Gabriel Lessard, BASc '16, Integrated Engineering
Throughout an engineering degree, I think you learn not so much what you know, but more what you don’t know.
Why did you choose to pursue engineering as a career?
I chose to pursue the engineering degree, not the engineering career, and I think that that is an important distinction – an engineering degree is one of the most flexible and respected around the world. An “engineering career” can be anything, as this degree opens doors in places you least expect. I chose to take on an engineering degree because I knew by doing so I would give myself the most opportunity to succeed in whatever area I was interested in.
What are the most valuable things you have learned?
Many people will tell you that an engineering degree doesn’t really teach you specific information, but instead teaches you how to learn. While this is true, I would argue that it goes a step further. Throughout an engineering degree I think you learn not so much what you know, but more what you don’t know. This is important because it keeps you humble, engaged, and curious of the world around you, while at the same time aware of your limitations. No other degree delivers this same level of perspective, which is by far the most important thing you can walk away with.
How do you feel a degree in integrated engineering has benefitted (or will benefit) you compared to other fields of study?
Integrated Engineering, or IGEN as it is known to its friends, has given me the toolset that I wanted from my degree, one which no other department could offer. The days of engineers working on one task or subject for their entire career are over, instead industry is now looking for flexible and multi-disciplinary approaches to new problems. IGEN has given me the background and core-competencies to understand a far broader range of problems than other specializations, which in turn allow me to work in a far more varied list of fields and positions. I feel like there is no challenge too great because my education has taught me how to solve them from every angle, eventually reaching the right solution.
What advice would you give a student considering integrated engineering?
Think seriously about what you want from your degree. If your goal is to work in a structural firm and has been since day one, you’re probably best served taking a civil engineering degree. The same applies if you are determined to design electrical circuits; you should probably take an electrical specialization. But if you are aiming for something more, something flexible (there I am using that word again), modern and aligned with where the world is moving, integrated engineering may be for you. Talk to current students and alumni and get their take on what the degree has offered them, you may be surprised with what you hear! We have people working in jobs from Tesla to particle accelerators to Virgin Galactic. There really is no limit to what you can do.
What are you goals for the future—immediate? Long-term?
Short term I am working with Copperleaf Technologies, a fascinating company here in Vancouver building asset management and decision analytics software for critical infrastructure. I hope to help them with their mission to improve decision making around the world. The beauty of my integrated engineering degree is that I had no intentions of working in software when I began at UBC, but five years later I have built a broad enough skillset that this door, which would have otherwise been closed, is now a completely possible option.
Looking further into the future I hope to work abroad, as I find discovering new cultures and ways of living to be rewarding and the best way to better understand myself. Where, when or what I will work on are all still unknown, but if there is one thing I have learned throughout my degree it is that the best laid plans always get foiled, but keeping your eyes open for new opportunities will never let you down.
How will you go on to make a difference in our world?
If I knew this already life wouldn’t be that exciting, right? I think the key will be to keep hold of the values that are most important to me and make sure that whenever I make decisions about my future that these choices align with those values. As long as we work and put effort into the things we are passionate about we will always have the ability to make a difference. I hope that I can find a way to make that difference, either in the fields of healthcare, analytics, global development or whatever comes along my path.