Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Every career is a journey

Sask Polytech alumnus Russell McCullum wasn’t afraid to switch careers, even if it meant going back to school.

Russell McCullum remembers sitting in the principal’s office at Delisle Composite School. He wasn’t in trouble; it’s just where the grade 12 students went for their career counselling session. The memory has stayed with him because it’s where he first heard about Sask Polytech’s engineering technology programs.

Russell graduated from the Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) diploma program at Sask Polytech in 2020 and is currently working in Edmonton as a field technician with Shermco Industries Canada, a company that provides electrical testing, maintenance, repair, commissioning, engineering and training services across North America.

But it wasn’t a straight path from high school to EET. Although just in his 20s, this is Russell’s second career. His first career as a professional cook took him across western Canada. He was looking for something with more long-term stability when he saw an online ad for Sask Polytech’s engineering technology programs and remembered that career talk in the principal’s office.

“I considered going into engineering but decided to take a more hands-on program. That’s why I chose Sask Polytech’s EET program. I always liked electrical work. I didn’t have a specific job in mind, I just felt that demand in the electrical industry wouldn’t go down,” Russell says. “And I was interested in renewable energy, like wind and solar farms, so that was a draw as well.”

Sask Polytech’s engineering technology programs are well known for their hands-on approach and often intense learning curve. It’s the kind of program where students quickly learn to help each other out, which builds a real sense of camaraderie. That’s actually what Russell remembers most about his time in the program—the camaraderie.

“I had a good experience at Sask Polytech. One of my favourite memories is my classmates,” he says. “We all got along really well and helped each other. The instructors were also helpful, always patient and understanding.”

For Russell, the most impactful part of the EET program turned out to be the three required cooperative education work terms. “School teaches you the ins and outs of things, but the work term is where you start to learn how to put it all together,” Russell says. “You learn what to expect on the job.”

Russell did his first work term at Shermco’s Edmonton office. It proved such a good fit that he ended up doing all three work terms there and then landed a permanent job with the firm after graduation. Now, his workdays are spent out on job sites conducting maintenance on electrical apparatus. “We go in and do our tests, make sure everything is working within standards and good to go for another year. It can involve some long hours and being on the road, but I like it.”

Just a year out from Sask Polytech, Russell seems to have come full circle from that career counselling session in the principal’s office. He’s enjoying his second career and content to see what the future holds.