"Engineering takes a collaborative approach to solving problems."
- Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
- Grad year: 2018
- Campus: Okanagan
Job title as of 2023: Project Engineer, City of Vancouver
Why did you want to study engineering?
My desire to study engineering was inspired by wanting to make a positive difference in the community.
I grew up in a small town in Uganda called Kabale with several infrastructure challenges including unsafe roads, makeshift bridges, lack of clean water, frequent mudslides and unstable housing structures. My father tasked me with thinking about what my contribution to the community could be. He had been interested in engineering himself, but couldn’t afford the tuition costs. By working with him on projects around our home, I quickly became interested in engineering and construction. I also shadowed the municipal engineer and was inspired by how he was loved by the community. People would come up to thank him for fixing things and helping out. I realized I really wanted to be like this person.
Why did you choose UBC?
Growing up in Uganda, the little I knew about Canada was from my geography class – the prairies, forestry and the great lakes. But I was fortunate that the career counsellor at my high school had attended an international career counsellors conference at UBC’s Okanagan Campus. She thought it was breathtaking and encouraged me to apply for the Donald A. Wehrung International Student Award. I remember my mother and me being very emotional when I received the call that I was awarded the scholarship and had the opportunity to study at the prestigious UBC. I chose UBC Okanagan because the landscape around Kelowna is very similar to Kabale where I come from in Uganda, with mountains and freshwater lakes, and because it’s a small community-driven town.
What were some highlights of your undergraduate experience in Civil Engineering?
Being part of the co-op program allowed me to apply the things I learned in the classroom to the real-world. My first co-op job was with transportation engineering at the City of Surrey, which is where I developed an interest in this field. I loved how much it was in line with my personality. I got to talk to people directly and work closely with them to devise solutions that could benefit everybody.
On top of that, I was involved in several clubs, including the International Student Club and the African Caribbean Student Club. I also started UBC Okanagan’s Global Engineering Community, a group that brought together professors and students over tea. It was a way to break down barriers and to make it easier for students to interact with professors during the year.
Tell us about your career since graduating.
After graduating, I worked in Kelowna for WATT Consulting Group, a multi-disciplinary engineering consulting company. I then moved to the Lower Mainland to work in traffic operations and transportation infrastructure for the City of Surrey. I’ve just recently joined the City of Vancouver, where I’m going to be working as a Project Engineer with the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. I will be delivering capital projects within parks, which could include arenas, recreation centers, playgrounds, washrooms, trails, paved surfaces, parking areas, water fountains and artwork. It’s a bit more than just transportation! But I like that, as there’s so much I learned during my civil engineering degree, and this opportunity will enable me to use a lot more of it.
My desire has always been to create a positive impact in whatever way I can in the community.
I’m looking forward to working with a multi-disciplinary team – learning from others and sharing my knowledge as we grow together and make direct impacts in the community.
What kind of impact do you see engineers having in the world?
I like to think about engineers as mathematicians and scientists who are using their knowledge to solve practical problems.
Engineers are contributing a public service by developing solutions for problems that affect everybody. If you're moving from your home to the grocery store, you’re using a transportation system designed by an engineer. If you're taking a shower or filling your glass with clean water, an engineer was involved. When you flush your toilet, an engineer helped design the sewage treatment facility. The house or apartment you live in was likely the result of an engineer and architect working together.
On a personal level, I’ve seen the impact of my work at the City of Surrey, where I had the opportunity to work on some multi-million dollar projects. A lot of the projects I’ve worked on, I can now experience as an end user, whether I’m riding my bike or taking the bus.
Any advice for students considering engineering?
Follow your passion and interests.
Think about something you're interested in, and you will be amazed at how you can make a difference in that area as an engineer. For me, it started with noticing infrastructure challenges in my home community. Wherever you start, as an engineer you can make a positive change in the world.
Engineering takes a collaborative approach to solving problems. It gives you an opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds, and on top of that, it's an opportunity to build a community. The last bit of advice is to just have fun with it. There’s never a dull moment and there are always so many interesting and exciting things to work on!