Seize every opportunity

“I think the people who impacted my life the most during my degree aren’t the ones who hold the keys to these opportunities, but rather the ones who think differently than me and I have gotten to know anyways”

Chloe Sirges

Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science

Grad year: 2023

Program: Civil Engineering

Campus: Vancouver

I think everyone’s university experience will be a huge part of who they grow to become through and after their education. No matter where you go, you are going to meet amazing people and have new experiences that will shape your path and your future. For me at UBC, I feel like more opportunities were available to me than I knew what to do with. This offered a huge amount of choice for me to steer myself in the direction I wanted and enjoyed, which was a welcome change from the limited opportunities available where I grew up.

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

I chose engineering because I have always been a problem-solver, which is a huge part of any engineering work. Civil engineering, specifically, focuses on very tangible things that have always made sense to me. Of all the universities I considered, UBC had a wide variety of design teams and the co-op program to facilitate work placements, both of which I knew would complement my classroom learning. It didn’t hurt that UBC had the prettiest campus, either!

How has your identity informed your academic and professional experiences within your field at UBC and beyond? 

More a question of character than identity, but I think my ability to put my hand up in class or put my hand out at career fairs has made a big difference in the path that I have taken through my degree and in the opportunities available to me after grad. I am someone who likes to know what is next, and planning further into the future has allowed me to line up co-op opportunities with companies I wanted to work for because they knew I was someone who could see the big picture. I am always keen to learn, understand, and improve, and by bringing this attitude to all my work I have been able to stay on top of things and make a good impression. After graduation I will be returning to one of my co-op employers as a full time EIT, so making a good impression can be worth it. 

Has anyone you met impacted your life, or provided opportunities you didn’t expect?

There are opportunities left, right, and center for those who are willing to chase them, especially at UBC. I think the people who impacted my life the most during my degree aren’t the ones who hold the keys to these opportunities, but rather the ones who think differently than me and I have gotten to know anyways. In such a diverse group of students, there are so many opportunities to learn from people about things you never would have thought about yourself, and to step outside of your comfort zone. I am an introvert, so the concept of having conversations that go beyond school with everyone I meet sounds nearly impossible, but if you make a point of getting to know a few people beyond what you have in common, there’s a lot you can learn even just from the people you’ve already met.

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

Civil Engineering is one of the larger disciplines within Applied Science, which meant that my classes all had more than one hundred people in them up until fourth year. Sometime in third year, possibly due to the semester of classes I had online, I realized that I got way more out of the classes by engaging in them; not just answering questions, but asking them or asking the professors to repeat themselves if I had not understood something. It sounds obvious, but changing my mindset to “I am here for a reason, and I may as well get my money’s worth” was a game changer for how much I was able to get out of my lectures, and it is an attitude I hope to maintain to make the most of whatever I am given as I move into my career.

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

Make friends. I could not have gotten through my degree without the people who I did it with – not just because they were able to help explain concepts or classes I missed, but also because engineering is a particularly time-consuming degree, and being able to make the most of your shared situation with people you like and have fun while you do it is far better than counting down the time until it’s over.

Second to making friends, I would recommend getting involved. I was on a design team for four years, which was a great experience, but only in my last year did I start to take advantage of the other clubs and recreational classes offered outside of engineering. Do something artsy, or athletic, or fun! Worry more about whether you enjoy it than whether it looks good on your resume; if you build a fulfilling life that makes you happy to be where you are every day, your resume will take care of itself.

What are some contributions you would like to make when it comes to the future of work in your field?

When considering my career options, my first priority is feeling like what I’m doing matters. Going into Water Resources Engineering now, after experiencing record floods, heat waves, and droughts in BC over the course of my degree, there is lots of room to make a big impact. The whole discipline is already shifting, and I hope to be an advocate for both people- and climate-friendly practices as the future of the field, but I also hope to be a part of projects that directly benefit and protect people.