Director of Enforcement, APEGA
I was born/grew up in: Edmonton, AB, Canada. I grew up in northern Alberta on a farm north of Grande Prairie, AB, Canada.
I now live in: I now live in Edmonton, AB, Canada. I came to Edmonton to attend the University of Alberta and have been fortunately enough to hold jobs in Edmonton, so I have stayed. It is a great city.
I completed my training/education at:
I attended the University of Alberta for two degrees. The first was a Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering with a Computer Process Control option and the Co-op program. I received this with distinction. The second was a Masters of Science in Chemical and Mining engineering, which was a thesis based degree.
Describe what you do at work.
I have held two main jobs. The first one was in the oil sand research and the second is my current one I have with the professional regulator. I will share information about my first one. For oil sand research, I conducted pilot plant experiments. We tested new ideas for better processes that would reduce environmental impact, create more efficient processes, or save costs in operations, maintenance or reliability. I worked with technologists and we would design experiments and methods to measure different aspects of the experiments and then try to prove our theories. From this work, I achieved several patents with the teams I was part of. We also worked to scale up our pilots to see if the theories held true at larger sizes. As the engineer, I did most of the data analysis utilizing math and different equations to see if the samples made sense. I would do mass and energy balances and would review the results to decide what needed to be changed in the experiments.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
Currently, I work for a professional regulator. APEGA is a professional association that makes sure that engineers and geoscientists that work in Alberta are technically and ethically competent. In order to do engineering or geoscience work in the province of Alberta, a license is required from APEGA. To get a license, a person needs a degree plus several years of experience. The work I do is to make sure that everyone follows the rules and requirements. This is important work to ensure that engineers and geoscientists keep in mind the public and keep the public safe in any work that they do. The basic goal is to make sure that the work our members do meets a certain quality and that engineers and geoscientists act ethically and professionally. The work I do affects the public in many ways. By helping make sure that engineers and geoscientists are held accountable if they don’t practice skillfully and ethically helps keep people safe.
What motivates you in your career?
What motivates me is being challenged - I like having problems and trying to figure them out. As an oil sands research engineer, the challenges were more math and science related. In my current job, the challenges are more legal based. But I still use the skills I learned in my technical work. I know how to run projects, work with people, communicate ideas, how to manage change, and evaluate risk. Right now, I have several people that I lead, and that also motivates me. I make sure they have the right knowledge and skills to do the best at their job . I also try to make sure they are excited as well about the work that they do. I like being able to lead them and teach them and watch them grow and be their best. As a side note, being an engineer also is financially rewarding. Finding a way to balance work as part of your life is important. And having the money to be able to vacation and de-stress and sports, etc., is very nice.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
My first science fair project in fourth grade answered the question, "Which type of Tupperware would best keep apples fresh for the longest amount of time?". I remember feeling discouraged when my project had not qualified for the regional fair. Fast forward several years to high school when I gave science fairs another try. This time it led to my participation at the Canada-wide Science Fair in 2016. It was through this experience I learned how to cultivate a growth mindset: understanding that setbacks are part of the learning process while adopting the belief that my abilities were not fixed entities - I could develop them into anything I desired with enough hard work and dedication!
I would not be where I am today without the support of my family and STEM mentors. Through the many times inside and outside of school when nothing seemed to be going right, their advice and encouragement always brought me back to thinking about the purpose behind my work. This kept me motivated to persist through the toughest of challenges. I am thankful for their ongoing support towards my goals, however odd they turn out to be!
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I like to stay active - my favourite winter things are downhill skiing, curling, and reading. In the summer, I play slo-pitch, camp, and attend music festivals. I take my kids with me everywhere I go and they enjoy the same things. I volunteer doing outreach talks, career talks, and helping to run organizations through board/committee work.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
My four pieces of advice: 1) Build confidence in small ways. 2) Learn how to fail - and know that failure isn't a reflection of who you are. 3) Find a team - to motivate you, empathize with you, and to help you. 4) Seek and find inspiration everywhere.
Let’s Talk Science recognizes and thanks Jessica Vandenberghe for her contribution to Canada 2067.