Spring convocation: Programming a future

(Edmonton) It’s no secret that being an engineering student takes a substantial time commitment.

So how does someone balance being the Computer Engineering Club president, volunteering at numerous events, completing co-op terms and still finding time to enjoy their hobbies on top of finishing their degree?

“I didn’t,” Curtis Sand says with a laugh. “It was definitely hectic, but with the right group of friends in a study group, and the support of a great CompE club executive, it wasn’t that hard to stay on top of things.”

Growing up in Quesnel, British Columbia, Sand, who convocated June 7, began leaning towards an engineering education after taking a drafting class in junior high and excelling at math and physics in high school. He applied to the top engineering schools in Canada and felt the U of A was best fit, though electrical and computer engineering wasn’t necessarily on his radar.

“At first I thought about going into mechanical or civil engineering, but at the end of my first year I discovered that computer was actually the only one I could really stand.”

The fit was ideal for the guitar and gadget aficionado, and Sand soon found himself embedded in the engineering student lifestyle.

“You need to be determined to do it,” he says. “A lot of people come into engineering because they feel pressure from their parents, and that’s not going to work out. Your heart has to be in it. Sometimes I was here 10 or 12 hours a day.”

His hard work paid off, and he landed a co-op placement with EMC Edmonton, a global network storage and cloud computing company, as a regression testing framework developer.

“It’s like taking a car down a road full of potholes to find out its limits. We try to throw as many potholes at a program as possible,” Sand said of his position, adding that EMC fostered a great learning environment.

“They don’t baby you. They give you real work, and if you make a mistake, they take the time to figure things out with you.”

As for his future, Sand plans work towards his P.Eng designation and relax a bit after six hectic years of university. But he won’t be able to sit still very long. EMC has offered him a permanent position with the company; an opportunity that’s too good to pass up.

“Working there is like hanging out at a bigger, more expensive CompE club,” Sand says. “It’s really great.”