UBC MEL MHLP Professional Leadership Master Degrees

Integrated Water Management – John Chang

Alumnus story - John Chang

Integrated Water Management – John Chang

John Chang has an impressive resume that includes working for close to two decades on water and wastewater treatment projects in Hong Kong. He began his career as an engineer and then moved into a project manager position for Xylem, a water technology company. While he enjoyed his work, he says he always yearned to deepen his expertise in water management.

“It felt like a good time to take a short break from my career to pursue my interest in water, and I liked the MEL in Integrated Water Management for its approach,” says John.

“UBC is a great university and I knew I could gain new technical knowledge while also learning skills for working in an open and diverse society.”

Engineering classes build practical knowledge

The engineering courses in Integrated Water Management cover a broad range of topics, from hydrology to chemical and biological water treatment design. Students make use of tools to help them make water management decisions within various constraints.

“We used a program, AMPL, which is a computer language that can help you optimize decisions and determine what is the best option in a given scenario,” says John.

In one class, students used this decision-making tool to determine what amount of a river flow to use for power generation, knowing that the river provides other important uses, including supporting fisheries and agricultural purposes.

Instructors incorporate case studies in all projects to encourage students to consider alternative strategies and approaches. In the water infrastructure capstone class, for example, Dr. Cheryl Nelms, the general manager of project delivery at Metro Vancouver, asked students to explore solutions to real-world project management challenges.

“Each of us had very different backgrounds and professional experiences, which enabled us to brainstorm and come up with some interesting options,” says John.

Another highlight for him was the ability to tour the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is being upgraded at a cost of $10 billion. “It was great to see some of the ecological restoration projects being done at the site and it’s incorporate of a ‘bigger view’ beyond just technical concerns.”

Business courses build communication and leadership skills

Just half of the curriculum in Integrated Water Management is made up of business courses taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. Classes cover organizational leadership, strategy and innovation, and strategy and leadership.

An intense four-week business boot camp exposes students to six core business competencies, from accounting and contract management to business case development, and students can also take an additional business course of their choosing.

These classes are grounded in discussion and group work, and John says he learned as much from the professors as he did from the small group discussions with his classmates.

“Your student colleagues are mature professionals who have interesting perspectives on the topics from many different industries.”

John says that he particularly valued learning more about ways to measure both financial and environmental performance, as well as strategies to minimize bottlenecks and improve operational efficiency.

 A job in water treatment

John was hired by Richmond Steel Recycling to manage water-related projects associated with the company’s metal recycling business, including a stormwater management project.

John believes that the one-year master’s degree helped him get hired for this role. While he brought over a decade of experience in water treatment to the position, the degree rounded out his knowledge and proved his ability to succeed within a Canadian work environment.

He’s very positive about the program and the value it provided:

“I really appreciate the teachers and support staff for all the help they gave me and the other students throughout the year,” he says. “This was a wonderful year for me – definitely an unforgettable experience.”