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Life of Canadian PI by Ethel Clemente Fernandez

The interview option

by Ethel Clemente-Fernandez

    Tapia family
 
Jun Tapia and his family
  snowmobile
 
Jun’s first snowmobile ride at Bird's Hill Park
  Cambodia
 
Jun with monks during a site visit in Siem Reap, Cambodia
  dubai desert
 
Jun in the middle of the Dubai desert
  Dubai Metro
 
Dubai Metro Design Team rides the Metro
on its opening day in Dubai, UAE

Going through any interview, whether it is for a job, a feature or for any other purpose, is always terrifying for some, if not most people. I personally dread going through an interview, not only because I don’t like the feeling of being put on the spot and at the receiving end of what may be a subjective judgment, but also, because I know that if I get too nervous, it could end catastrophically. I oftentimes have regrets after an interview, thinking that I could have done better. But there is no undo button in an interview; once it’s done, it’s done.

When the interview option was offered to confirm my engineering academic qualification with Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba (EGM), I knew right away that it would be my last option. I can cite a plethora of reasons why, which may be echoed by others who have been offered this option, but opted to take another route instead: (1) no idea what the interview process entailed; (2) no resources, mentors or references; (3) lack of self-confidence to be able to fully express myself in the English language; (4) limited information. I thought back then that this was a one-time shot; if you fail the interview then you have to wait and re-submit another assessment qualification.

In later years, I would find out that the interview option results vary: from having all confirmatory exams waived, which will get you an invitation to apply to become a member of the EGM; or some confirmatory exams waived, where, as an example, if two out of five are waived, you will still need to complete the three remaining confirmatory exams; or none at all, which simply means, you failed to demonstrate your engineering/geoscience experience through interview.

It is no surprise that out of all the available options for engineering academic qualification with the EGM, the interview option is the least popular choice in the Filipino Members Chapter (FMC). In fact, there are only a handful of chapter members who went through the interview option, and most had the same result – not all assigned confirmatory exams were waived.

The association website indicates that the interview option may be offered to academic assessment applicants who appear to have over 10 years of engineering and geoscience work experience.

I know for sure that it is a panel interview. So if typical one-on-one interviews appear to be daunting, just imagine a panel interview.

One brave soul may just change that unenthusiastic perception about going through the interview option.

Jun Tapia

Jun Tapia immigrated to Winnipeg with his family two years ago. One of his priorities was to get his engineering degree accredited by the EGM. Back then, he was so determined to be recognized as an engineer in the province of Manitoba that it didn’t really matter what route he would take to get it, whether writing the assigned confirmatory exams, taking equivalent courses, going through the interview, participating in the IEEQ program, or other available options.

Jun is a Civil Engineer with over 20 years of experience in infrastructure and transportation projects, specializing in highway and railway design and construction. His involvement from conceptual planning to project implementation and closeout, equipped him with the necessary skills to deliver complex and challenging projects with quality and efficiency. This paved the way for him to travel to various countries in Asia and the Middle East.

He came prepared by bringing all the required documents and submitted them to the EGM for academic assessment soon after arriving in Canada. In a couple of months, he received the assessment result, which required him to write five confirmatory exams and five options to satisfy the requirements, one of which is the interview.

At first, his decision was to take equivalent courses. “I already made necessary preparations, reached out to government services for financial assistance for my study, and met with the association representative at the University of Manitoba (UofM) to get an overview and a better understanding of the equivalent courses route,” said Jun.

But just after all those preparations, he got an offer to work for a government agency with a full-time position directly related to his field of experience. He knew from previous discussions with the association representative at UofM that there would be no evening or weekend classes available for the courses that he needed to take.

He continued, “I knew that it would be very challenging if not totally impossible to have a regular 8 to 5 job and study at the same time. At that point, I needed to step back and reassess my plans for accreditation, and that was the time that I finally decided to go for the interview option.”

His preparation included assessment of his strengths and what topics he was most comfortable discussing with the panel.

“So I looked at the Canadian Engineering Qualifications Board (CEQB) syllabus and carefully chose the courses and informed the association of my decision to take the interview option with the list of my preferred courses,” he said.

Upon confirming the interview schedule, he then gathered all information from his previous projects for his presentation. At the end of each day, after work, he would go straight to the library to read and review the courses. He even would take time off from work just to spend more time reading and rehearsing for his presentation. He would rehearse not only for delivery and content, but also to make sure his presentations was within the allotted 30 minutes.

Come interview day, Jun said, “Probably just like some of us, I also feel uncomfortable and nervous when I hear the word ‘interview.’ Because you don’t only need to provide answers to questions, you need to provide answers right away, and the worst part is that you need to say it in English.”

But his confidence stayed afloat, because he chose the courses he’s most comfortable with. It also helped that the members of the panel asked their questions in a gracious and polite way. “They made me feel at ease as they listen intently with interest, appreciating all the answers I gave them,” said Jun. The interview went for over an hour, but with respect and professionalism shown by the panel, Jun’s stress and anxiety at the interview was eased and at the end of the interview, he breathed a sigh of relief, convinced that the interview went well.

A week went by before he got the news that, based on the interview, all the assigned confirmatory exams were waived!

He became a member of the association as Engineer-In-Training (EIT) in December 2015, finally achieving his most desired goal. With EIT at the end of his name, Jun can now validate himself as an engineer in Canada.

“I kept my focus on that goal, and with support from my family, friends, and colleagues, and with hard work, a bit of luck, and lots of prayers, I achieved my goal and succeeded in getting my accreditation. I just want to say that nothing is impossible as long as you set your goal, keep your focus, and work hard to achieve it,” said Jun.

He is now working as a Roads and Highways designer for Dillon Consulting, where he does preliminary and detailed design of roads for the city and other parts of the province. He added, “My current role gives me the opportunity to work on very exciting and challenging projects. I had the chance to be involved in some projects for the City of Winnipeg, like the Southwest Rapid Transit project, and the Fermor Avenue Bridge project.”

After his personal experience, Jun believes that if you have the knowledge and experience on the courses that you are pursuing, then, by all means, go for the interview. He cautioned, however, that if you are not convinced that you have adequate knowledge and experience, then you might want to choose other routes.

Catch more of Jun Tapia, as he shares his personal experience going through the interview option as a resource person at the Filipino Members Chapter’s upcoming Engineering Credential Recognition Orientation session on November 5, 2016 at the PCCM from 12:30 to 4:00 pm. Visit www.fmc-egm.ca for more information.

Ethel Clemente-Fernandez is a professional engineer registered in the province of Manitoba. She is an active member of the Filipino Members Chapter - Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba (FMC-APEGM)