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Centre for Building Sustainable Value · Rebecca Zuker, HBA '23 Candidate

Ahsan Syed: Find your niche - An HBA grad’s pursuit to combat climate change

Jun 13, 2023


Ahsan Syed, HBA ‘15, found his passion for environmental preservation through experiential learning, a Master's degree, and self-reflection. He now works as a Senior Advisor in Hydrogen Strategy. Ahsan believes his success has come from honing in on a specific niche. 

Timing Matters 

For Ahsan Syed, stumbling upon a poster in a lecture hall at Western University is what started his sustainability passion. The poster advertised an experiential learning program called the Redfish School of Change, designed for those who want to lead the way in generating ecological sustainability and social justice. Ahsan spent six weeks biking, kayaking, hiking and camping through the interior of British Columbia, while learning about regional environmental issues and meeting with grassroots activists. By the end of the program, Ahsan was convinced that his life’s mission was to advocate for environmental issues both personally and professionally.   

Prior to entering the HBA program, Ahsan did not have a set path for himself but did take every opportunity to learn more about sustainability concepts. He was the Co-Executive Director of the LEADER project, a case-based education program for entrepreneurs in emerging economies, and President of the Ivey Sustainability Club. These initiatives reaffirmed Ahsan’s personal commitment toward sustainability, particularly as it relates to clean technologies and economic development. His time at Ivey also provided him with necessary exposure to industry professionals, which would come in handy over the course of his career. 

Continuing Education 

Ahsan began his career in energy, specifically advising on emission reductions in the oil and gas sector after a brief stint in the industrial lubricants division of ExxonMobil Canada. Upon receiving the prestigious Chevening scholarship from the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office, Ahsan returned to school to complete a Master's degree in Environmental Policy & Regulation at The London School of Economics & Political Sciences (LSE), where he focused his attention on circular economy.  

Thereafter, Ahsan advised several firms as a climate change strategy consultant on projects relating to carbon mitigation, carbon offsets, corporate climate change strategy, financed emission strategies, climate risk, circular economy and renewables project development. However, it was during the pandemic that he decided to return to his niche of reducing emissions from hard-to-abate sectors, which led him to hydrogen.  

Ahsan currently works at ATCO as a Senior Advisor on Hydrogen Strategy. ATCO is a global energy infrastructure company that provides essential energy utility services, alongside housing, transportation and infrastructure solutions. ATCO’s recognition of the clean energy transition to come and involvement in some of the most exciting hydrogen projects in Canada is why Ahsan is very excited to work with the company.  

Advancing Sustainability through Meaningful Action 

When asked about the future of sustainability, Ahsan feels that in today’s world it’s not enough to simply have a passion for the subject. He believes that to position yourself competitively in the industry one must find their niche and advance their passion through meaningful action and experience.  

Ahsan advises students interested in sustainability to first figure out who they are as a person and what they’re really interested in. Asking yourself what component of sustainability gets you excited and naturally following that curiosity into newsletters, company’s webpages, conferences and networking calls.  Ahsan believes the sustainability space is becoming increasingly formalized through dedicated university programs and career paths, meaning that there is increasingly stiff competition for roles. In order to differentiate yourself, Ahsan suggests establishing a niche early in your career by networking with the right people and being creative in your approach.   

“When working in sustainability, there hasn’t traditionally been a career path like in other industries - you make it up as you go. Once you do a deep dive into the subject you are interested in pursuing, it becomes easy to translate passion into knowledge.” 

To connect with fellow alumni, join Ivey's LinkedIn Sustainability Community.