Up­grad­ing skills leads to dream job

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS - By Derek Sankey

CAL­GARY — Deanna Bur­gart al­ways knew she wanted to get a chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing de­gree but, as it does for a lot of peo­ple, life got in the way.

“Be­ing a sin­gle par­ent... a four-year univer­sity de­gree just wasn’t an op­tion at the time,” she says. “I wanted to get an em­ploy­able ed­u­ca­tion.” So she did.

Af­ter up­grad­ing her high school cour­ses at age 22, she earned her chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing diploma in 2000, found a job she loved and worked for eight years in the en­ergy in­dus­try while rais­ing her child, and meet­ing and mar­ry­ing her hus­band. Yet, the de­sire to get her four-year chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing de­gree was al­ways there.

“I just have a huge pas­sion for the in­dus­try that I’m in,” she says. “It’s some­thing that I wanted to do from the be­gin­ning.”

Leav­ing the sta­bil­ity of a suc­cess­ful ca­reer and well-pay­ing job is dif­fi­cult, says Bur­gart. “It was a tough de­ci­sion,” she says. “It’s like hav­ing kids — there’s never a per­fect time to stop what you’re do­ing for an ex­tended pe­riod of time.”

De­spite the un­knowns, she sold her house, up­rooted her fam­ily, went to Lake­head Univer­sity in Thun­der Bay for two years — with two full years of credit for her ex­ist­ing cre­den­tials — and be­gan the jour­ney to­ward her de­gree.

With one course left to com­plete, she moved back to Cal­gary in Jan­uary 2010 and fin­ished the re­main­ing de­gree re­quire­ments at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary’s Schulich School of En­gi­neer­ing while vol­un­teer­ing with one of the in­sti­tu­tion’s men­tor­ing pro­grams.

“It was prob­a­bly the 2½ of the most stress­ful years of my life — it was a pretty in­tense pro­gram — but I would do it again in a heart­beat,” says Bur­gart, who is now a chem­i­cal en­gi­neer in Cal­gary work­ing in the lu­cra­tive oil and gas in­dus­try.

“You are the mas­ter of what you learn and what you achieve,” says Bur­gart. “A lot of peo­ple rely on their com­pa­nies for train­ing and per­sonal growth, which is great — there are a lot of com­pa­nies out there that do that — but you still have to be the owner of that. Just do it. Don’t wait for some­body else to give you that op­por­tu­nity.”

Go­ing back to school af­ter spend­ing sev­eral years in the work­force can be in­tim­i­dat­ing for any­body, no mat­ter what your back­ground. Bur­gart’s per­se­ver­ance paid off well and she achieved her goals. She ad­vises any­body con­sid­er­ing such a move to con­sider it care­fully, but once you de­cide on a clear di­rec­tion, just do it.

“Some­times you need to de­cide that you have to go for it,” says Bur­gart. “If it’s some­thing that you truly want to do, don’t wait for the per­fect time to do it be­cause there won’t be (one).”

Al­li­son MacKen­zie, a re­cruiter spe­cial­ist that works with univer­sity grad­u­ates to help them de­fine a ca­reer path, un­der­stands why peo­ple would pick the pay­cheque over the dream.

“There is a lot of uncer­tainty about go­ing back to school, but if you re­ally want to go into any ca­reer, there is al­ways uncer­tainty,” says Macken­zie. “It’s not some­thing to be taken lightly, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, but at the same time you have to ask your­self if you are happy.”

There are also grants avail­able from dif­fer­ent lev­els of govern­ment for re­train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion, as well as schol­ar­ships that tar­get peo­ple who’ve been work­ing in the labour mar­ket for a while and who want to up­grade or change ca­reers.

“Do your re­search,” MacKen­zie says. “It’s not like you have any­thing to lose by go­ing online and find­ing out what might ap­ply to you or ben­e­fit you if you de­cide to make that de­ci­sion.”

It’s not al­ways about get­ting more ed­u­ca­tion or more money or get­ting a pro­mo­tion, says MacKen­zie. The point of any ca­reer should be ful­fil­ment.

The bills al­ways need to be paid, of course, but it’s com­mon for peo­ple to go through many ca­reers through­out their life­times in to­day’s econ­omy.

“My ca­reer has been a life­long learn­ing process,” she says.

— Cal­gary Her­ald

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.