Welcome to Indigenous Futures in Engineering, Queen's University

John Desjarlais

John Desjarlais
Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering
MBA (in progress)
Job title: 
Maintenance Engineer

Type(s) of Engineering:

Favourite thing: 

“I love working with people to solve problems and helping them to understand the engineering principles behind our operation.”


John Desjarlais was always inquisitive. He longed to discover the inner workings of everything around him and it shaped who he is today.  He was gifted in math and physics, and his father - a remote mine worker - pushed him towards engineering.

John faced many hurdles transitioning into university, the biggest of which was moving from his small remote village of Cumberland House to the big city.

“The first challenge is the social and cultural implications of making a transition to post-secondary. The next challenge was the educational transition,” John shared. “I was out of my comfort zone having to engage people I did not know and adapt to surroundings and practices I was not used to.”

John came from a tiny high school and was never exposed to calculus or higher forms of math, so the amount of “catching up” he had to do was tough. “This required diligence and commitment on my part because I knew I could do it - it would just have to take more time and effort,” he said.

John is currently working as a Maintenance Engineer at Cameco’s Key Lake Operation, the world’s largest uranium mill in Saskatchewan’s far north. “I have a great job providing me with a diverse set of challenges and opportunities,” he said. “I do mechanical design on piping systems, pumping systems, and other mechanical equipment.” He also provides program oversight for the company’s QA/QC on pressure vessels and piping.

Equally as rewarding as John’s interesting career is his volunteer work with Indspire, as well as sitting as chair of the Indigenous sub-committee for the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGS).  He is working with colleagues at the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan to develop engagement and access programs to increase Indigenous enrollment and retention.

His advice to those wanting to try their hands at engineering is like Nike: Just Do It!  “There are many people who believe in you, many who have walked this path who would be willing to help, and even more people along the way who will motivate and support you.”

John loves spending time with his wife and little girl, travelling, playing golf, rocking out at concerts and enjoying fresh air outdoors.  “Thanks to my engineering background, I also had the opportunity to design, draft and now build the house me and my family will share,” he said.


See also:

John Desjarlais profile for Saskatchewan "Future 40" 2016 (CBC)

Meet our People profile: John Desjarlais (Cameco, Northern Saskatchewan)


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Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada

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