Alumni Talk – “I was willing to do work that others weren’t.”

Annie Stancheva

Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science

Grad year: 2015

Program: Civil Engineering

Campus: Vancouver

Current Company: Urban Systems-multi disciplinary company based out of Kamloops, with many offices across Canada. The company is a networked organization where the structure is non-traditional. The structure allows for employees to have internal and external clients while working under the company umbrella. What this results in is a flat structure where an engineer can have different roles on different projects, rather than one specific role on every project.

Current Area of Work: Civil Engineering: underground utilities (water, sewer, telecom, and gas), roads, lot grading. My role varies, ranging from being a project manager to focusing on technical work.

What has been your favourite project you’ve worked on so far, and why?

I have worked on a number of really cool projects, including institutions, a gondola, and the subway. Probably the biggest one of note is the Broadway Subway, but others, such as New St Paul’s Hospital, and Burnaby Hospital are also of note. The reason it has been so interesting to work on the subway is because of the enormous amount of coordination that has been needed between all of the engineers, architects, construction companies, and government entities to ensure that all the stakeholder needs are met.

Are there specific skills or knowledge from your education/work experience that have been particularly valuable in this project? 

What has been valuable from my education is to always go back to first principles when trying to solve a problem I haven’t encountered before. One example on this project was to determine how to hang existing utilities underneath the traffic deck during construction of the subway stations. We had to be creative with the solutions to do this work without disrupting utility services to existing businesses along the Broadway corridor. This was particularly important because it’s a multi-year project which can impact the continuous existence of these businesses. I still use a couple of fluid mechanics textbooks from UBC.

In your opinion, what are the most critical skills for success in the field of civil engineering today?

I think that a lot of people focus on project management and fail to develop their technical skills very well. It’s important to have a very good technical background rather than just an understanding of bylaws and building codes. Being technical, in addition to having good people skills is a recipe for success because it allows you to solve problems quickly and creatively on non-standard projects.

In the early years after graduation, what were some of the key steps you took that greatly helped you to move your career forward?

I was willing to do work that others weren’t. This helped me get my foot in the door and gain really sound technical knowledge. I think that I’ve been quite lucky to have so many mentors who passed knowledge onto me and encouraged me. In particular, I created a portfolio of relevant work and school projects that I had completed which I used in my job applications and interviews. I specifically applied to smaller companies, further out of Vancouver that may receive less applicants because there were very few jobs available when I first graduated. Once I gained some experience and met more people in the industry, I applied to a larger, more well-known firm that I was very interested in working for.

Looking back on your career thus far, is there anything that you wish you had done differently?

I wish I took more time off between jobs and took advantage of vacation in the first years. The more responsibility you take on, the harder gets to step away from work and just relax.

Were there any mentors or notable people in UBC who helped guide you along the way? How did their influence impact or shape your career?

Professor Bernard Laval’s course brought me to love fluids and changed my mind about structural engineering in my final years.

Do you have any advice for current and/or graduating students at UBC Civil?

Often, when students graduate, students just want a job, but a hiring manager is looking for someone who will stay with the company for a long time. As a result, it’s important to be specific about what field you’re interested in when applying for job opportunities upon graduation. It’s also important to be able to explain what you have learned that would be applicable to the field (do your research ahead of the interview!). Enthusiasm and willingness to do a good job in a particular field go a long way.