06 Apr 2023 BC Tech Scholarship Program
Where are they now?
Since 2007 BC Tech has been providing grants to exceptional students pursuing a post-secondary education in technology. Amounts vary depending on whether an applicant is still in grade 12 or already at university or college, and the bursary is meant as a stepping stone to help recipients leave their mark in the industry.
A total of 96 scholarships have been handed out since 2007, and a large percentage of the winners, many from diverse backgrounds, go on to work in varied positions throughout the sector. Two of them are local Vancouverites Stephanie and Tiffany Quon, awarded $4,500 in 2021 and $3,500 in 2020, respectively.
Stephanie is in fourth year electrical engineering at UBC. She became inspired to apply after hearing about her sister’s positive experience, but already learned of the program much earlier while researching future employment and higher learning options.
“I decided to pursue a career in tech because I was broadly interested in technology and innovation. Throughout high school, I was most interested in physics and math, so that really pushed me to towards engineering. I feel being surrounded every day by things designed by engineers is inspiring and makes me feel proud to study engineering,” said Stephanie.
“What drew me to electrical engineering with a specialization in biomedical engineering was an interest in assistive and accessible technology. I love how designing for accessibility helps everyone, and I really wanted to develop skills to be able to build things that are accessible and inclusive.”
Though Tiffany blazed the trail by securing a grant first, the 25-year-old credits her parents — both in the software business — for demonstrating the path was a possible one. Having studied engineering physics at UBC, graduating in 2021, she applied in hopes to attend grad school in media arts one day to explore creative technology.
“I’m particularly interested in consumer technology. There is so much technology I interface with on a daily basis, and I love thinking about how the technology in question might take this deep integration with people’s lives seriously,” said Tiffany, who in the meantime is already making the lives of everyday users more efficient as a product manager on Google Maps.
On the other end of the spectrum, Keith Martin was an early recipient of a $2,500 scholarship back in 2009. Another UBC engineering physics grad, specializing in mechatronics, the Montrealer has held several co-op positions at different companies including Ballard Power Corporation where his name is on a US patent application for a fuel cell sealing technique.
“I actually would not say I am in tech today, but I had some tech experiences in university [like conceptualizing, designing, fabricating and assembling robots]. Receiving the award gave me a lot of confidence and has allowed me to use it as a reference in my career. I currently work at WSP Canada as a project manager on renewable — mostly wind — energy projects,” said Martin.
An especially interesting success story is Jobina Tamminga’s. The Ontarian and Timiskaming First Nation member found her way to UBC after discovering a pamphlet in the high school guidance counsellor’s office and quickly became smitten with the advertised mountains and ocean.
“Computer science was not on my radar at all when I began my education. I started in psychology in the arts, and took biology and engineering calculus as my electives. I realized that I was way more interested in the science courses than the arts courses,” said Tamminga, adding being part of AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) club also helped, where she networked with other indigenous students and realized the importance of representation in STEM fields.
“When I switched into the faculty of science in my second year, I planned on studying biology. I decided to take an introductory computer science class as an elective and just really fell in love with programming. I had always loved math and solving problems but knew nothing about computers. As I learned more and more, I just found that it clicked really easily.”
Tamminga is now employed as a software developer at Whitehorse-based Make IT Solutions, which builds, deploys and operates enterprise exchange and auction systems, and says the $3,500 lightened the burden of student loans. Her husband Keith Martin, a fellow software developer, UBC alumnus and scholarship recipient, was the one who provided the initial encouragement to apply in 2019.
Martin moved from the Yukon to attend post-secondary and originally favoured mechanical or civil engineering, though eventually landed in computer engineering.
“There was a lightbulb moment for me while I was taking the mandatory computer science course in first-year engineering. I remember not understanding anything before walking into the computer lab and sitting down to do the assignment — we were working on loops and as I sat there thinking about what to do, I remember all the pieces coming together in a way that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced since. Something in my brain clicked,” said Martin.
Putting the $3,500 towards tuition and living expenses, he says the grant had a big impact on his life and career.
“[It] and allowed me to focus full-time on my education without the need to have a job while I was in class. I worked during the summer breaks and during my co-op terms, but I can’t emphasize enough how helpful this was.”
Currently looking for a new opportunity, the former varsity track athlete was a full stack developer at his last company and possesses a keen interest in the sustainability movement happening in the industry, with a desire to combat climate change.
One more successful candidate making a difference is Henry Stoldt. Programming since the seventh grade when he was gifted a beginner robot kit for Christmas, the Quesnel native taught himself how to publish a simple whack-a-mole game for the Windows Phone in high school. Using the $1,000 from BC Tech in 2013 to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Calgary, and working on software projects on the side, he went on to do a master’s focusing on aerospace engineering simulation software.
“I’m currently a software engineer at SpaceX working on our Starlink internet constellation/service. We’re working to provide worldwide high-speed internet coverage, especially to underserved populations in rural areas — including places like Quesnel where I grew up. I’ve been there for a little over a year and previously worked as a robotics developer in the R&D group at Attabotics, a warehouse automation start-up in Calgary.” said Stoldt.
“I view advancing our technology as one of the most powerful ways to make the world a better place, and help people in the long run.”
Applications for the 2023 BC Tech Scholarship Program will be accepted until midnight on April 30. For additional information and a full breakdown of the criteria, visit the website. Winners will be celebrated at the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Technology Impact Awards.