Launching A Career In Technology And Business

"I saw computer engineering as a place for me to build interesting technology that can make a difference."

Sijan Poudel in a graduation gown

Sijan Poudel

Why did you want to study engineering?

I spent half my life in Nepal and half in Japan, so I saw first hand the difference between the two countries and their technological innovation. I was curious about how one country could be so different from the other. And that curiosity drew my attention to how things are built, and how and why they work. 

I was always questioning things as a child, and I knew I wanted to do something innovative where I could contribute to making peoples’ lives better. I could tell engineering would give me this opportunity. 

If engineering is the right choice

How did you decide on UBC?

I didn’t really know about UBC until my physics teacher introduced me to the university. It looked like a really beautiful campus! 

UBC Vancouver Campus

You did the Vantage program in first year. How was that experience?

I found about the Vantage One Engineering program when I was applying to UBC and it sounded like a good way to gain more confidence in my English speaking skills. Being part of Vantage helped me improve my fluency and meet other international students who were in the same boat. 

Vantage One Engineering

Skills you need to succeed as an engineer

Why did you choose to specialize in computer engineering? 

I knew I was interested in computer engineering, but I was also interested in entrepreneurship and business. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction books and watched videos about successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who were involved with computers and advancing technology. 

I saw computer engineering as a place for me to build interesting technology that can make a difference. 

It seemed like the perfect fit for my interests in technology and business.

Computer engineering

What were some of the highlights of your degree?

One of my favorite courses was CPEN-321, a software engineering course where my team developed an app with an idea I came up with. It’s sort of like Tinder for backpackers, adventurers and travellers – if two people are planning on going to the same destination, they can match with each other and go on the trip together. 

This was my first time fully developing a full-stack mobile application from scratch and it was a great experience. 

Another highlight was a course on business and entrepreneurship that was part of New Venture Design. The course taught me a lot about market research, competitor analysis, customer validation and other business topics relevant to startups. My team started with conducting over 100 interviews with students to find out what they are struggling with. We then developed a motivational app they can use to stay on track and motivated. 

Our app has two main features. The first supports goal setting, so you start by entering your long-term goals. The app then uses AI to break down that long-term goal into shorter-term and medium-term tasks and goals to get you there. The second is a visualization feature where AI will generate an image of yourself achieving that goal. So, if my goal is to be a successful tech entrepreneur, it could generate an image of myself on the cover of a business magazine. 

CPEN-321  New Venture Design

Sijan's team

What sort of work experiences did you have?

My first co-op experience was as a quality assurance game tester and my second was as a full-stack developer intern for the 5G Group of Companies. 

The product I worked on was awarded Global Product of the Year in the challenger category from the Digital Engineering Awards. 

Last year I worked for Kisui Tech, a company in Japan that is bringing innovative robotic technology to the agricultural sector. Japan has a shrinking labour force, and robots can perform useful roles to support the sector. I built cross-platform mobile applications from scratch to control the robots. I also did user testing and travelled to a farm in Japan with team members. We saw the farmers using the app and got their feedback, which was a really rewarding experience!

Co-op  Kisui Tech

Benefits of co-op

What sort of extracurriculars have you been involved in? 

Lots! I’ve been part of an engineering design team, UBC Smart City, for three years and served as the primary captain. It was a new design team when I started with it. I was initially assigned a technical lead role and eventually got promoted to transportation team lead before becoming the primary captain. This was a great experience and I worked on lots of projects that helped me develop my coding and leadership skills.

Hackathons have been a big part of my life at UBC. In total, I’ve competed in 17, placing third in one and second in two competitions. 

I’ve also done lots of volunteering, from one-off events like Design and Innovation Day Volunteer, Imagine Day Orientation Leader, MURC Volunteer and Move-In Day Volunteer to longer-term initiatives like being a Peer Mentor and Computer Science Tutor Volunteer. 

UBC Smart City

Sijan and her OL team

Do you feel like you’ve changed over the course of your degree?

I’ve become much more confident in my ability to come up with ideas, build things on my own and lead teams. 

That confidence developed from pursuing many different experiences, including being captain of my engineering design team, UBC Smart City to even outside of engineering, like being Senior Orientation Leader and working on recruitment, training and oversight of orientation leaders.

Why engineers make great leaders

Now that you’ve graduated, what’s next?

My ultimate goal is to build a startup. Shorter term, I’d like to work in industry or gain research experience doing a master’s degree as I think it could be a great stepping stone for me to grow my knowledge and be able to innovate. 

Do you have any advice for students who are considering engineering?

If you are struggling academically at all, go to office hours for support or reach out to study groups. Lots of people will also be confused by the topic, and just asking for help on Piazza can also really help.

Finally, take any chances you have to put your ideas into practice. 

There are lots of opportunities to apply your knowledge in courses (especially in computer engineering) or outside of your coursework, like in design teams, clubs and competitions, and it’s very rewarding and a big confidence boost to actually build the thing you’d envisioned. To that end, I think it’s a great idea to explore some personal projects on the side. You can check out my website where I showcase my experiences and some of the things I’ve worked on.

Computer engineering co-op student at work

Computer Engineering

Computer engineers can change the world. Whether it is the systems that control our phones, cars, planes or robots — every automated device has a software or hardware engineer helping to create it. 

Computer Engineering

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