Shifting career gears: From engineering to water management
“I feel like I can hit the ground running when I start my new career.”
Jennifer, 47, Integrated Water Management diploma, is quenching her love of science and engineering with a career in sustainable water management.
After a hiatus from engineering to spend time at home with her kids, Jennifer was looking to get back into the workforce. Only this time, she wanted to set herself apart within an entirely new field.
What were you doing before you began at SAIT?
I worked as an engineer in oil and gas for 10 years, then took some time at home with my kids. Most recently I was working part-time as a technical writer and operations analyst in property services.
Why did you choose to come to SAIT?
I missed the science and engineering aspect of my previous career but didn’t want to go back to the oil and gas industry. I wanted to find a job that would be more stable, without the unpredictable ups and downs, so I started looking for a way to get a job related to water. It’s something we all need and use, so it seemed like a good choice.
I had a friend at the City of Calgary who told me there were many former oil and gas engineers applying for jobs there. I knew I had to have something to set me apart, but wasn’t sure what that was. In March of 2019, I saw an announcement on CBC about SAIT’s new Integrated Water Management (IWM) program. It seemed serendipitous — it was just what I had been looking for!
Did you ever hesitate at the idea of going back to school?
Absolutely! I have two active kids. I had concerns about finding flexible child care and I worried if I’d be able to balance their needs with my studying and class time. It seemed like something big to take on with everything that was already going on in our lives.
What has your experience been like in the IWM program?
This has been a wonderful experience, and I am so happy with my decision. Aside from the technical knowledge, SAIT is setting us up to function in our new roles by providing instruction in soft skills, project management, communication and regulatory processes. That’s something that was missing from my university experience. I feel like I can hit the ground running when I start my new career.
The instructors are supportive and truly want you to succeed. COVID-19 has made for a unique and challenging learning environment, and instructors have made extra effort to ensure every student has what they need to continue growing.
I have also made friends of both classmates and instructors and I know those friendships will extend beyond graduation.
What have been some of your favourite moments from the program so far?
Definitely learning about bear safety and creek crossing safety in first year. There were moments we were laughing so hard we had tears running down our cheeks. I will never forget those classes.
Industry night in second semester was also a highlight. It was motivating to talk to people working in the field of water and to hear about all of the ways I can integrate my work experience with my current learning to build a new career — it was very exciting.
This past September, we all got together for a week of outdoor field school. It was bittersweet to reconnect with everyone in person knowing we would be back to online school for the rest of our learning, but it was still such a great week.
What advice do you have for new SAIT students start school in an online/blended environment?
Find ways to reach out and connect with your classmates and instructors. Those relationships are key — sitting alone in front of a computer can be isolating and lonely.
Lean on your classmates, it’s likely they’ll have varied educational and work experience and are great resources to learn from.
Participate in your online classes as much as you are comfortable — you will get so much more out of the experience if you’re an active participant.
Where do you hope to go with your career?
I’m comfortable in a consultant role thanks to my previous experience. I’m looking to work at a mid-size to large consulting company working on various water projects, such as flood mitigation or storm water management. But honestly, I won’t limit myself. If I find an opportunity that feels right I will jump at it, even if it’s not specifically on my radar right now.
Learn from a SAIT and industry expert in water management
"The Integrated Water Management program diploma is the first of its kind in Canada and graduates will be well positioned to contribute to the evolution of water management in a changing climate.
"It's empowering to see the growth and passion of SAIT students. I see my role as helping them learn and be systems thinkers, not just to teach them specific isolated tasks."
-Twyla Kowalczyk, Instructor, Integrated Water Management
Read more shifting gears stories — and write your own!
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