Shayna Slobin, BASc '18, Integrated Engineering
"Change happens slowly and quietly. To me, it is all the small ways you can help someone or make other people smile that truly make a difference in the world, and that is what I aim to do. "
My time at UBC has been characterized by the people I've encountered along the way: the strong and supportive women I played with on the Varsity Rugby team, my passionate and driven classmates in Integrated Engineering, and the determined allies I've worked with as the Chair of Professional Development for Women in Engineering. To me, this degree has not been about my successes (and failures), but about joining the communities around this school that have welcomed me enthusiastically and helped me grow.
What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?
Most definitely, playing rugby for the varsity team has been the most valuable experience. Granted, I did doubt many times if I could pull off taking six or seven courses while practicing and lifting six to eight times a week, but rugby has taught me so much more than those extra GPA points ever could. The grit and perseverance needed to play such a physically demanding sport, and the bonds I've made with my teammates is something I will struggle to replicate anywhere else.
As well, my eight-month co-op term in Germany was a huge highlight. I did research in various 3D printing techniques, and published two academic papers with my research group. I also played for a women's rugby team in Hannover that competed in the national league, which was a great way to learn the language, make friends with the locals and play the sport I love. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to travel around Europe on my days off — not a half bad deal!
What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?
In my opinion, staying curious is what is most important about this profession. This love of learning can sometimes be lost in an academic environment, but I found through my co-op experiences I was able to regain that curiosity. Especially, my eight month work term in Germany at Laser Zentrum Hannover really changed the way I approach engineering problems. Working on a team of young researchers and engineers, I gained confidence in my technical skills and realised how valuable learning from other engineers and collaborating with them was. Asking questions — relevant to my own projects or not — was crucial to my success. When you make everyone you work with your teacher, your knowledge will increases an enormous amount!
How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?
This degree offers useful technical skills, but it is the way of thinking you develop over the course of your degree that is the most valuable. My approach to problem solving has definitely improved, as has my attitude when solving a problem. Just because a problem hasn't been solved yet, doesn't mean it's not solvable!
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am inspired every day by the strong women around me, both in sport and in STEM. These women constantly fight for me and alongside me, and do so with such tenacity and confidence. It's easy to get frustrated with inequalities that many of us face but surely, they are all conquerable obstacles when I am surrounded by so many determined and remarkable women.
How will you go on to make a difference in our world?
My sister and I have found inspiration in a folk tale and it goes like this: After a storm, an old man is seen walking along a beach where thousands of starfish are washed up on the sand. Every few steps, he bends over and picks up a starfish and throws it in the ocean. A little boy sees this, goes up to him and asks "Why do you bother? There are thousands of starfish on the beach, you'll never be able to save all of them." The old man smiles and throwing in another says, "I've just saved that one."
Change happens slowly and quietly. To me, it is all the small ways you can help someone or make other people smile that truly make a difference in the world, and that is what I aim to do.