Jessica Rempel, BASc '19, School of Engineering

"Knowing when to humble myself and learn from others is a quality that’s needed in engineering, and one that I think all leaders should have as well."

Jessica Rempel

Jessica Rempel

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Grad year: 2019
  • Program: Mechanical Engineering
  • Campus: Okanagan

I grew up in Kelowna BC, which made attending UBC Okanagan an easy choice for me. My studies began similar to most other students, but I was able to separate my experience from many others when I got involved with research on campus. I worked in the Advanced Control and Intelligent Systems (ACIS) lab, and had the opportunity to get hands on experience designing and prototyping a camera gimbal for drones that would be used in firefighting operations. I further expanded my university experience by serving as president of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineers (CSME) student club. This opportunity allowed me to connect with students I had never met before. I was also lucky enough to have two co-op positions during my studies, in which I was able to work as a Control Systems Specialist at Tolko’s Armstrong Sawmill. The hands on experience I received at Tolko was one of my most beneficial experiences, which ultimately led to them offering me a full time position post grad. I’m honored to be their first ever female to take this position, and look forward to the many projects I will work on there.

What has made your time at the School of Engineering most memorable?

I can easily say that it was the people. Professors, students, support staff and the advising committee all helped shape my time here. It was such an inspiration to be surrounded by people that push limits, celebrate in your successes, encourage you after downfalls and challenge you to be the best you can be. I know the connections I have made with both classmates and professors will continue to grow and shape my future.

What have you learned that is most valuable?

I am always learning, and there is always more to know. Although an easy concept, it took me three years of university to realize that I would never “know it all.” Knowing when to humble myself and learn from others is a quality that’s needed in engineering, and one that I think all leaders should have as well. It’s important to know that you can always learn something from someone else’s knowledge and experience, and having the willingness to ask for help is necessary to learn new things.

I think I learned this hard truth mostly through my co-op experiences. Being surrounded by brilliant, successful engineers, and constantly having to ask questions for things I didn’t understand was hard for me. Every day was a humbling experience and it was a lesson in life that I won’t readily forget.

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?

I think the most important skill I’ve gained at university is how to manage my time appropriately. Not only did I have a full course load to maintain, but I also had research commitments, was president of the CSME club, worked a part time job, played in an after school basketball team, and volunteered as a tutor once a week. With all of these responsibilities, and also trying to find time to spend with my family and friends, it was really important for me to find a balance of my time. Through my years at UBCO I was able to learn how to prioritize my time and manage the things that are most important to me.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

One: You can do it!

Two: Once you believe you can do it, get ready to work hard.

No matter how smart you are, the program isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of hard work. I have seen brilliant people drop out, and determined people push through. It takes dedication, time and effort to be in engineering, but I guarantee the camaraderie you will have with your classmates will be unlike any other program. Having started in the science program and transferring into engineering, I can confidently say that the bond between students in engineering is unique to other programs. When you struggle, you have an army of people behind you to help you succeed. This program has incredible teaching assistants, professors and students who are there to help you reach your goals.

Where do you find your inspiration?

There’s nothing more inspiring to me than starting with an idea in my head and working hard, designing, prototyping and testing until I can see that idea working in real life. I have started almost all of my projects with a small feeling of daunting, unsure that I have the skills to accomplish the goal. But once I begin designing it’s hard to stop the creativity and inspiration to see the project through. It’s the thrill of knowing that I can take an idea and bring it into reality that inspires me to design.

What are your plans for the future?

My immediate plans are to start my position as Control System Specialist for the Armstrong Tolko Sawmill; I’ve had the privilege of working on some pretty incredible projects with them already, and I look forward to many more. The sawmill industry is a diverse and complex industry that will no doubt push the limits of what I know, and challenge me to learn new things.

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