Since joining Alberta Innovates as a professional engineer, Sanah Dar has quickly found herself working at the heart of the province's clean tech sector.

As a project specialist focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, Dar provides process engineering expertise to some of the province's latest clean tech projects. Currently, she's collaborating with experts at technology provider eCAMION and the University of Alberta (U of A) to set up overhead bus charging infrastructure to rapidly and efficiently charge electric buses. She's also assisting local concrete producers as they demonstrate a made-in-Canada technology by CarbonCure that uses carbon dioxide to strengthen concrete while reducing GHG emissions.

"I work with different organizations and professionals on the deployment of innovative technologies to achieve Alberta's climate change goals. It involves developing programs that close the innovation technology and support gaps to enable rapid deployment of clean technologies in the Alberta economy," says Dar, who divides her time between Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), a non-profit organization, where she is also working on secondment.

It's an engaging role for Dar, who has over eight years of experience working as a chemical engineer and finished her graduate studies at the U of A on a part-time basis just three years ago.

What prepared Dar to take on this role? And what inspired her to enter the clean tech field?

For some answers, we have to go back to 2008, when Dar was inspired by her job-shadowing role back in high school, seeing engineers in action. With positive role models in her life, including her father, a former engineer, she was eager to take on the exciting challenges of this hands-on and rewarding career.

Starting in 2009, she would spend the next decade studying chemical engineering at the U of A, completing a BSc in 2014 and a MEng in 2019. She complemented her academics with real-world experiences, taking on multiple co-ops during her degree. Although facing many hurdles along the way, working in different industries and work sites, Dar kept a positive and open mindset. Each assignment tested and challenged her, helping to grow her engineering skills - perhaps none more so than her experience as an engineer-in-training at an Agrium (now Nutrien) fertilizer plant.

Stepping into this new role, Dar initially felt overwhelmed by the complex technical problems she faced as a young engineer at the plant. Dar focused on reaching out to her peers and senior colleagues, never hesitating to ask for help when needed.

"They were really supportive and gave me a plan on how to approach problems. We worked collaboratively to develop alternative solutions, which built my confidence to tackle difficult problems," Dar says.

With their help, she learned how to problem-solve more effectively, sharing ideas with different engineers and operations professionals at the plant. Over time, she began to see her designs implemented at the plant site.

By 2018, after various co-op jobs and working for several years as a process engineer at a fertilizer plant, Dar was still weighing different career options. It was not until a speaker, a female engineer from Alberta Innovates, sparked her interest in the clean energy sector. She was intrigued by the projects taking place province-wide and was eager to take part.

"It presented the perfect career for those who desire learning and development, where creativity and innovation are valued, and those with novel ideas can see their vision be brought to life in a way that supports and improves the lives of millions," Dar says.

That was enough to prompt Dar to apply for a job at Alberta Innovates and transition into the clean technology sector.

Since joining the agency in early 2019, Dar has never looked back.  Today, in her role as project specialist, she finds herself constantly growing as a professional. On any day, she's providing engineering expertise to different clients, discussing project proposals with experts at Alberta Innovates or ERA, or developing funding programs to support new clean technologies.

In looking back over her career so far, Dar remains deeply grateful for the support that's allowed her to get to where she is today. That's reflected in the advice she shares with others.

"Be curious by asking insightful questions, have the impulse to seek new information, explore new experiences and connections, and discover novel possibilities that solve problems. It might be tough at first as a new professional, but the most important thing is to ask for effective feedback from colleagues. This will help you to overcome obstacles along the way and ensure you keep learning. Don't be disheartened by setbacks and difficulties; they are a part of life and will allow you to grow and become the best version of yourself."