Alumnus - Class of 2019

professional headshot of class of 2019 student Harleen KahlonCurrent position:  Planner (Provincial Planning Office), Ontario Ministry of Transportation 
Co-op position: Advisor, CleanTech & Advanced Manufacturing Branch, Ontario Investment Office (OIO), Ministry of Economic Development and Growth
Academic background:  Bachelor of Arts, Double Major in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies, Minor in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), University of Toronto

Why did you choose Waterloo’s MPS program?

Funnily enough, one of the key reasons why I chose the MPS program was after reading the student profiles online, just like you are now. In addition, I discovered the MPS program offered a unique combination of community, courses, and co-op opportunities; one that was unique, especially in regards to the 8-month academic and subsequent 8-month co-op portions. Through researching this program, I also found that the network surrounding current and former cohorts to be immensely strong. It was clear that this program is designed to set students up for success both academically and professionally in the classroom and after graduation. I was searching for a professional master’s program that would provide practical skills and knowledge that would serve to develop and enhance my career prospects and I am happy to say that I found that with MPS.

Tell us about your current co-op position.

In my current co-op position, I am supporting the CleanTech and Advanced Manufacturing team. We proactively build and maintain relationships with key strategic companies in the province to support their growth and development. In this role, I get the opportunity to research various CleanTech companies and technologies contributing to Ontario’s CleanTech sector, help with the overall goal of the OIO, and to increase international investment and domestic business growth for the province of Ontario. My role often involves site visits, conferences, meetings, calls, and constant interaction and support of various stakeholders. I also help create company profiles and presentations for various sectors within the branch (wind, solar, nuclear, smart grid, smart materials, smart cities, energy storage and steel), and conduct research for briefing materials.

How did the MPS program, including your co-op experiences prepare you for a career?

The MPS program organically taught me how to transition from being a student to a young professional. I was given the skills and knowledge needed to be an efficient public servant. This included project management skills, how to write briefing notes, information notes and question period notes, and the ability to understand how policies are enacted. In addition, I was exposed to various economic concepts and learned how to interpret statistical data; skills that I did not have prior to this program. Through endless presentations, mock interviews and group projects, I became a better communicator. Overall, the MPS program both inadvertently and intentionally taught me how to effectively manage my time and this has really helped to positively shape my current co-op position as I’m able to manage multiple projects simultaneously.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

There are SO many to choose from, it’s hard to even shorten the list down to a couple of moments! An overall memory that I’ll always treasure includes every time I got to witness someone going out of their way to help someone else. This happened too many times to count, but it was truly priceless to see how this community developed and snowballed and the massive impact helping one another had on our cohort as a unified body. Classmates conducted mock-interviews with one another, conducted group tutoring sessions before major assignments and exams, edited one another’s resumes late into the night; we were truly all in this together (yes, it’s a High School Musical reference). By the end, I had ultimately gained 55 friends.

Additional memories include: being a part of the MPSA, the Christmas party, life chats with Sheila and Ramona, Professor Sen’s birthday party, telling amazing jokes, the Ottawa trip, visits from Lucy (Sheila’s dog), and of course playing on the intramural soccer team and just about winning every game.   

What have you learned about yourself as a result of the program and your career?

I have learned that I generally enjoy having a packed schedule and a lot on my plate. I also learned that I enjoy group work and wearing a lot of hats. As a result, this program and my current co-op experience have jointly taught me that I am a person that thrives when challenged and that I need frequent change.

What has been your most interesting experience working in the public service?

My most interesting experience working the public service so far has definitely been experiencing the Writ drop and experiencing a change in government. It has been unique experience to have had so early in my career in public service, mainly in reference to learning about how ministries help governments to transition after elections.

What advice would you have for someone interested in taking the MPS program?

My advice for future MPS students would be to step outside your comfort zone and try new things-try all things. Whether it’s applying to be a part of the MPSA, talking to people at networking events, taking the CAPM or simply raising your hand to ask a “silly” question. For some of you, it may be the last time you plan on being in school, so embrace that and everything that comes with it. More specifically, challenge yourself; try to put forth your absolute best quality of work for every assignment, presentation, and interview. It will at times come down to prioritizing certain tasks and deadlines over others, however I encourage you to stretch your limits of what you think you’re capable of and challenge yourselves to take on more because you will ultimately get from this program what you put forth. Also, be a friend and be kind to one another, help each other out along the way and travel through this journey together as a united cohort and the gains will ultimately outweigh any costs.

For people who are considering applying to the MPS program I would say visit the space, and reach out to current and former students to ask questions and discover whether this is the right program for you.

University of Waterloo