**Part of our ongoing series on Carleton PhD alumni who are working in non-academic careers. To read other stories in this series, visit our Alumni Success Story archives.
Laurence Smith is a Real Time Energy Trader with Capital Power Corporation in Calgary, Alberta.
He says that his Carleton PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering (PhD/11) helped him get this job.
“Many of the mathematical problems I worked on during my PhD research are similar to problems energy traders encounter on a daily basis,” says Smith.
As part of his doctoral research, that investigated algorithms for solving large and complex mathematical programming problems, he learned to analyze large sets of data to find hidden trends and correlations in order to reach optimal solutions.
Smith also points out that his TAship helped improve his communication and organization skills, “which are also invaluable in a dynamic workplace such as a trading floor.”
In his current position, Smith’s main responsibility is to make economic decisions that optimize the daily operation of three gas-fired power plants in New England. He also buys and sells power throughout the five deregulated power markets in Ontario and the northeastern U.S.
Says Smith: “The challenging part is that the power is sold in a daily auction with lots of moving pieces (think of a complicated version of eBay) and we have to make the dispatch decisions before we know what the power prices are.”
During his first week on the job, Smith was put to the test as he needed to determine the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the markets. This was “tricky”, he added as “the hurricane affected both supply and demand – power plants tripped offline and power lines were knocked down. One of the most dramatic changes to the load was the New York subway system shutting down due to flooding.”
Smith appreciates the support he received during his PhD program and says that the ECE faculty “strive to instill a long-lasting understanding that is required for success in today’s dynamic marketplace.”
He also took advantage of the fact that the ECE program is part of a joint institute with the University of Ottawa as he was able to take some courses at the U of O.
Smith has this advice for students involved in the job hunt process: “PhD students looking to work in non-academic fields should consider seeking an industry sponsor as they start their research. An industrial partner will keep you commercially focused throughout your research – an advantage for your post-academic resumé. Further, if you impress the sponsor, then your research work could turn into a job after graduation.”