Like many high school students, Darin Ahmed had to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and future career. Also like many high school students, insurance wasn’t on her radar – raising awareness about career opportunities and attracting young people to the sector is an ongoing challenge. However, after a surprising turn, that’s exactly where Darin happily landed.
After graduating from high school in Kitchener, Ont., Darin knew she felt passionate about helping people and had considered nursing, but ultimately decided against the grind of working in a hospital all day. “I like being out and experiencing new things,” she says.
Her sights then turned to a different career ladder: firefighting. “I was drawn to the aspect of helping people out, but not doing the same thing every day. That stood out to me,” she says.
Darin enrolled in the Pre-service Firefighting Education and Training program at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont. After graduating from the three-semester program, Darin wasn’t quite ready to give up student life for life in the firehall. “I thought, ‘I’m still young and I need more life experience before I become a firefighter,’” she recalls.
That’s when she was introduced to the Fire Protection Engineering Technology advanced diploma program at Seneca College in Toronto. Darin was accepted into the program and is currently in her third year. Major areas of study include the design and installation of fire protection systems, computer software systems, governing codes and standards, fire investigation, and more. Seneca also offers a co-op program, which Darin was interested in doing.
“I had the opportunity to gain some experience and make my resume look better,” Darin says. She applied to a few companies – Sovereign Insurance being one of them.
“My professor told me about the insurance sector, and coming into Seneca I didn’t even know fire protection and insurance were connected,” says Darin. “He said not a lot of students go for it, but it’s a great industry. So, that got me thinking about it and that’s why I applied.”
Darin’s internship on Sovereign’s Risk Engineering team began last May, and she quickly learned the ropes. She shadowed the team as they did inspections at different companies and wrote reports, learning industry terminology along the way.
A highlight was travelling to clients in Halifax and Calgary during the summer. “I got to see the agriculture and automotive side of the industry – and see parts of the country I’d never been to before, which was really awesome,” says Darin. “A lot of it was watching the risk engineers and how they do things and taking it all in.”
She also appreciates that the team trusted her to lead an inspection and help with the report writing once she got comfortable. “They let me go at my own pace and were so supportive,” Darin says.
A key learning was how to deal with different clients and situations, and how to teach them about fire prevention while out on a job – putting her education to practice. “It does connect to what I learned in school, for example, if a sprinkler is adequate for the type of building or commodity that it’s protecting,” she says.
Darin enjoyed her time at Sovereign so much she decided to switch career paths. “Firefighting was something dear to me, but I feel insurance suits me a lot better,” she says. “Once I got a taste of it, I could see a future for myself in it.”
For students who are trying to figure out their own career paths, Darin has this advice: “Stay curious. Continue to seek knowledge and ask questions because that builds a growth mindset. Build relationships. I got here because I was networking with peers, mentors and professionals in the field. That truly opens doors.”