Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
Alumnus Story — Donghee Kim
After completing the one-year professional master’s degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, mechanical engineer Donghee Kim made a successful career shift to pursue his passion for shipbuilding.
Over a period of seven years, Donghee Kim built an enviable career in the electrical transformer industry. He worked in Canada and the US for leading multinational companies, ultimately holding the position of mechanical engineering manager for ABB in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he led an engineering design group of 15 engineers.
While he enjoyed and excelled in his work, Donghee says that being exposed to shipbuilding while working for Hyundai Power Transformers sparked his curiosity about a possible career transition. “I began realizing that I had reached the point where I didn’t have as many opportunities to grow my career or continue my learning in the electrical transformer industry,” he says. “I took a look at my life and career goals and decided that the time had come to change industries rather than stay in the same field. Shipbuilding fascinated me as it is a highly technical, complex and innovative industry.”
He researched master’s programs and discovered UBC’s year Master of Engineering Leadership program in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. “I didn’t want to do a research-based applied science degree,” he says. “I love working in industry and I wanted a program that would allow me to get a job in my new field.”
Setting the stage for a career transition
Immersing himself in a new sector, Donghee says he enjoyed learning technical material from professors who “were very knowledgeable and clearly well-respected in their field,” adding that the profs “went out of their way to encourage us and introduce us to industry leaders.”
He also says that the business and leadership courses were relevant and practical. “These were very interactive classes, where we analyzed case studies and worked with people from the other MEL programs. I had experience from my professional career in making business cases, managing people, overseeing budgets and taking on all the other responsibilities that come with a management position. These courses continued to build my strengths in this area.”
In the program’s summer semester, Donghee participated in a four-month internship with BC Ferries as a naval architect intern. He conducted sea trials and lightship surveys, calculated damage stability and revised international safety management drawings.
“This gave me relevant hands-on experience in ship design and operation, and it proved very helpful when I was applying for jobs after graduating.”
After graduating, Donghee landed a position at AdvanTec Global Innovations as a mechanical electrical engineer in Langley. “My job includes research, product development and design of electromechanical products – primarily for yachts — as well as providing engineering supports to other departments.”
Reflecting on the one-year MEL program, Donghee says that the dual focus on business and technical courses is essential for professional success. “The business aspect is very important in today’s work culture and environment. Engineers are not expected to just sit in an office programming or working on Excel spreadsheets. We’re expected to lead and manage projects and to be able to make business cases. If you can’t communicate with people in other departments, you will have a passive role and the scope of your influence will be very limited. The common language in engineering companies is dollars, and you need to learn how to speak that language.”
“In fact, many top engineering jobs don’t require the specialized technical skills that you would get in a PhD or master of applied science degree. The MEL program, with its inclusion of high-level business and leadership courses, is excellent at preparing people to make a difference in industry.”