you have to deal with it."
"But, I find that the differences in culture actually enhance my learning and how to actually think about things too. For example, indigeneity or indigenous participation in projects is a shared trait I found among all of my co-op terms, and like every co-op term I’ve learned a little bit more about indigenous peoples and how they relate to projects that we do.”
“It's very difficult to say that I have got the experience to converse and manage and deal with projects involving these peoples, but I feel as though I now understand more significantly the importance of it."
"I've already understood this in learning, but in co-op you'll see the action itself. Culture wise, as a person of colour, I’ve worked in a co-op position where I was the only person of colour and that felt a little spooky too. Sometimes you think like, ‘if I don't do a good job, will they hire someone who's like me later?’ That's the significance and the impact, and I want others to know that you don't have to feel that burden, that burden is not something that is yours to carry, it's something that society has unfortunately placed on people.”
“Just understand that you can be your authentic self, understand that you're different and that's okay. But also understand that you don't have to educate people on what it means when you're doing your cultural events."
"For example, my manager is doing Ramadan and I know what Ramadan is, because I've practiced it, and I have friends who have practiced it, so I know what it is. But, she does not need to explain more, she just needs to do it, and have people accept it, and that's something that should just happen naturally, and if it doesn't, then you can for sure raise a complaint.”
“Diversity is always a difficult subject, but it's just be who you are and accept who others are too. You can't have an environment without identity. Your identity is always important in the environment, it actually doesn't work without it. So, you need to have that strong sort of center point, and allow others to as well.”
All four of your co-op positions have been very different from one another. What has been the most rewarding thing about this journey?
“Honestly, the most rewarding thing about co-op is first, it gives you the opportunity to figure out what you want to do. Everyone thinks that university is where that happens, and yeah that’s true, like you'll study and you’ll be like, ‘this is kind of interesting’, but you'll not know until you're in the working field. There’s a bit of a risk if you're not in co-op, like you'll “start later” than some people that may have started earlier. Then you will have to figure that out after you graduate, which is another scary thing, because you have to think about your own living and how you need to do other things other than just school, and that's a little stressful.”
“So, it gives you the chance of exploration and also security. Like, I'm not gonna lie and say that the money isn’t good, because I like the money part too, and it helps me with things like rent, affordability, and I really enjoy it. It’s of really no cost to me other than the fact that it's like a few more in tuition. Then honestly, the most rewarding thing is that it reassures you on what you're learning."
“But It was fun to be like, ‘oh, like all this stuff that they're talking about that I can do one day I've already done and I'm now at a higher level of education’, in my own mind, because I know what this is like. I have a better idea of what I want to do after I graduate.”
What’s next for you?
“Honestly, getting through my last year is a goal of mine, which is fun. Thankfully, I'm not doing a co-op term next term, so I'm just gonna chill, do part-time work, and live my life. I think a goal of mine ultimately is to work in the environmental sector, probably in something related to communications or consultancy. Probably a bit of both.”
“I have this like pipeline dream project that one day I will share with the world and maybe we'll see if it works. That's what I'm doing my thesis on. If I was dreaming, then maybe being a professor one day too. I just think learning this much stuff at this age is also really good, and I'd like to share it with others so we'll see. Those are my goals for now.”