Jacob van der Holt, BASc '18, School of Engineering
“You are never the smartest person in the room. It is of highest importance to be able to learn from other people, test their ideas and put the best ones into action. You won’t have what it takes to be truly innovative if you think you know it all.”
I was raised in Nelson BC — a small mountain town with a surprising amount of opportunities for work and recreation. I chose to study at UBCO because Kelowna is a small city with a big city feel, and with its smaller campus and class sizes, there is so much opportunity for research and guidance. It has been an amazing experience studying and living in Kelowna; I have learned from so many amazing professors, and been a part of some very exciting research. Graduating as head of my class, I feel that it is important to share my experience, and to encourage others to take up the challenge of studying engineering.
Why did you choose engineering?
Like many high school students I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do after graduation, so I joined the Canadian Coast Guard in hopes of finding an exciting career. I stayed with the coast guard for two years and learned a lot about how to challenge yourself to grow to your full potential (but ultimately the grueling days and weeks at sea were not for me). This desire to follow the most challenging path is what brought me to study electrical engineering.
What has made your time at the School of Engineering most memorable?
Most of my memorable experiences at UBCO happened during courses or extracurricular competitions. I love being part of a team and collaborating with others to solve complex problems. The sense of accomplishment after solving tough problems is very satisfying. I also found that I made the best friendships with the people I was competing with —these experiences and friendships won’t easily be forgotten.
What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?
You are never the smartest person in the room. It is of highest importance to be able to learn from other people, test their ideas and put the best ones into action. You won’t have what it takes to be truly innovative if you think you know it all. In order to learn, you must first doubt your ideas, listen to the evidence and push yourself to find the right answers. If you only trust yourself, you will not learn in this fast-paced world.
What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?
The opportunities for sports and outdoor recreation around UBCO are amazing. Whether it was making quinzhees in the snow in winter or sleeping under the stars on a mountaintop in summer, my favorite non-academic experiences are all the adventures I have done in the Okanagan area.
How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?
I think that engineering offers the most opportunities after graduating; it is all about solving complex problems with the well-being of society and the planet as its highest priority.
What advice would you give a student considering engineering?
It is difficult, but if you are dedicated you can do it. I have seen intelligent people give up, and I have seen many hard-working people succeed. Ask yourself if you want to make a difference in the world. We do not need engineers who aren’t ready to work hard and make the world a better place.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to get my P.Eng. before I start thinking about coming back to university for graduate studies, or perhaps starting my own company. I am moving back to Nelson and will be working with a local engineering consulting company. I am excited to give back to the community that I grew up in.
How will you go on to make a difference in our world?
I think that change starts small in our communities: I hope to be involved in local sustainability and humanitarian initiatives. I also believe in the importance of spreading what we have learned at home to the rest of the world, and to learn from others abroad. I will be looking into the possibility of traveling to underdeveloped countries with Engineers Without Borders while still working at my current job.