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Colin Chan is a professional engineer by training, a skilled communicator by experience, and a builder by nature. Colin uses his skills and talent in pursuit of environmental stewardship and community-building projects.
Colin, what inspired you to become an engineer?
I found out about engineering through a career counselor at my high school. I was fairly strong in math, physics, and chemistry so they recommended I look into it. I applied not really knowing what engineering was all about.
Where did you go to university and what field of engineering did you study?
I went to UBC and did an undergraduate degree in Materials Engineering. After graduating and working for a few years, I decided to return to school to combine my interests in environmental stewardship with my career. I moved to Australia and completed a Masters degree in Environmental Engineering.
What adventures have you had along the way?
I’ve had many adventures! My schooling and career have been a continuous journey of exploration and discovery, both technical and personal. I started my career thinking I’d make an excellent research and development engineer. After craving more personal connections in my work, I switched to becoming a consultant. I thoroughly enjoy helping people solve problems, and consulting is exactly that. Now, I’ve somehow found my way into a software company – something I never thought I’d ever do – and I’m helping thousands of businesses to save energy and become more efficient.
What work do you do now? What has been your favourite experience? What is the biggest challenge?
Right now I work at Yardi, where we work with energy utilities to help small- and medium-sized businesses to save energy through data-analysis-driven awareness campaigns. I really enjoy applying technical engineering solutions hand-in-hand with behavioural science to ensure the message is well understood, appealing, and motivating. Relaying complex technical information to different audiences so we can solve problems together is my favourite type of challenge.
When you look back, do you see anything from your childhood that may have influenced you to become an engineer (e.g. played with Lego)?
I’ve always been a non-stop question kid. I like knowing how things work. I was always destroying my toys because I loved to take them apart and really examine each individual component – looking it over, bending it, breaking it, putting it in backwards, sometimes even smelling/tasting it. Unfortunately, I don’t have many toys left from childhood as a result, but at least I’m good at diagnosing/fixing my daughter’s toys when something breaks.
What is so great about being an engineer?
To me, being an engineer is having the best of both worlds. You get to learn about and use all the great scientific discoveries that come from the world of science, and bring them over to the real world to apply them (applied science, right?!) to solve problems that people have in a practical way.
Thank you, Colin, for sharing your story.