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Pino Di Mascio

Pino Di Mascio

Director of Planning at Sidewalk Labs

Master in Environmental Studies, 1995

Have fun while you’re there. Know why you’re studying what you’re studying and be in the moment as you are doing it. Really understand the issues, do really good work, then the next step presents itself. If you’re not doing that, you might miss that next step. Don’t rush to think about where it is taking you, just get deep into the issue and understand it.

About Pino

 How would you describe your years at FES, and did the program prepare you for your career? How?

I had a great time at FES. It prepared me for everything that came after. I spent a lot of my time at FES developing my program and figuring out what I wanted to study about planning and what I wanted to learn about cities. I worked with professors one on one and built the program which interested me. The MES program was very individualized that way, and the best part was all the critical thinking skills that I developed while I was there.

What’s your favorite/most memorable memory of your time at York University?

The Shadowlake program was my favorite part of the program. It was a 4-day program where I got to meet and spend time with people from different disciplines and interests which helped me develop my interpersonal skills. Seeing professors in an informal setting was a great start.

Describe your post-graduation journey including experiences such as employment, volunteer work, community engagement projects.

My journey started before graduation. In my final year I worked with Prof. Roger Keil and Prof. Barbara Rahder doing research. After my second year, I spend 5 months in Florence where I was doing a study piece and writing my final paper. It was 1995, and the economy was low, which made it hard for planning students to find jobs. I attended the American Planning Association conference in Toronto, where I landed with an opportunity to go down to New Jersey and work with an NGO called Middlesex Somerset Mercer for about a year and half. After returning to Toronto, Prof. Barbara Rahder put me in touch with a planning firm called Urban Strategies. I interviewed with them and started working there within a month from returning from New Jersey. The great thing about working here was that my job kept changing every few weeks since we worked on different projects. It was a great mix of interesting policy and planning work. We did a lot of work in Boston, which gave me some American work experience. I was able to become successful there and eventually became a partner. At FES I was able to learn how to critically think and learnt what it means to have strong social equity and an environmental lens, these skills carried through and I was able to apply them to a lot of things.

 What is your current job title, or project you are working on, and how would you describe the work you do in a typical day?

I currently work as the Director of Planning at Sidewalk Labs. My current project is looking at a large district plan with Waterfront Toronto to craft innovation agenda and create a model for development that is trying to address real and critical 21st century issues. We focus on housing affordability issues in Toronto. We try to implement things that are proactive at resolving challenges around automobiles, climate change, urban growth and intensification in the city of Toronto.  Every single day at work is different for me, I am looking at issues from all lenses, meeting with a lot of people.  I talk to public and private stakeholders as well as people in the community. I travel back and forth to New York as part of the project. For my job, I feel that interpersonal skills are very important, to be able to understand divergent opinions and perspectives of different people.

If you could leave current students with a piece of advice, what would it be?

Have fun while you’re there. Know why you’re studying what you’re studying and be in the moment as you are doing it. Really understand the issues, do really good work, then the next step presents itself. If you’re not doing that, you might miss that next step. Don’t rush to think about where it is taking you, just get deep into the issue and understand it.