From humble beginnings to finance leader
This article was originally featured on Waterloo News.
Before his start at Waterloo, Chester Dawes (BMath ’99, PDAcc ’99) didn’t know what a high-powered career in finance could look like. To begin with, his parents emigrated from Jamaica in the early ‘70s to start a new life; Chester and his two brothers grew up going to schools in Canada where most kids did not look like them. As a child growing up in an immigrant family environment, Chester’s career goals were quite humble: “My measure of success was a career where I could go on a vacation and not worry about where the money came from.”
Having held senior positions in multiple far-flung geographies (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific) at various companies throughout his nearly 25-year career, it’s safe to say that Chester has racked up plenty of frequent flyer miles and achieved great success professionally since graduating from the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) in 1999. Chester is currently the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Melody Investment Advisors LP, an investment management firm where his responsibilities include accounting and finance and working with portfolio companies to raise and deploy capital and overseeing internal operations.
“At Melody, we invest in digital infrastructure such as wireless towers, fibre and data centres which are the backbone for communications,” describes Chester. “These are some of the key parts of the ecosystem that makes virtual meetings, events, and conference calls happen.”
And what a time to invest in digital infrastructure when much of the world is working remotely — including the Melody team. “Melody has historically had a strong technical infrastructure and business continuity plan in place,” says Chester. “Once the pandemic began, we were able to seamlessly transition to full remote operations with staff spread across the States because we could work from anywhere.”
Prior to COVID, Chester, who lives in Toronto with his wife and two children, would spend two to three weeks a month working from his Manhattan office. “Normally, I would be in the States, visiting some of the companies we own and going to Europe four times a year for board meetings and overseeing some of our off-shore vehicles,” states Chester.
Influencing perspectives in how business is done
Working remotely hasn’t posed too many challenges for Chester or his teams, but the nature of the industry of private equity, “which requires working long hours, makes it convenient to be able to huddle in person and have ad hoc conversations,” notes Chester.
A culture shift was needed in how business was conducted. Raising capital has traditionally involved in-person meetings but when the global pandemic hit, how do you acquire a company when you can’t go out and see it? Virtual meetings, virtual tours, and conference calls, and lots of them, have become the new norm for Melody to raise capital and deploy capital into potential investment opportunities.
Fostering team culture
The pandemic also slowed down growth and skill development of teams, to which Chester pivoted around the challenge to find new ways of building his team. Melody had equipped their staff ahead of the lockdown with the virtual tools needed to stay connected from a work- from- home environment. One of the positives for Chester has been the ability to get to know and work with colleagues on a more intimate level, “you see people in their home offices with their kids running by and get a deepened sense of their values and work ethics.”
In building his career in finance, Chester “entered an industry where virtually no one looked like me.” Fostering a sense of belonging and community was an important factor as Chester grew Melody’s teams and implemented regular team events and ensured that the events continued throughout the pandemic. The virtual team events are varied in activity and engagement level, that not only helped to solidify the relationships amongst Melody’s teams, but also provided a much-needed aspect of fun to relieve stress while building community and creating cohesive and collaborative teams.
Thinking about his time at Waterloo, Chester credits the university for providing a career perspective that’s not just about financial success. “I look at my peers and we’ve all done well. We’re in leadership positions and gaining fulfillment from what we do and the change that we’re driving and influencing.”
Chester’s Waterloo experiences provided the confidence he needed to persevere in building his career to what it is today. “I’ve exceeded my original goals and am in leadership positions where I never thought I’d be.”
The heat is on for the annual Weather Station contest
In a sure sign that spring is around the corner, the UW Weather Station is now accepting entries for the 2021 edition of the University of Waterloo weather station contest.
"For the last 4 years the winning date has been later and later each year, including last year when the winning date for the UW Weather Station Contest was not only the latest date we have seen in the history of the contest, but also the latest first 20°C day in the over 100 years of weather records in the region," says a note from the weather station. "What does that mean for this year? Let us know when you think it will first hit 20C as it is now time to enter the UW weather station contest."
In 2020, the station was renamed the Eric D. (Ric) Soulis Memorial Weather Station in honour of hydrologist and civil engineering professor Ric Soulis (1949-2018). Ric was an enthusiastic teacher, mentor, problem solver, and the driving force behind the station.
For more information contact Frank Seglenieks, the weather station coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A story for children going back to school in the age of COVID
By Elizabeth Kleisath. This article was originally featured on Waterloo News.
When Sara Ibrahim was at home over the summer of 2020, she recognized that her younger siblings and many of their friends were anxious and confused about going back to school, especially as the guidelines were changing often.
As a fourth-year biomedical sciences student, Ibrahim realized that she had the skills and knowledge to alleviate some of their stress about what school might be like during the COIVD-19 pandemic.
