Leadership Emerging Under High Pressure

Kim Watada (Year 4, ChemEng) graduates with a minor in Engineering Business and Sustainable Energy in spring 2023.

She finishes her undergraduate studies with remarkable academic distinction, having earned a spot on the Dean’s Honour List, nine academic and leadership awards, and top accolades from national and international research and design competitions. Watada points to a youth spent in competitive hockey and piano in Ontario as the source for her resolve and drive in academia.

“Leadership abilities always come out in those high-pressure situations,” she says. “I mean, playing hockey is a great example. When you have one minute left, the clock is ticking, and the score is tied – that ability to operate under pressure is invaluable for any leader and draws a lot of parallels in academia.” 

Largely completing her studies during the challenges of the global pandemic, Watada reflexively found it a period of personal growth and inspiration. She cites the period as formative in her development as a compassionate and empathetic leader, referencing the Troost ILead TEP 442: Cognitive and Psychological Foundations of Effective Leadership course as “a guiding pillar for resilience throughout the pandemic.”

Watada was elected as Academic Director of the Chemical Engineering Club in April 2020, working closely with faculty to navigate new virtual learning practices, host townhall meetings, and implement curriculum changes that helped students cope with the obstacles of intermittent lockdown and remote studies. Watada has since built on this experience, serving as both Chair of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE) and Head of Curriculum for Global Spark over the past year.

“I think one of the biggest things for me [from TEP 442] was just learning about gratitude, and recognizing the capacity I had to help others in the pandemic,” she recalled. “I was surrounded by family. I frequently spoke with my friends online. I had a ton of support around me, and that’s what motivated me to take initiative and try to do something about a problem that was affecting so many of my peers.”

“That thinking transferred over to being Chair of CSChE”” she added. “Perseverance and adaptability – those are the marks of a good leader. When you’re in a leadership position, you have to make big decisions. I think if you can rally your team and motivate them through periods of duress and challenge – it’s the key to maintaining momentum and really succeeding as a team.”

Watada’s experience in TEP442 also helped her refine an interest in the area of global climate action and its social impact.

In 2021, Watada completed her Professional Experience Year (PEY) with CPP Investments on their Sustainable Investing team, co-authored a report on the intersection of climate change and gender equity that was presented at New York’s 2021 Climate Week, studied renewable energy at Reykjavik University in Iceland, and flew to England to compete in the finale of Imperial College London’s Climate Investment Challenge – the largest climate finance competition in the world.

“That was a good year!” recalls Watada. “When things began to open up again in the second half of 2021, I realized how much I valued international experience. It was a push to start branching out and meet more people, especially from around the world.”

“When I co-authored the report on the equity and climate disclosure, I joined an international task force of 32 women who were experts in their field. I was one of the only students on the team and I learned so much from them.”

“I think that was a good example of how everyone has the potential to make a difference and contribute value. Despite being the youngest on the team, I was able to provide a really valuable perspective based on my own unique experiences.”

Watada now aspires to become an expert in decarbonization strategy, helping to mitigate the outsized impact that climate transition will have on developing nations.

In pursuit of her goals, the native of Oakville, Ontario seeks further international exposure and multidisciplinary perspective; Watada intends to work as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) following graduation.

Click here to meet all the 2023 Troost ILead Difference Maker Award finalists!