MBA Stephen Silva used his internship to help Seaspan map a plan to construct $7.3 billion worth of new vessels.


In October 2011, the Government of Canada formed a historic partnership with Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards to build Non-Combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy.  As part of the government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), the company will construct up to 17 vessels worth $7.3 billion.

Preparing for a contract of this magnitude required a serious overhaul of how Seaspan approached its business, explains David Pyron, director, program governance. “This kind of growth requires strategic sourcing, with significant local sourcing of materials and people to execute these projects.”

The contract required a complete shift to accommodate the building of more complex vessels.  So Seaspan invested $172 million into its shipbuilding operations as part of their commitment to grow the necessary areas of the business, including engineering, finance, program management, planning and supply chain disciplines.

They needed to grow at a rapid rate and looked to MBA students in UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School to help map the change.


Stephen Silva was one of three MBAs chosen for four-month internships to help develop new processes for the project management office and notes that his bachelor’s degree in engineering was a critical part of his contribution.

Having previous exposure to technical environments was a serious bonus. “I picked up on things really quickly,” explains Silva. “I could walk around the plant and recognize how things worked together.”

He looked at where existing processes could be improved, where the company needed to change, including the need for IT-related solutions, and prepared funding requests for the government.

“My job was to help get the team ready for the shipyard wide audit,” explains Silva.  He says the internship drew perfectly on the technical and business sides of his education.

“I think my background as an engineer helped me pick up on the mechanical needs, but now, more importantly, I also could see different business solutions they required,” he says. “It’s just where my mind gravitates to.”

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In the time that Silva and his fellow MBA interns Greg Walker and Vaibhav Pahwa were at Seaspan they helped format processes needed to help build Canada’s new fleet. Much of this included process mapping – creating documents resembling flowcharts that outline specific activities, who is in charge, the stages required to execute a plan and its proposed outcome.

“We really had to get right into the project from the start, which was amazing,” says Silva. “We were made to jump in straight away and get a feel for the situation and see how to prepare the team better.”

The UBC Sauder students’ time with Seaspan was also about forming local relationships not only for this specific project, but also for the long term, explains Pyron.

“The shipyard itself has been around for over 100 years and with its new facelift completed in 2015 it is the most modern shipyard in North America,” he says. “We see no reason why this shipyard won’t be building quality ships for Canada for many years to come. Investing efforts to cultivate relationships with local schools, with local talent, is consistent with our core ideology. MBA students are proven to deliver high quality on short term projects – perfect for internship positions.”

“We were very pleased with our experience with UBC Sauder interns,” he adds.

“We had budgeted for one. After interviewing three great candidates, we pursued funding to bring all three aboard.” 

At the same time, a separate part of the Seaspan operation brought on another four-month MBA intern, Karan Cheema, to develop a pricing strategy for their activities servicing Vancouver’s busy port and harbour. 


Today the process maps that Silva and his team worked on hang in the project management office at Seaspan’s shipyard in North Vancouver and are helping form the way Seaspan operates.

Although Silva says his contribution was just a small part of such a large and long-term endeavour, “We were part of the team that put a plan together to help with the execution.”

“As part of the interview process, we looked at what the potential interns wanted to accomplish with their experience at Seaspan,” details Pyron.  “With the rapid growth comes many opportunities to match an intern’s personal goals with the goals of the company.  We visited those goals often during the internship to create a positive outcome for all parties.”

Pyron says with the positive experience under its belt, Seaspan is looking forward to a future working relationship with UBC Sauder.

“UBC Sauder was able to provide us with candidates that had relevant engineering work experience paired with strategic management education in finance, marketing and program management, a skill set very beneficial for our program management teams,” says Pyron.

“They produced quality work that contributed to our business.”

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Hiring a UBC Sauder MBA intern delivers tremendous value to your specific business needs. The Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre offers full service support and industry expertise to match you with candidates with the skills to move  your business objectives forward.

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