Clean Energy Engineering
Alumnus Story — Airton Dudzevich
It takes courage to sell your successful consulting business and move your family more than 11,000 kilometres to a new country. But that’s just what Airton Dudzevich did to become a student in the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Clean Energy Engineering program.
In 1992, the electrical engineer founded a successful engineering consulting business in Sao Paulo, Brazil, working on a range of commercial and industrial projects over the next 25 years, developing the electrical projects for Volkswagen and Renault when the two car companies were building large manufacturing plants in the country, with 20 MW and 18 MW power, respectively.
“Then came 2002,” says Airton. “There was a big energy shortage in Brazil, and suddenly people started looking at more sustainable energy as an option. That’s when solar power came into my life. I incorporated a subsidiary company — Energy Store — to develop solutions for an industry that really didn’t exist in Brazil at that time.”
A true systems thinker and synthesizer, Airton brought together the components of solar-powered systems from numerous suppliers and integrated them to provide turnkey solar energy solutions for his clients.
“My company was doing well, but I felt as though I couldn’t continue to grow,” he says, explaining why he began considering new options and looking at academic programs. A 2014 visit to Vancouver and meeting with Dr. Vladan Prodanovic at UBC alerted him to the Master of Engineering Leadership program in Clean Energy Engineering. The catch? The program was still in the planning stages, and the first cohort of students wouldn’t be starting until January 2016.
Airton decided to take the following year to organize his life: he sold his company to his business partner and prepared his family to move to Vancouver — all while working as an electrical engineering consultant on a large shopping centre project and for a LEED certified commercial building.
“We took a chance for me to pursue a dream. I was in my early 50s, and my family and I said ‘ok, let’s do it, let’s start all over again.’”
Building on his strengths
Airton came to the program with decades of work experience and a proven ability to lead companies and manage complex projects. Yet the 12-month MEL enabled him to improve on his existing technical and leadership knowledge, making it, he says, a “perfect program.”
“I hadn’t studied thermodynamics in over 25 years,” he says. “It was the hardest class, but I think it is a class that every engineer should take — an understanding of thermodynamics makes so many things clear.”
The business and leadership courses through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School were also valuable. “It seemed like I was always talking to the professors after class and saying ‘I can’t believe I ran my company in Brazil without these marketing and accounting skills — I could have saved a lot of money and time!’”
An entrepreneur once again
Being an entrepreneur and working on multiple initiatives at once is intrinsic to Airton’s personality. Even as an MEL student, he consulted on solar projects for an elementary school on the Sunshine Coast and for Richmond Hospital, completing prefeasibility studies for two projects, one of which is now being installed.
After graduating from the program in December 2016, Airton founded a new company — Dudzevich Energy Consulting Corp. — and has continued to work on a range of projects. This includes consulting with Rocky Mountain Solar, a company that is developing build a 20MW solar power plant in Cranbrook, B.C. If Rocky Mountain gets the green light to proceed, the project will be Western Canada’s largest solar power plant.
As a lead consultant on the project, Airton is responsible for designing and overseeing all the engineering aspects, sourcing components, working with suppliers, and ensuring the business case allows reasonable payback for investors.
“The MEL program gave me the opportunity to improve my skills and be part of what might be the largest solar power plant in the western provinces. In five months, I got my investment back, and I am now thinking about my next challenge and opportunity: hiring people and building a great team.”
Clean Energy Engineering
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