When Valentyna Naboka came to Canada from Ukraine ten years ago, one of her first stops was Mount Royal’s Languages Institute for the ESL program.
“When I came I didn’t know English at all – I didn’t even know the alphabet. It was a great program, great teachers,” Valentyna says. “Within two months I started to talk a little bit. I studied very hard.”
Valentyna took the year-long piping drafting course at SAIT. “Once I graduated I got myself into oil and gas. I started as a draftsperson first and then I moved into design, doing 3D modelling. It was mostly gas plants or well sites.”
In 2012 she had the opportunity to put her skills to practice on a construction site. “I thought it was a lifetime opportunity because I was part of the project on the design side and then I got an opportunity to go in the field and actually build what I designed,” she says. She remembers the thrill of seeing her designs come to life. “The very first time I was allowed to step on the ladder and walk on the platform, it was just unforgettable. It was really cool to actually touch what you used to see on the screen or on drawings.”
She had found her passion. “I enjoyed construction a lot. With the designer experience and now field knowledge, I thought companies can benefit from such a wide range of skills. After I finished the construction I started as a project manager, but I had no education in project management. I felt like my field experience and the variety of knowledge helped, but I still had these missing holes that I didn’t know anything about. I spent a lot of time searching for a program that is specific to construction. MRU’s Project Management in Construction program came up. What caught my attention was the subjects that were chosen for the program.”
“I got into the program and so far finished three courses. Three more to go and then I’ll get my certificate,” she says. “My long-term goal is project management or construction management. I think what I’m learning right now, it’s filling up the gaps that I had before.”
Valentyna is taking a mix of classroom and online courses. “The first one I did in the classroom. I found there was a huge amount of information to process so I thought I’ll give online a try. I loved the online course a lot because I’m not from Calgary, so for me to travel is a lot of inconvenience. And then I can study at my own pace. If I didn’t get something I can read it over again until I actually get it,” she notes.
She lives in a small village near Sylvan Lake in central Alberta. “It takes me about 2 ½ hours from Sylvan Lake. And from the town it’s another 15 minutes north,” she says. “I’m doing my house on my own. It’s funny, when you start your own project you learn a lot. The renovation I’m doing is a huge project – I ripped everything apart and now I’m redoing everything including the bathrooms. I learned a lot, how to purchase materials, how to plan, how to schedule.”
— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Krystal Hurt and Tracy Elliott