From admiring a hydroelectric dam at the age of 10, to becoming an electrical engineer

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Surabhi Agarwal
Surabhi Agarwal, Electrical Engineer, M.Eng

Surabhi Agarwal

I am an M.Eng student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program at UBC’s Vancouver campus. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from India and joined UBC in September 2019, to add another feather to my cap.

Throughout my degree, I have explored and gained significant skills in diverse courses in the ECE domain like Machine Learning, Power Systems, and Economic Analysis in Engineering. The best part about this program is that it is the perfect amalgamation of industrial experience and coursework. I got the opportunity to work as an Electronics Engineering Coop along with my courses. This field of study was slightly different and not in my comfort zone but after having worked there for 8 months, I developed immense interest in the field of Radio Frequency and Wireless Communications, and I ended up doing my Masters’ Project in this field.

Now that I am graduating, I realize that in this arduous yet beautiful journey, not only have I enhanced my technical skills, but I have also grown to be stronger, more confident, and prepared to face the professional world.

Why did you choose to go into your field of study at UBC?

My passion for electrical engineering started when I was 10 years old. I was born in a small town in India, where the first hydroelectric dam of the country was built. The whole phenomenon of electricity generation made me very curious and it paved my way to take up electrical engineering. My first job was with Alstom Transport wherein I worked as a Power Engineer and designed high voltage circuits for supplying power to the locomotives like the sky trains. I realized that I needed more expertise in this field to make impactful contributions hence I decided to pursue my master’s degree. UBC was my first choice because of its international reputation, multi-cultural atmosphere, and students flocking from all across the world. After spending two years at UBC and working with different faculty members, working cultures, and student groups, I am glad I made this decision.

What has made your time at UBC memorable?

There are many experiences that made my journey in UBC memorable. After my first term, I was awarded the International Graduate Scholarship for academic excellence. It was a big motivation point for me and made me realize that my efforts are not futile and are well directed. I got the opportunity to work as a Teaching Assistant for some of the courses and laboratories. During this period, I was continuously challenged by undergraduate students which honed my leadership qualities and communication skills— I was also able to make friends with my fellow TAs which I will cherish forever. I got the chance to understand the research work of the professors under whom I was working as TA with which exposed me to a lot of new ideas and opportunities.

Tell us about your experience in your program. What have you learned that is most valuable?

The most interesting experience I had was working as an Electronics Engineering Coop at Sierra Wireless. The internship started right when the pandemic hit so it was not the traditional internship, but I was lucky to be able to work in the laboratory and get hands-on experience in working with the latest Wi-Fi technology. I was able to familiarize myself with the Canadian working culture and hone my soft skills like communication, multi-tasking, working under pressure, and other organizational skills. I did not fathom the thought of working in the electronics field nor did I think I had it in me to thrive in it. I was able to accomplish a lot which seemed nigh impossible at one point. It certainly is valuable if not an invaluable experience for me.

What advice would you give a student entering your degree program?

The field of Electrical and Computer Engineering comes with an ample number of choices and it's totally up to an individual to decide what courses they want to take up and specialize in. My only advice would be to not be confined to the subjects and areas which are within your comfort zone. Explore new research fields, take up courses that you feel are interesting, and always be open to new opportunities. In the process of doing so, you might discover a part of yourself that you never knew existed within you. I can assure you that at every step of your journey, your faculty, your peers, and the department of ECE will always have your back.

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