Kenny Ponto used all of the resources available at UBC to map out his career path, and landed a job post-grad in the process.
When Kenny arrived at UBC, he was sure the Mechanical Engineering program he had chosen was exactly right for him. But as he progressed through his studies, he realized it didn’t suit his character at all – he needed something broader and more flexible. After researching his options, he switched his focus to Integrated Engineering and began to design his own degree – learning about himself and refining his plans for the future along the way.
Why did you choose UBC?
Picking the place I was going to call home for at least four years was challenging. After I was accepted to UBC, I attended a welcome event to meet the incoming class and speak with a representative from the Faculty of Applied Science. I felt the program would fit me well. That, combined with UBC’s excellent international reputation, was the main reason I picked UBC.
What big questions did you have before arriving at UBC?
How can I grow? What will leaving home be like?
“I view my time in university as a chance to develop real-world skills and expand my network, and I thought the Engineering program and living in Vancouver would allow me to do that.” – Kenny Ponto, Integrated Engineering alumni
How did you choose your campus and program?
I view my time in university as a chance to develop real-world skills and expand my network, and I thought the Engineering program and living in Vancouver would allow me to do that. The frameworks and ways of thinking presented in engineering design are very applicable in all fields of work. Residing in a travel hub like Vancouver brings opportunities to connect with individuals from all over the world.
What’s the best part about your program?
Integrated Engineering gives you years of experience with project management. Every year, we do year-long projects in teams, tasked with ideas we generate ourselves. This has been fantastic because I’ve had the opportunity to dip my toes into numerous fields, and the breadth of knowledge I’ve gained gives me the flexibility I’ll need to move between industries.
Did you have a career in mind when you chose your program? Has that career goal changed?
I came to UBC wanting to do the mechatronics program in Mechanical Engineering. I like tinkering with contraptions, electronics, and robotics. Going into university, I was quite certain I wanted to work in the field of robotics and thought the program would be perfect.
After first year, though, I found that flexibility and breadth of knowledge suit my character better. While browsing through the different programs, I found Integrated Engineering and it seemed like the best fit. It allows me to learn the basics of different engineering fields (mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc.) while homing in on the aspects that most interest me. The fact that I can combine multiple fields of knowledge into something that is geared specifically towards my interests felt like a great idea!
How did you personalize your studies as you went through the program?
During second and third year, I found deeper interests in production/prototyping, engineering leadership, and entrepreneurship. I then crafted my technical electives to suit these interests, while continuing to take engineering design and other core courses.
You said you have a job waiting for you after your degree. How did that come about?
Towards the end of my final year, I started focusing on how I would market myself to employers. I didn’t centre my studies on the number-crunching aspects of engineering. Who would want to hire an entry-level engineer whose interests are in leadership and entrepreneurship? I sought help from the professional development team in Applied Science.
After just one consultation with an advisor, I was reminded of my thorough knowledge in project management from my experience as an integrated engineer taking years of engineering design courses. I realized that project management is my wheelhouse because it allows me to channel my leadership and entrepreneurship skills and covers a wide array of tasks. It turns out the education I created for myself has prepared me well for the career I want. I can proudly say that after graduation I will be working with a Canadian contractor as a project coordinator.
When you’re not studying, what’s the best thing to do on campus?
When the sun is out, go for a walk! Sit on a bench along Main Mall or by the Rose Garden. Absorb the crispness of the air, the vastness of the mountains, and the movement of the people around you. Take tons of pictures, too!
“Vancouver is a really great city to live in if you love the outdoors, plus the food is amazing and diverse, too.”
What’s the best part about living In Vancouver?
You’re sooooo close to the mountains and that gives you immediate access to winter sports! Coming from Indonesia, we don’t have that privilege so it’s amazing to experience it here. On the flip side, I did not miss the beaches from home because we’re surrounded by beaches. Vancouver is a really great city to live in if you love the outdoors, plus the food is amazing and diverse, too.
Do you belong to any teams, groups or clubs on campus?
I served in the Gado-Gado Indonesian Students Association of UBCfor three years. I was the club president in my third year and, during that period, I steered the club back to its roots. We shaped our programs to support students from Indonesia to have a home away from home and created a showcase of our culture for everyone else on campus to enjoy. Over the years, we’ve grown significantly in size. We’re currently one of the biggest Indonesian student associations in Canada. Find out what we’re planning on doing from our Facebook page and feel free to join us!
How have extracurricular activities added to your time so far?
My student leadership and work experience has bolstered my project management experience because the skills I’ve gained through those activities are transferable to my field of work. I learned people management and exercised teamwork and problem-solving skills outside of my coursework. These activities are a part of me making my time here at UBC my very own.
“If you stumble here and there, don’t worry – university is a time of experimentation! Seek knowledge and have fun in the process.”
What would you say to prospective students who are considering attending UBC?
Your degree is what you make of it. UBC’s motto is “Tuum Est,” which translates to “It is yours.” Choose the program you’re interested in. Take the courses you’re curious about. Join the numerous student clubs and find peers with similar interests. You’re in control. Make the decisions you think are best for your future. And if you stumble here and there, don’t worry – university is a time of experimentation! Seek knowledge and have fun in the process.
Do you live in residence or off campus? What’s the best part about it?
I live on campus, but not with university housing, so I get the best of both worlds. I am close to a lot of school resources, but have the flexibility of an apartment.
What’s your favourite on-campus event, and why?
I love going to the shows performed by the UBC Theatre program. Going to the theatre was one of my favorite pastimes at home, so I love doing that here and having the opportunity to take a break from my studies. Tickets are super affordable for UBC students. In fact, there are tons of student discounts across campus – make sure you take advantage when you’re here!
Where’s your favourite place to study, and why?
The Life Sciences Building. It has really high ceilings with a glass roof and the study space feels spacious, which gives me the energy to work! The tables provide enough room, too. I tend to scatter my papers and also have my laptop open, so I need a decent amount of desk space. It’s also very close to a bus stop so it’s very accessible.
In your opinion, what makes UBC distinctive from other universities?
I find that the campus is very well balanced. Aside from the great educational resources, student-focused activities are plentiful and diverse. Students can take a break by hitting the gym or strolling through gardens. They can also absorb knowledge from the various museums or immerse themselves in art at the different galleries.
“In my program, I gained valuable teamwork skills and met individuals who challenged me to take different perspectives on issues I am interested in.”
What has your UBC experience helped you achieve so far, and how?
The UBC ecosystem has supported me in achieving my career goals. I am driven to develop real-life work skills and broaden my network. In my program, I gained valuable teamwork skills and met individuals who challenged me to take different perspectives on issues I am interested in. I applied these skills and the knowledge I’ve gained to the student clubs I led and the part-time job I held during my degree, and I will also use them in my future workplace.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your UBC experience?
Do co-op and/or exchange if you have the chance! It’s the one thing that I would change if I ever re-did my UBC experience.