Student Experience – Kate Yan
An assistant project manager for a water main project in Metro Vancouver valued at more than $250 million, Kate Yan chose the part-time option for the Master of Engineering Leadership in Integrated Water Management so she could continue to work while expanding her technical and business knowledge.
Tell us about your job.
Since January 2015, I have been working with Stantec’s water group in Surrey as a project engineer on municipal infrastructure projects, focusing on linear infrastructure design and stormwater management.
Currently, I am working on the Coquitlam Main No. 4 project for Metro Vancouver. This large-diameter water main (it ranges from 2.2 to 3.2 metres in diameter) will run 13 kilometres from Metro Vancouver’s existing Coquitlam treatment facilities along Pipeline Road and through to the city centre. The project is currently at the 60% design stage and it has adopted a triple bottom line approach to design and planning.
What made you interested in the MEL in Integrated Water Management?
I wanted to get more technical and project management experience, and to learn more about business topics that relate to the consulting world.
I had looked at both MEng and MBA programs, but when I discovered the MEL degree, it seemed like a really good mix of technical and business education.
It gives you a broad-scale understanding of water-related engineering, and the business courses seemed useful for my future career growth.
Why did you choose the part-time option?
It was important to me to continue working on some of my ongoing projects and maintain my current relationship with Stantec.
I realized I could do that and gain extra knowledge that I could immediately apply to my projects.
I had been working 37.5 hours per week, so I reset my baseline to 22.5 hours when I started in January 2020. But really, most of the time, I work much more than that!
What classes did you take in the first year of the program?
In the first year of the part-time option, you take all your business classes and you can take electives in your field as well.
Have you been able to apply what you’ve learned to your work?
As the assistant project manager on the water main project, I’m co-ordinating with experts from geotechnical, environmental, electrical, tunneling and hydraulic teams from offices across North America.
Expanding my business and leadership skills has helped me do a better job in this role in terms of communication and project management.
For example, the business courses required a lot of presentations and group work, and this has made me more confident bringing up issues in meetings and discussions.
Any tips for juggling work and school?
If you want to do the part-time option, prepare yourself by looking ahead 12 to 18 months so you know what your work situation might be like and so you can organize things before you start the program.
My supervisor has been very supportive. I talked with my company before hand and they suggested different options and a more flexible schedule to allow me to balance work and school, which has been great. Also, you just have to know that there will be some times that will be really busy and where there will be conflicts between your school deadlines and your work load.
Good time management skills are very helpful!
Any other highlights from the program?
The people you meet are a definite highlight.
Everyone in the Integrated Water Management program is from very different professional backgrounds and with different experiences, which is good for learning from each other, building connections and having those relationships for the future. It would have been nice if we could have had in-person classes, but even so we have still been able to become friends.
This year, which is my second year of the degree, the focus is on the technical classes, which is giving me a good understanding of many water-related topics.
My work at Stantec has focused on stormwater management and linear infrastructure, and I’m now learning about areas – like water and waste water treatment – that could definitely relate to future projects and opportunities.