UBCO engineering graduate and member of the Penticton Indian Band Shay Dekock-Kruger is now an Engineer-in-Training at BC Hydro. - Credit: Contributed

Aboriginal engineering graduate shares success story

Kelowna - UBCO’s Shaylene Dekock-Kruger, from the Penticton Indian Band, is working for BC Hydro

One member of the Penticton Indian Band is inspiring others in her community with her career choice.

Shaylene Dekock-Kruger graduated from UBCO’s electrical engineering program in April and is employed at BC Hydro as an engineer-in-training.

She started in the sciences five years ago at the university with a goal to help her community, but she didn’t enjoy her biology classes and drifted towards physics, chemistry and calculus.

“I’d meet engineers on campus and I knew friends who were engineers. After talking to them about it I thought that was more suitable to me,” said Dekock-Kruger. “With the sciences, originally I wanted to bring that to my community… but I kind of had to follow my heart.”

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So, she found a way to inspire her community in another way. Her family has been a huge support and knew she had a technical mind, she said. She has three younger brothers and an older sister. “I come from a pretty big family,” she said.

Last summer, Dekock-Kruger held an optics workshop at the Outma Sqilx’W Cultural School on the Penticton Indian Reserve, to allow students to gain an understanding of what engineering is. She also invited her two younger brothers to attend.

“It was kind of crazy because even after hosting that workshop and giving (my brothers) a bit of a taste of what engineering is. Now they want to be engineers or something similar. It was really nice to see that, if I can spread a little bit of inspiration.”

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At UBCO, she received lots of hands-on experience and, during her fourth year, she volunteered at the aboriginal centre tutoring engineering students. At BC Hydro, she said there are projects she hopes to pursue with First Nations communities and wants to be a mentor to kids in her community.

Jonathan Holzman was Dekock-Kruger’s professor at UBCO and worked with her on the optics workshop which ran through his Integrated Optics Laboratory.

“She’s done a lot of work with engagement… she’s been heavily involved with bridging that to some aboriginal communities around here,” he said.

Holzman said she also helped develop a measurement tool which is being proposed to help with future forms of cancer detection.

Dekock-Kruger had a curious mind, which made her stand out. Holzman said she asked questions after class and was interested in the topics presented and in sharing ideas to younger students.

“She was keen to know some of the deeper topics in class… whenever I see that glint in their eye, I usually try to get them involved with research in my lab,” said Holzman.

She was also awarded an aboriginal scholarship from BC Hydro which she said made her more determined. After writing her final exams in April, she started working in Burnaby in June.

As an engineer-in-training she is gaining experience in different departments and is working to replace old equipment.