People Profile- Jenn Bhatla

Jenn BhatlaJenn Bhatla had traveled with her family and served as a Tall Ships deckhand on a world tour, but it was on her own as an Engineering Co-op student in India that she found her calling as an engineer.

In Bhatla’s initial work term, with the oil and gas sector at Devon Energy, her first field trip to a new world of rigs and mud pumps was awe inspiring. And as with any new venture, it was difficult in the beginning.

“At first I didn’t understand a word of what was going on in meetings. In fact I understood more the following year when I was in India — and I didn’t speak the language,” she laughs.

But over time, and with the help of kind Devon Energy workers who would explain technicalities to her, Bhatla began to get a handle on the industry.

Bhatla’s next work term — in India — was completely different, and captured her heart and imagination.

Her family are longtime supporters of Child Haven International, a program based on Gandhian principles that operates India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Tibet, and assists children and women in developing countries who are in need of support. She knew that Dr. S. V. Mapuskar, the “Latrine Doctor,” a champion of sanitation in India’s Pune district, had designed and implemented a biogas plant for water treatment at the original shelter. Inspired by Mapuskar’s work, Bhatla contacted him directly and, with the help of UBC’s Engineering Co-op program, organized a work term with him.

The trip to India was her first solo foray abroad to a country where she knew no one and could not speak the language. Bhatla says support from the Co-op Program and Child Haven staff helped her to make the leap out of her comfort zone and not feel so isolated.

Bhatla said she started to love working on her own, adding that it helped her connect with people more closely. “I was so nervous before I left and wondered how I would manage,” she says. “I was always quiet, and still am, but now I know how to ask questions and I know that it’s ok to get lost.”

Back at UBC, Bhatla is involved with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and was key in organizing presentations on the benefits of international work terms in coordination with the Engineering Co-op program.

“EWB wants to bridge the gap between the engineering community and the rest of society — to provide technical solutions while considering societal factors,” says Bhatla.

Her work with Child Haven triggered an interest in medicine, and once again Bhatla is using Co-op as a tool to help her finesse her career decision-making process. Her winter-session position, at the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health at the University of Calgary, will be her first time working in research and another step in her path to discovering the right fit for her talents and passions — which will ultimately lead her to fulfill Confucius’ belief:

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Faculty of Applied Science
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Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
UBC Engineering Co-op Program
2385 East Mall,
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
Tel: 604-822-3022
Fax: 604-822-3449
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