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Home About SAIT News & Events Shifting career gears: Pivoting without starting over

Shifting career gears: Pivoting without starting over

George, Mechanical Engineering Technology diploma graduate

You’re never too old and it’s not too late — just ask George.

Aiming to put his career into overdrive and finish something he had started decades before, George came to SAIT looking for a flexible way to earn a credential in Mechanical Engineering Technology.

"Do it! Don’t be concerned about age. It wasn’t a barrier at all."

Meet George, 50

Mechanical Engineering Technology diploma graduate

What were you doing before you started at SAIT?

I was working for a local fire protection contractor as an estimator, project manager and designer.

Why did you choose to come to SAIT?

A diploma allowed me to get to my next step, and I was able to do a lot of it through online and evening deliveries. It was also “unfinished business” because I had to leave college as a teenager due to finances.

Describe your experience in the Mechanical Engineering program.

When I first transitioned from the part-time online/evening option into full-time daytime classes, it was intimidating. There were only two instructors who were older than me, and I was even in the same class as someone who had gone to elementary school with my daughters. That being said, I felt very included and had a great time. Most of the time I was a student, but because of my life experience, my instructors would occasionally ask me to share how the concepts we were learning in class could be applied in my field.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in the program?

Math and thermodynamics were tough. Luckily, I had the right attitude, support and encouragement to get through it. Instructors would come in on weekends and hold study sessions, and I took advantage of the tutoring  available through the Lamb Learner Success Centre. Our Academic Chair, Olga Malikova, was also instrumental in helping me be successful, as were my wife, kids, family and friends.  

What’s your biggest takeaway from your SAIT experience?

There have been a lot. One of them has to be the relationships I was able to build — I still keep in touch with some of my classmates and instructors. Another was the capstone project. It really helped me hone my communication and presentation skills.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career change?

Do it! Don’t be concerned about age. It wasn’t a barrier at all. I felt welcomed and learned what I came to learn. SAIT can provide a lot of opportunities for those who are willing to do the work. And the instructors help with a lot of “aha” moments, and those are great.  

What’s next?

I’m still working in fire protection but have since moved to working for a national company. I’m currently in the process of applying for a licensee designation with APEGA (Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta). I’m also looking at a couple of other courses to maintain professional development requirements. I honestly do see myself back at SAIT for more.

Learn from a SAIT and industry expert in engineering

“In my more than 20 years’ experience in engineering and 10 years at SAIT, I know what it takes to be successful in this program and out in industry. Students should have a strong foundation in math and sciences, be mechanically inclined and most importantly, motivated and determined.

George was one of those mature students who knew exactly where he wanted to be. He and I worked together to plan out his course of study to ensure he was still able to complete his diploma while being there for his family.

It brings me an immense amount of joy to help and see students complete what they set out to do no matter their age or current situation. I hope that the evening and weekend delivery of this program will help more mature students to advance their education and achieve their career goals.”

- Olga Malikova, Academic Chair, Mechanical Engineering Technology diploma


Read more shifting gears stories — and write your own!

Read Gonzalo's story

Looking to make a switch from crunching numbers in an office as an accountant, Gonzalo took action and enrolled in SAIT’s Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Foundations program. Now he's helping Elon Musk realize his vision of becoming a "spacefaring civilization" as a non-destructive testing inspector with SpaceX.

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