“It was then that I decided to write a short, illustrated story book and activities at the end of the book, to have the readers engaged and also informed on the rules of physical distancing and staying sanitized,” Ibrahim says. “I decided to write a story book in hopes of helping the children in my community. I wanted to communicate a little about the virus in a kid-friendly way for the younger generations, so that they can learn and have their questions answered.”
Ibrahim’s goal is to someday become a medical doctor. She has always wanted to help others and contribute positively to her community, and hopes that her chosen career path will let her make a difference for others. In the meantime, during the pandemic, she realized that she had the ability to make a difference, even while still a student, by writing this book.
“I wrote the book in a way so it is not age restricted and people of all ages can read and solve the puzzles,” Ibrahim says. “I’m hoping this book is a source of information to be used by children, parents and teachers, while also reaching audiences like siblings, aunts and uncles, who can read and discuss the book with children will have a greater impact.”
The story itself, titled Kolo’s Unique Return to School, follows the main character Kolo as he learns from his parents about the changes that are happening at his school, and then through his first day back, when he adjusts to the new safety requirements, but still finds ways to have fun with his friends. The book outlines guidelines and safety practices in a way that is understandable for children and includes activities at the end to solidify the safety practices described.
In order to ensure that the information included in the book was accurate and did not unintentionally spread misinformation, Ibrahim worked alongside Professor Heidi Engelhardt from the Department of Biology, and used the resources provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the Government of Canada.
“Sara was in one of my winter 2020 courses. I feel particularly close to that cohort since we all ‘pivoted’ to online together,” Engelhardt says. “When she emailed me in July, pitching her idea about this book, I was really excited about it and impressed that she had the energy to take it on. My role was minimal — looking at a few drafts, and getting her tapped into the local writing community, beginning with a connection I had through the Science Communication courses. The outcome, Kolo, is all Sara’s vision.”
When she first started this project, Ibrahim thought that writing and illustrating the book would be the hardest part. In the time since the story was written, however, she has faced many challenges. First, her illustrative partner backed out part way through, leaving much of the illustration work to Ibrahim. Then, her publication plans got derailed due to access and resources for self-publishing a printed book, so she settled on an online version. This approach had its own challenges though, as she had to teach herself to code in order to share the book.
“The feeling of finally having this book out is so wonderful,” Ibrahim says. “I hope that children can read the book and be better prepared, or have had a reminder on some of the safety precautions before going back to school now that schools are opening up again.”
Lecture takes on the omission and exclusion of Black people in Canada's past
Renison University College is hosting “Omission and Exclusion of Black People in Canada’s Past” on Friday, February 26, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. This event is being held in partnership with the Waterloo Public Library and is sponsored by the Renison School of Social Work.
This event will be led by Professor Wilburn Hayden, who has been a university professor and social worker since 1973. He teaches and writes from critical race and anti-oppression perspectives. Growing up in the segregated southern USA, he knows of the racial injustice struggle in the USA and Canada firsthand. His social work practice experiences include being the chief social worker in a state prison, organizing within disadvantaged communities, directing a human services agency, and involvement in political campaigns in North America.
This talk is an examination of the ethos which sees Canada as a place where racial injustice, inequality and discrimination were at most limited and outside of the Canadian mainstream. Canadian historical records documenting the early arrival of Blacks, and White responses to their arrival reveal a different story. Contemporary Canadian racism continues to negatively affect opportunities for Blacks and their quality of life. The interplay of the recorded history and contemporary denials are seen as key elements for challenging the Canadian Ethos. This Ethos is a factor in creating barriers that prevent Black and White Canadians from recognizing the need for change.
The Waterloo Centre for German Studies has announced that nominations are open for the Piller Graduate Research Award. "The Cecilia and late George Piller Award is given each year to two excellent full-time graduate students in the Faculty of Arts who conduct research related to German language, culture, history, and/or society," says a note from the WCGS. "Each award is valued at $4,000."
Application procedures are as follows:
- Eligible students can apply by submitting a CV and a one-page research project proposal (single-spaced, references can be on a separate sheet). Applicants must also arrange for a letter of support from a UW faculty member.
- In order to be considered, the above documents and letter of support should be submitted to WCGS via the online form by March 15.
"The submissions will be adjudicated based on the merit of the proposal, its contribution to the goals of the Centre, and the student’s record of graduate study and research."
For more information, contact Lori Straus, the administrative assistant for the Waterloo Centre for German Studies.
The next Employee Wellness Session, entitled COVID-19 – Calming Your Mind in Challenging Times, takes place Thursday, February 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.
"The design of scientific figures is a key step that all researchers undertake as they present or publish their work, but one that they typically receive little training or education on how to do effectively," says a note from the workshop organizers. "Frankel is a science photographer and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an internationally recognized expert in scientific graphics, visualization, photography, and communication of scientific results to the public."
The workshop takes place at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.