Student stories

Electrical engineering student graduates with a passport of experience

Sarah Allan

Graduating electrical engineering student Sarah Allan was able to explore her personal and professional interests at home and abroad while at UVic—thanks in large part to the co-op program. “Taking part in the co-op program allowed me to explore many of my personal interests,” she says. “It also allowed me to gain industry knowledge that wouldn’t have possible in a traditional degree program.”

Allan chose to come to UVic largely because of the reputation of its co-op program, which is mandatory for engineering students. Over the course of her degree, Allan completed work terms with four different employers across three continents.

Allan’s first work term took her to northern Ghana with Engineers Without Borders, where she developed and populated data systems and data-driven development in small local communities. Her international interests spurred her second co-op, a placement at HSBC as a global IT intern. In this position, she planned and built business tools to support various multinational teams. For her third co-op term, Allan supported a Yukon College archeologist in the Yukon and Ukraine, exploring the possibilities of using virtual reality to analyze artifacts. She also got to practice her Russian, which she learned before heading to Ukraine and carried forward up to 400-level courses upon her return to campus.

Allan spent her final work term in Edmonton as a field engineer with Willbros Canada, an energy infrastructure contracting company. Though each day started with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call and a dark, snowy trek out to the field site, Allan enjoyed the opportunity to put her skills from earlier positions to work in a new environment. “Because it was a field position, where I could work hands-on and learn project engineering,” she says, “it was a new learning experience for me in an industrial setting.”

In this position, Allan spent her days coordinating between clients, site foremen and quality assurance personnel to ensure projects were on task. She was also responsible for planning work reviews, site inspections and any other projects that came her way. The dynamic nature of the job helped Allan build project management and workflow skills, learn from her project manager and gain new knowledge about industrial, electrical and instrumentation systems and parts.

With her co-op experiences under her belt, Allan feels confident heading into life after graduation and has a greater awareness of her interests, strengths and career options. “Each co-op term was another insight into what type of career would interest me,” she says. “The combined skills I gained from my co-op terms and academic studies also give me the confidence to work in the industries that appeal to me the most.”

This summer, Allan is continuing her jet-setting—this time to Brisbane, Australia. She plans to travel the country for a month or two before looking for a position Down Under as an industrial engineer-in-training—and get her pilot’s license

Reflecting on her time as an engineering student, Allan is grateful for the support she found throughout her degree. “I had a great time during my degree, and appreciated and took the opportunity to use the many resources available at UVic.”

She suggests new students create their own networking opportunities on campus, joining student clubs and interacting with as many people as possible. “UVic provides an extensive network and proven connections to the industry,” she says. “Talk to as many people as you can, learn from them and have fun!”

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