Carving a path in engineering through creativity, community, and code

"In my coursework, I often encountered problems that had only one correct answer. But I think this challenge—the challenge of navigating my life—does not have one correct answer, and does not really have any wrong answers."

Tiffany Quon

Tiffany Quon

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Grad year: 2021
  • Program: Engineering Physics
  • Campus: Vancouver
I don't know if I'll ever stop—or want to stop—wondering who I am and who I want to be. And it felt like this questioning accelerated during my time at UBC! Over the years, I had a lot of interests pop up and I didn't always know what to do with them. One year, a friend and I designed and facilitated a workshop at UBC titled "Help! My degree and my interests don’t (completely) align!"  
 
I am thankful for the privilege to have been able to explore my interests and learn more about myself during my degree. I worked part-time as a Publicity Coordinator, Student Marketing Assistant, Teaching Assistant, and engineering workshop instructor. I blogged, took on hand lettering commissions, built websites for fun, and worked on several art pieces around campus. Through volunteer work, I was fortunate to learn more about topics including biomedical engineering, mental health, sustainability, and digital security. Through my coursework, I discovered subjects of particular interest to me, including computer science. Through everything, I was inspired by and grateful for the support and kindness of the people around me. While I had hoped to figure out exactly what my passions were through these experiences, I instead arrived at more hopes—to stay curious about our world and my role within it, and to keep exploring, learning, and growing.
 
Later this year, I will be returning to Google as an Associate Product Manager, where I hope to help make technology more safe, helpful, inclusive, and equitable. Here is one more hope: something tells me that I'll keep wondering about my life post-graduation, and I hope that really is the case.

 

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TiffanyQuon-2021 - rain activated art ubc flourish

"Flourish", one of two temporary illustrations installed on Main Mall in October 2017. The pieces were created using a hydrophobic spray, allowing the designs to appear in the rain.

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

I left high school excited to be one student among a crowd of thousands. I ended up feeling quite lonely in first year and wanting to find a closer-knit community to connect with. I also wasn't sure what direction I wanted to head post-graduation (will I ever be sure?), but I wanted it to involve computer science. With that in mind, along with what I'd heard in first year, I was drawn to Engineering Physics' relatively smaller community, coursework spanning various disciplines including math and computer engineering, and flexibility to create your own specialization within the program.

What has made your time at UBC memorable?

I am amazed by how I haven't been able to anticipate what comes to be in my life. Three examples: (1) After either seeing a job posting on a bathroom poster or in an email newsletter, I applied to work with UBC Geering Up Engineering Outreach in September of my first year. Helping with STEM outreach became one of my most fulfilling UBC experiences. (2) I went into university thinking that I disliked and was terrible at computer programming. To my surprise, I enjoyed the coding I did in first year! All but one of my co-op and internship experiences ended up being in software development. (3) In second year, I received a cold email from someone at UBC who had been shown my hand lettering Instagram account and thought I might be a good fit for a public art project—something I'd never done before, but was excited about. I designed and installed two illustrations on the ground along Main Mall that appeared in the rain. Inspired to explore my creative interests more deeply, I have since worked on projects ranging from murals to website experiments to a capstone project that creates art out of movement data.

Above all, the people I've met along the way are who and what I'll remember most. I'm thankful for them and their generous support, kindness, and friendship. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

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TiffanyQuon-2021 - chalkboard installation ubc

A chalkboard illustration ("Before I graduate I want to...") done in collaboration with UBC Campus and Community Planning in early March 2020, before classes moved online.

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

What I'll remember most about Engineering Physics is the community. Many of the most meaningful experiences I had at UBC came from this sense of community in so many ways. Walking into the Engineering Physics Project Lab worried about the next assignment that's due, but it's okay—some people have already finished the homework and are circulating, seeing if anybody would like some help. Chatting with my instructors who remember my interests and encourage me to pursue them. Spearheading initiatives such as Fizz Talks, a recurring coffeehouse-like event, and Fizz Beans, a coffee chat program. Volunteering with Engineering Physics' Student Association and Mentorship Program. Collectively scurrying from one end of campus to another in a ten-minute window between classes. I'm grateful for my classmates, instructors, and everyone else in the Engineering Physics community who I've been fortunate to cross paths with and learn from. I learned a lot about the value of community and connection, and I hope to pay it forward.

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

In the near future, I'm hopeful for opportunities in product management where I can apply knowledge and skills I picked up and applied at UBC, including technical knowledge, creativity, problem-solving skills, project management strategies, and teamwork experience. Both inside and outside of work, I hope to continue exercising my love for learning. Throughout my studies, I had opportunities to continually practice learning new content, and that skill will come in handy as I continue learning more about our world.

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

Something that would've helped me is being advised that my path through engineering is my own! I think that everyone's engineering journey looks different and there are many factors behind that. Surrounded by passionate and resilient peers, I found myself worrying about whether I was interested in the right fields (should I search for a co-op position related to a specific sector?), doing the right activities (should I apply to a design team?), going at the right pace (should I be condensing or extending my degree?), and so much more. I don't think there is a "right" path for me, nor is there a direct mapping of anyone's blend of interests, skillsets, and circumstances onto my life. What I do have is the path I ended up taking. In my coursework, I often encountered problems that had only one correct answer. But I think this challenge—the challenge of navigating my life—does not have one correct answer, and does not really have any wrong answers. My path is my own, and when I ground myself in that, I find that I am more capable of nurturing it.

Where do you find your inspiration for using your degree to make an impact on our world?

I think I have things to learn from everyone and everything. This inspires me endlessly.

What are your future plans to make a difference in our world?

Right now, in my career, I'd like to help make consumer products and experiences safer, more inclusive, and more equitable. On a day-to-day basis, I hope to do the things I can—whatever those things are for that day—and to continue learning, growing, and striving for better for our world.

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