Alumni Profile: Shelly Sahani
Crouched in front of a video screen inside a temporary building in the Utah desert, Shelly Sahani, BEng’14, watched as York University’s Mars Rover navigated the rocky landscape to rescue a stranded astronaut. It was 2012 and the space engineering student was co-captain of the Lassonde School of Engineering team competing at the annual University Rover Challenge hosted by the Mars Society.
“We came out on top,” she smiles.
Along the way, Sahani found her calling—and her first job.
In designing and building the winning rover, Sahani and her teammates worked closely with a group of engineers from MDA Ltd., a Canadian space technology company headquartered in Brampton.
“I floated the idea that I was interested in working within industry,” she says. The team took notice and in 2013, even before she completed her degree, Sahani was recruited to help ensure the safety and reliability of the Canadian-made robots (including the Canadarm2, Dextre and Mobile Base Station) on the International Space Station.
She also inspected the robotic systems inside the CANDU reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Power Generating Station.
Both projects set the foundation for her next big opportunity: cybersecurity. Sahani joined the technology solutions associate program at TD Bank, where she worked with researchers to help the bank understand the potential risks of a cyber breach and how they might better safeguard client data.
“I was looking to make an impact on society and cybersecurity offered that,” she says.
Now the senior director of subject matter experts for global cybersecurity firm Tanium, Sahani delivers advanced IT operations and security to a wide range of medium- and large-sized enterprises, including governments, banks, energy firms and hospitals.
In March 2022, she worked with a company with active ties to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, helping shore up their systems to defend against Russian threats.
“I’m seeing the impact I can have and realizing it is possible because of my time at Lassonde,” she says. “Tackling complex systems—making them better, fixing problems and breaking them down to work on issues one at a time is something I learned at York and do everyday at my job.”
She also speaks about the leadership training she received as president of Lassonde’s Engineering Society in 2012/2013.
“You have to start somewhere. Everyone graduating wants to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. The only way to learn where you belong is to try new things.”
From a Mars Rover to cybersecurity, Sahani isn’t afraid to walk the talk.