Diony Duraes Santos (MBA ’19) is an accomplished engineer who has worked in seven countries, is fluent in four languages and holds two master’s degrees, but there was a time as a young boy when his enthusiasm was often mistaken for mischief.
“When I was a child, I used to disassemble all my toys and rebuild them as something else,” says Santos, who recalls taking apart an expensive birthday gift as a six-year-old to build a robot. “My mother always says that she regrets getting upset. She thought I was just breaking things, but she realized later that it was a key part of the direction my life would take.”
Santos grew up in Uberlândia, in southeastern Brazil. He completed his Bachelor of Engineering in mechatronics and a post-graduate diploma in instrumentation engineering (equivalent to a master’s degree in Canada) prior to continuing his education at TRU in 2015.
In between, he worked for an engineering company in Rio de Janeiro and travelled to Germany to study the language and complete an internship. In Germany, Santos met his future wife, Marie-Éve Abran, a French Canadian from Sherbrooke, Que., who was also attending language school. Their friendship blossomed in German, but he soon added French to his list and she in turn learned Portuguese, allowing them to converse in multiple languages. After his courses were complete, Santos returned to Brazil and eventually Abran joined him. In 2015 they chose to come to Canada, landing in Calgary, Alta., where they spent several years.
During that time, Santos worked as a field engineer and field lead for Compressor Controls Corporation (CCC), an engineering company providing turbomachinery train optimization services for the oil and gas industries. Calgary was home base, but Santos spent much of his time on the road. When he began to seriously consider pursuing his MBA, solid virtual learning options led him to TRU.
Valuable virtual options
“I travelled a lot, so I could not take a class where I physically had to attend. One day I was in Vancouver, the other day Halifax, another day Louisiana, then Trinidad/Tobago. I was all over the place, so the program at TRU really suited my needs,” says Santos.
“The MBA did for me exactly what I wanted it to do — it opened the doors that I wanted to open and helped me jump to the next step in my career.”
When Abran’s job with the federal government took the couple to Ottawa in 2019, Santos was still working with CCC but was ready for a change. He applied for an instrumentation supervisor position with the National Research Council (NRC) in the aerospace division.
“I started thinking I’d like to move into a leadership role and the position at NRC was very well aligned with my Master of Engineering, but also with my MBA and my specialization in instrumentation,” he says.
“It was a blessing to get a job like that after moving to a city where you don’t expect there are many technical jobs available. We were supporting projects with global customers from Japan, France and even NASA, so it was a very dynamic, fantastic environment.”
Santos enjoyed his role with NRC but in spring 2022, he applied for a position with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). He is now a deputy director with NSERC and leads a team of managers facilitating the Alliance program, which provides grants that allow university researchers to collaborate with partner organizations in areas of natural sciences and engineering.
“It is the first position I’ve had that does not have a technical aspect to it. It was really an out-of-the-box step for me after a 12-year career dedicated to engineering,” he says, adding that he found the first six months challenging, but appreciated the opportunity to learn new skills.
The Alliance program funds a wide variety of projects, from quantum technologies to agricultural research that will develop solutions required for a sustainable, resilient, and profitable agriculture sector in a net-zero economy. The key factor in deciding which research to fund, Santos says, is determining which projects will most benefit Canadians.
Outside of work life, Santos and Abran spend time with their five-year-old son, Daniel, who already speaks three languages and is as crazy about cars as his dad was about taking things apart.
Road trips number-one leisure activity
The family loves to travel together and takes every opportunity they can to hit the road.
“We are very big on road trips,” he says, adding their most recent trip covered 2,000 km through four cities and six hotels in six days. “I always tell people the best way to travel is to rent a car and tour around, ending up in all the different little areas you wouldn’t find otherwise.”
Next up, the couple is planning a trip through Portugal and Spain to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They stay connected with family members from Brazil by alternating trips between Brazil and Canada, and meeting up in vacation destinations like Mexico — cutting down on travel time and allowing everyone to enjoy a relaxing holiday together.
Santos is currently settled in his role with NSERC but admits it likely won’t be his final career destination.
“My career goal is to continue progressing. I don’t think I’ll ever be a person who just sits in one position without looking for the next step,” he says.
For more information on some of the innovative programs being funded through NSERC, visit nserc-crsng.gc.ca.