DC grads wow audience with their success stories during Alumni in the Pit

On February 7, Durham College (DC) alumni captivated their audience with stories of hover engines and the Canadian Football League (CFL) during the college’s Alumni in the Pit event.

The event, which can be viewed here, saw John Hotts, associate creative director at OneMethod design shop, and Brent Lessard, technical co-ordinator at International Leak Detection (ILD) and co-founder of rLoop, return to campus to share their experiences following graduation. The DC grads also answered questions and provided guidance to students about to embark on their own career paths.

“When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work,” said Lessard, who graduated from DC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program in 2014.

“Failure is okay,” added Hotts, a 2008 graduate of DC’s Advertising and Marketing Communications program. “You will make mistakes, but it’s important to learn from them.”

Although Lessard had already completed some post-secondary education before he began his DC journey, he said it was the applied learning experiences offered at the college that made a difference and kept him engaged in innovation and technology.

It was that engagement that also helped prepare Lessard for his biggest opportunity. When SpaceX, a company that manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft, announced a Hyperloop pod competition, Lessard put his DC training to work and co-founded rLoop, a team of more than 140 people worldwide, to develop a prototype — one that ultimately won the competition’s non-student category.

“It’s like a plane without wings,” said Lessard of the travel pod. “It’s propelled by active magnetic levitation or ‘hover engines’, and moves through a tube at hyper speed.” He added that if implemented in Canada, the pod could transport people from Toronto to Montreal in 22 minutes. “You could live in Montreal, work in Toronto and go to Ottawa for dinner.”

Now recognized as one of Canada’s top creatives under 30 years old, Hotts also had past experience in his field before attending DC. He shared with students that it was the field placement opportunity through his advertising program that helped him break into the industry.

“You have to plan and put together a resumé and a portfolio you are proud of,” said Hotts of the experience. He added that one of his professors helped him and a classmate secure the interviews for their placements – a connection he remembers and is grateful for to this day.

It was at this placement that Hotts learned two career rules he still carries with him to any job: first, check your ego at the door, and second, ask all the dumb questions. Following these two rules combined with his unbridled creativity and talent have landed Hotts projects with big-name brands such as Sweet Jesus, Delissio, World Wildlife Fund, Kit Kat Canada and Coors Light. However, it’s his redesign of the CFL’s logo that stands out among the rest. “It has longevity and has been engrained into Canadian culture,” said Hotts fondly.

Alumni in the Pit is part of DC’s backpack2Briefcase program, a series of events designed to help students and recent alumni make a smooth transition from college to the workplace.

Events and workshops are held throughout the year to offer opportunities for both personal and professional development that will enhance the skills and training students learn in the classroom.