Applying technology to solve environmental challenges was the essence of Yassine Houari’s degree (MSc Environmental Technology 2011) at Imperial.

Today, Yassine is Head of Product at QiO Technologies, an innovative tech start up applying AI and machine learning to help businesses achieve their sustainability objectives.

Beyond work at QIO, Yassine is also a musician and runs Magic Scene Productions as a producer, DJ and keyboardist.

We think Yassine has some brilliant advice for current students – be sure to check it out before you go!

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?

I came to Imperial after completing a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Queen Mary

In an interesting twist, Imperial – a university specialising in science and engineering, taught me how to view the world beyond the laws of physics and gave me a better grasp of the relatively more grey areas of geopolitics, macroeconomics, and the environment.

Outside of class I was involved in DJ Society – making electronic music, and Photography Society.

Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?

I was part of a class of 150 environmental enthusiasts that really put my eco-credentials to the test. There were a lot of avant-garde thinkers in the cohort, who were already thinking beyond business and along the environmental, social and governance (ESG) trends which we see being more widely adopted nearly a decade later.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?

The end of year parties - started on campus, continued on a boat where I had the chance to DJ, and ending in a 1930s dress party somewhere in Fulham!

What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?

The grand piano on the fifth floor above the Central Library, with a view of the Queen’s Tower.

Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.

I currently work at QiO Technologies, a tech start up applying AI and machine learning to optimise how industrial equipment - such as pumps, furnaces and compressors, could potentially be operated in a more energy-efficient manner, reducing carbon emissions and extending equipment life. It’s a great blend of technology that tries to tackle environmental challenges without significantly impacting the traditional metrics of business performance - output, quality, revenue and profit.

I also founded and actively run Magic Scene Productions, which is the outlet for my electronic music releases as a producer, DJ and keyboardist.

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

The MSc Environmental Technology programme was exactly this - applying tech to solve environmental challenges. It gave me a strong foundational understanding of the industrial processes that harm the environment and what could be done to improve them.

What have been your career highlights and lowlights?

Highlights include optimising the 2.6 billion litre per day London and Thames Valley clean water supply to take into account gravity flows that reduce the need to pump water around the city, saving huge amounts of energy and carbon.

Lowlights might be having one of our receptionists comment: ‘you’re leaving early’, when I checked out of work at 9pm one Friday night. Sometimes it takes a moment like that to make you reconsider your work-life balance!

What inspired you to drive forward work in sustainability and climate action?

A course I originally took at Queen Mary, and followed up on at Imperial, called ‘Environmental Engineering’. The course applied the partial differential equations I had hitherto viewed as ‘not that useful’ to climate change, and I became sold on the idea.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about climate change and global warming?

For me personally, one of the biggest misconceptions is that only ‘big’ changes can mitigate climate risk. It’s an argument many of my friends and family occasionally use to defend their individual actions that may contribute to environmental damage (such as not recycling properly).

In my opinion, every little action has a cumulative effect and I’ve seen through my work how a 0.1% change in the settings on a pump could prevent huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

What recent developments or innovations in your sector give you hope for the future of climate action?

Though it is prone to ‘greenwashing’, some of the new ESG developments in the financial sector give me some hope. If polluters had a hard time raising capital to fund their environmentally damaging activity, then hopefully they’d be forced to think twice about how they design their companies for minimum negative impacts on the planet.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

Way too many meetings!

Even the founder of Zoom says he’s had enough of Zoom.

What are your plans for the future?

Less meetings, more climate action, more music. That’s as specific as I can get for now.

What would be your advice for current students?

It may not be much, but I would say don’t look for “practical” solutions to job-specific tasks during your studies.

When I was at Imperial, I remember complaining along with my classmates that we weren’t given spreadsheet templates for modelling, risk management, or policy frameworks that were actually used in the working world.

University is one of those rare times you have time to think deeply and philosophically, and trust me, you’ll have so many spreadsheets and datasets once you’re working, you’ll value the clear-headed time for idea generation that you have now.

So as strange as this sounds, try to enjoy the more ‘theoretical, philosophical and intentionally ambiguous’ part of your studies before hopping into the bland world of work where bright ideas can be hard to come by under tight deadlines!

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?

Seeing the innovations that roll out of Imperial. The edible water bottle was such a cool idea!

Do you have a favourite quote or saying?

“We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do” – The Oracle.