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IT@UofT People — Jacqueline Tong

Published on: August 13, 2020

Education, Awareness and Culture web designer Jacqueline Tong hiking in Banff, Alberta.

The backbone of any successful team is its hard-working people. The University of Toronto’s Information Technology Services (ITS) division is privileged to employ outstanding individuals with diverse talents that extend beyond work-related education and skills.

In this segment, entitled IT@UofT People, we will get to know our IT@UofT team across the tri-campus community and find out more about their hidden or not-so-hidden talents and/or pursuits outside of work.

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Name: Jacqueline Tong

Department: Education, Awareness & Culture, ITS

Title: Web developer

How long have you worked at U of T?
I have been working as a web developer in the Education, Awareness and Culture team for six months.

What is your secret or not-so-secret talent(s) and hobbies outside of work?
One of my favourite hobbies outside of work is hiking. I’m a member of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, an organization that stewards and protects land along the Niagara Escarpment. The entire Bruce Trail is more than 890 kilometres long. It is Canada’s oldest and longest marked hiking trail. I’m currently working towards completing the entire trail.

Hiking provides an opportunity to refresh your mind by disconnecting from technology. I often feel re-energized after my hiking trips and I’m able to view problems with a different perspective.

When did you start the Bruce Trail and what is your anticipated completion date?
I think I started back in 2014. I will probably be completing it next year (2021).

How and why did you get involved in hiking?
I always find travelling solo to an unknown country to be daunting, but I took the leap back in 2013. I looked online and found beautiful images of Mont Blanc and I signed up for an eight-day hiking trip in the French Alps without much hiking experience. Little did I know that Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in eastern Europe. The hikes were difficult and weather on the mountain was unpredictable. Throughout the trip, I hiked through rain, snow and blazing sun. It was definitely not a walk in the park, but it was the challenges that made it a memorable trip. I was amazed by my ability to get to these wonderful places with my own feet.

After my trip to Mont Blanc, my spirit became more adventurous. I started hiking all over the world. I have completed the Choquequirao trek to visit an Inca ruin in Peru and I recently went to Patagonia to complete the O Circuit in Torres del Paine. My hiking adventures eventually lead to other things like surfing and white-water rafting. I found that my hiking adventures helped me to become more comfortable when dealing with unknown situations.

Do you have any professional training in this field?
Hiking can be a very accommodating hobby. However, it is always helpful to learn some wilderness survival skills especially when tackling trails in remote locations. I usually attempt difficult treks with an organized group where the leaders are trained in mountaineering. Someone once told me that hiking is not only a physical challenge, but it is a mental challenge as well. When you are exhausted and you feel like we cannot move forward anymore, you will be surprised how your mind can continue to push you forward.

Who/what are your inspirations?
Hike leaders and travel companions that I have met on my hiking trips are often my mentors. They often share inspirational stories about people whom they have met on their adventures. The most memorable story was about Junko Tabi, the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest after surviving an avalanche. She eventually climbed to the Seven Summits, the highest peak on every continent. Her motivational slogan: “Do not give up. Keep on your quest” is always on my mind when I’m tackling challenges on the trail or at work. While I’m not a professional mountaineer, I’m hoping to complete the trek to the Everest base camp one day!