Where and what is your current position?
My responsibilities as President and Principal Engineer are to manage key accounts, develop the company leadership, conduct strategy and planning with financial analysis, and forecast.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
Sort of: I love research and electrical engineering. I now own an electrical engineering company so its a dream come true, right ? Not so fast: I now want to build big and important things to better society. To build big things I need a big team (no one hires a single person to design a rocket). To create a big team I need bigger contracts. To get big contracts, I needed to be good at sales and marketing. To be good at sales and marketing I needed to understand cash flow and accounting. To be good at all that, I had to spend time to learn those things. Now my staff make cool things... wait, I thought that was supposed to be my job!
How does this job relate to your graduate degree?
There were several lessons I learned during my PhD that are a great asset to my day to day working life. The first is that it is impossible to know everything (though I tried). The world is complicated and I realized that as a PhD graduate, I needed to have the confidence in myself and respect of others to listen to the perspectives and ideas of other people no matter who they are. When I first graduated, I thought everyone was expecting that I would have all the answers but then I realized that everyone knows a little bit about something and solutions to hard problems hide in between those bits of knowledge - just like all the papers I had to read years ago. The second is to to never give up because you never know when the right moment will happen no matter what you are doing. This is the key spice to any PhD program and it will work well in any career. No matter how hard things look, the answer may be waiting for your right around the corner. The third is to have confidence in myself and in the engineering process. It works in the real world. I use it every day. The last is to simplify the message. Getting an advanced degree is a privilege and it is our job to help others understand and create a call to action by taking complex problems and simplifying them in a way that everyone can comprehend the key message in its most crystallized form. I was grateful to have gained this skill during my PhD. It is probably the most useful thing I have ever learned.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
I love research. I love creating new things.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
Meeting the international community, exchanging ideas with people, and learning new things.
What are key things you did that contributed to your success?
Stay positive. Don't give up. Plan ahead. Learn to work with people. Simplify and clarify your message and help others to do so.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
You are not the smartest person. You will never be. Listen to others and admit how little you know. That is your strength.
Did you have any breaks in your education?
Sort of. I was running the company while doing the PhD. This turned out to be an advantage because I needed to focus on the job at hand. I treated the program like a project and worked on it every day. It also enabled a near seamless transition from PhD to full time working life.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
I did it by doing lots and lots and lots of networking. After that, I went out and networked some more. Working life is about people. Go out and get connected with other people by helping them, volunteering, teaching, coaching etc.. There are 1000's of options. It takes time so start soon.
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
Create a good supervisory team. Don't just rely on a single professor because you will be subject to limited ideas, self interest and lack of opportunity. The supervisory team should be committed and interested in your ideas. Get a co-supervisor who works in industry that wants to take you on. When someone tells you your idea is bad, it might be bad or it might be something incredible. Try to see through the opinion. Get up early every day and work hard every day.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
There are always a few but those postings are usually a sub set of how many positions there really are. Its also important to get out to know people in your community.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I solve endless problems every day both technical and social. I get work with some great people and we put our heads together to try to build products, develop leaders and build a company.