Brandon Hillier

How engineers learn to labour: Elite technology work across borders in the United States and Canada
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

To have space to spectate on some of the intense changes and challenges we are observing in the world today, and to do so with others who share an interest in diagnosing what possible futures are available.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

Primarily the type and level of scholarship. I admired the work historically and currently produced by the Department of Geography. I had also heard much about the training provided and was eager to refine my research interests here. 

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The critical and multidisciplinary orientation. Students come to the department from practically every disciplinary area—you take classes alongside students trained as sociologists, journalists, engineers, economists, biologists, and so on. Geography is a distinctive scientific field, and UBC happens to be a thriving center for it.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I know the city quite well but because many of my colleagues are from other parts of the world, I have been invited to experience the city as a non-local for the first time. I spend a lot of time with my colleagues and have participated in how they each made Vancouver their distinctive home.

The Department of Geography at UBC is world class, with an incredible community of scholars, students, and staff thinking together in a notoriously rascal discipline. It is additionally a leading centre for economic geography - it is a privilege to have scholars you have looked up to become involved so intimately in your work.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

The extensive time provided to read. This is something which unites all of us doing academic work and a love for it is what brought many of us here.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I have worked a lot of different jobs. Having an array of vocational experiences contributes to research in ways which continually draw my surprise—sometimes directly, contributing to, say, data analysis or how I draft materials, but more often indirectly and tacitly, providing a grounding intuition for improvising in new intellectual scenarios as they are confronted.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Going to the gym, lifting heavy objects, putting them back down is an enlivening counter to the peculiar fatigue derived from our work. More recently I have been trying to improve my language skills. I’m having more luck with Haskell than Deutsch.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Engage fully in departmental life and share ideas openly with your colleagues. Many of the individuals you encounter in the department will be your peers and friends for a long time.


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