Breanna DeFreitas (she/her) is in her fourth year, studying Geography and Environmental Management, specializing in Climate Change and Environment. She is the recipient of the Co-op Student of the Year Award for the Faculty of Environment. Breanna delves into the details of her journey at Evolugen by Brookfield Renewable, who nominated her for this recognition.
Evolugen is a leader in the renewable energy industry and Breanna was a part of their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) team. During this work term, she had the opportunity to work on their greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, GHG data quality control project and she managed relations with third-party consultants. Her contributions resulted in the delivery of GHG inventory six weeks ahead of schedule, improving data quality while reducing costs.
Breanna also worked on Evolugen’s Sustainability Report which highlights the company’s focus on sustainability and details progress on key ESG issues, including community support, indigenous relations, water management and biodiversity protection. She completed benchmarking of sustainability reports across industries and presented her findings and recommendations to the VP of Sustainability. She assisted in developing a framework to roll out the report going forward. She was able to apply her knowledge from her degree to develop this report.
Q: How did it feel to be the first co-op student on the Environmental, Social and Governance team at Evolugen?
A: “I wasn’t sure what to expect but the team encouraged me to contribute wherever possible. They saw that I was capable of taking on more responsibility than they initially expected for a student. I am very grateful for the opportunities my supervisors provided for me to learn, create value and have a lasting impact on the team.”
Q: What skills and qualities did you gain from this co-op term?
A: “My written and verbal communication has improved from my time there as I drafted material for the Sustainability Report, conducted research on industry reports and presented it to the VP of Sustainability, and managed the relationship with a consultant to validate their work and oversee the project to ensure it was delivered on time. I also documented several processes for the GHG inventory that were used as records for an external audit, which allowed me to enhance my writing skills considerably. I also further developed my time management skills as I was responsible for several deliverables that had competing deadlines.”
Q: Did you face any challenges during your co-op position?
A: “The biggest challenge for me was the learning curve at the very beginning because I had no prior experience with renewable energy or corporate sustainability. I did a lot of background research to deepen my understanding of these topics and Evolugen’s business as a whole. I read almost any document I could get my hands on to get ahead of the learning curve. My previous co-ops have been with the government, so adapting to the company culture and orienting to their goals and expectations was an interesting experience as it opened my eyes to the differences from one workplace to another. ”
Q: Did any of your past co-ops give you any skills that helped you on this work term?
A: “Being in new situations is something that I’ve become quite familiar with at this point in my degree. I moved to Ottawa for the position and adapting to a new setting is something my previous co-ops have taught me. I also learned not to be afraid to ask questions, which I’ve found to be extremely important for any co-op position. In my experience, supervisors and managers have been happy to answer any question as it shows your engagement with your work and your thought process, and it avoids misunderstandings.”
“Overall, just being a part of a team and contributing on such a scale is something you don’t get to experience on an academic level. This was my fourth co-op, so I was really able to see the progress from my first co-op in terms of what work I was tasked with but also in my own performance.”
Q: Do you think this term helped shape your professional aspirations?
A: “Yes, as someone who is still not exactly sure about what I want to do later on, this position has given me experience in renewable energy and private industry, broadening my perspective and opening my eyes to new possibilities. Co-op is an amazing opportunity to try new things and help you see what elements of a job you like or dislike.”
Q: How does it feel to win the Co-op Student of the Year Award?
A: “It was a surprise to me when my employers wanted to nominate me. I did not think I had much of a shot but being recognized for the contributions that I have made to the company and the team is a great feeling. Again, the growth I’ve seen in myself and my abilities from my first co-op position to my final one is significant and having it all culminate in this award is something I am proud of.”
Here are some thoughts Breanna would like to share about her co-op experience at Evolugen:
Breanna was able to create experiences in a business environment and in the government. With the help of her co-op positions, she can make informed decisions about the direction of her career.
As we learned from Breanna’s story, working hard and believing in your abilities is key to being successful in your work terms. Don’t be afraid to apply to positions and industries you haven’t worked in before because co-op is a great time to develop new professional experiences.