She doesn’t remember who he was or what he said, but he changed her life.
“I don’t even think I had really heard of engineering when we had a speaker come in to my high school to talk about it as a career,” says Jessica Vandenberghe, a research engineer at Syncrude’s Research Centre in Edmonton. “But the presentation left an impression on me and started me down this path.”
Friends and family describe Jessica as outgoing, enthusiastic, creative and responsible, but she humbly laughs and says she has had some great role models to help her along.
Jessica, who holds two patents in the United States and Canada, credits much of her success, her tenacity and her work ethic to the availability of mentors in her life, including team leaders at Syncrude as well as others in the community.
“(Senator) Lillian Dyck has been a really important mentor in my life,” she says. “She is Aboriginal and Chinese, and since I am adopted and my family is German, I really felt like she could understand my situation and could help guide me through the process of understanding who I am and how I fit.”
Her appreciation of others helping to see her through some tough times, good times and even confusing times motivated her to do the same for others.
Jessica, a wife and mother of two, is also wholeheartedly committed to mentoring others—particularly Aboriginal students and young women. She is an active volunteer for the Alberta Women’s Science Network; the Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST); and the Edmonton Science Outreach Network.
Jessica regularly visits city classrooms to share her passion for science and ignite their enthusiasm for learning. “I just love seeing that spark in kids’ eyes when you really grab their attention and I know that just as I was inspired, the moment could change their lives too,” she says. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than helping others whether it’s my own kids, someone else’s kids or my team at work. That’s what really motivates me.”
Read more stories about our nation’s inspiring Aboriginal people in our newest publication, Pathways, now available for download from our home page at www.syncrude.ca.