John Desjarlais is a highly qualified engineer, with credentials such as P.eng, MBA, MMP. He is also currently a GENI candidate. In addition, he loves to travel. In his first session at the Think Indigenous Conference at Nutana Collegiate, he spoke about his life experiences. He originates from northern Saskatchewan and has traveled to many places such as Norway, London and various states in America. He is Metis and a father. He stated that being a father is his number one priority above all else. From his talk, I got the sense that he is very passionate about what he does as an engineer.
He began his talk by saying that he is from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, which is the oldest existing township in Western Canada. He went to high school and University in La Ronge. At university, something happened that motivated him to be where he is right now. While taking an engineering course, he earned a 42% average, which was the 2nd highest average in his class. He recalls his University professor saying to him, “You’re better off flipping burgers than becoming an engineer.” This taught him a lesson which he shared with the high school students in his audience: there will be challenges in life, people who don’t believe in you, but believing in yourself is the most important thing you could do and is key to success in life.
He had the resilience to reject his professor’s discouraging words, and went on to live a very interesting and purposeful life. He’s been to Norway through the GENI program. He is passionate about bringing engineering to Indigenous communities
In the Question and Answer period at the end of the session, one student asked him, “What exactly does an engineer do?” He answered by saying that they solve problems involving the physical world. I asked him, “Where is your favorite place you’ve ever been? He said, “Northern Saskatchewan, because it’s home.”
Listening to John Desjarlais speak, I was amazed by how much he was able to do as an engineer. Before going into his session, I was not aware of all the traveling opportunities that are available to engineers. I had the preconceived idea that engineers work in a single space on one project all the time, yet John Desjarlais is able to travel the world for his job, learning about different perspectives as he works. I believe that it is important for people like John Desjarlais to share his life experiences about being a successful engineer to be a role model for other fellow Metis people such as himself. By sharing his story, he can be an inspiration to the rest.
By: REKHA WHITTAKER