Kanchan Maharaj

Kanchan Maharaj, Civil Engineering - Class of 1994

Kanchan Maharaj

Why did you choose your undergraduate program?

When I applied, Civil was not at the top of everyone's list, and most of my class actually applied to another program and didn't get in - and were offered Civil, Chemical or Geological. I applied for Architecture and Mechanical engineering and was offered Civil. In hindsight, I don't think there could have been a better fit.

How did you like your experience at UWaterloo?

I enjoyed my work terms a lot and really liked my classmates, I liked the small classes, but I never enjoyed University as much as I enjoyed highschool. It was hard and stressful (but worth it). I really enjoyed my work terms. In hindsight, I'm glad it was so hard, even though I didn't really enjoy it - especially compared to what I heard from students at some other Engineering schools that didn't seem as challenging. I graduated knowing how to work hard, organize my time, prioritize and be resourceful.

What were your favourite classes?

Geotechnical, fluids, biomedical / ortho.
Anything with real-world applications.

How did the friends you made at UWaterloo inspire you throughout your undergraduate experience?

My class was very close. Many of us lived together and remain friends 30+ years later. There are several marriages amongst my classmates. The small classes and living or working with classmates on workterms was in valuable for learning real-life skills

Co-op work term history

  • Region of Peel - CAD tech
  • City of Brampton - Construction Inspector
  • Merrell Dow Pharmceuticals - manufacturing
  • Ministry of Transportation - Bridges and Structures
  • Scarborough Public Utilities - CAD, Water Supply and distribution
  • York Region - Construction Inspector

What is the biggest lesson you learned from co-op?

How the things I learned in school applied to real-life situations. How to function and communicate in a business environment and office with a wide variety of people.
How many things I could do (and learn to do) with an engineering degree.

What is your occupation now?

Senior Engineer, Cycling & Pedestrian Projects, City of Toronto.

Did your undergraduate program play a role in where you are today? How?

I had one co-op work term with Toronto, pre-amalgamation, but also with several other municipalities. But the biggest impact has been in hiring co-op students as part of my job (pre-COVID) - and knowing how important this experience can be in determining career options after graduation.

List 3 lessons you'd like to share with the current undergraduate students.

  1. Try as many things as you can - different sectors, private and public, types of engineering.
  2. Don't let your degree limit what you think you can do. Engineering teaches you how to learn.
  3. Find a mentor who you admire and like - I never had one because there just weren't many women in the fields I've worked in (mostly tech before the City), but I've been one for many recent graduates.