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Career Profile

Elaine Robichaud

Hydrology Engineer
Hydro-Quebec
Elaine Robichaud en randonnée avec vue sur le lac depuis le sommet d'une montagne
Elaine Robichaud en randonnée avec vue sur le lac depuis le sommet d'une montagne

Elaine Robichaud is a Hydrology Engineer for Hydro-Quebec.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Ste-Agathe, Quebec

I now live in: Montreal, Quebec

I completed my training/education at:  B.SC. in Engineering from Laval University (Quebec)

What I do at work

My main task is to estimate the maximum amount of land could be flooded behind a dam. There is a lot of information needed to do this. I look at the highest floods that nature might produce in the watershed of river. I also calculate the likely frequency of flooding in the area. I do this by analyzing past floods. If there have been lots of floods in the area, we can predict there will be many in the future. If there have been few, it is likely there will be few in the future.

Using this information, I develop management plans for the safe operation of our dams. To make sure our dams are safe, we develop an extreme flood management plan for the whole river watershed. This plan looks at what the worst-case situation could be and what we would need to do to deal with that situation.

I also look at the potential environmental impacts of a dam. To do this I work with biologists. Working as an engineer, I need to have a good knowledge of math and physics. Working as a hydrologic engineer, I also need to understand meteorology and computer science. I also need to understand the possible effects of climate change in the area. I use my science and engineering knowledge to address these concerns. I use Artificial Intelligence and satellite data to develop solutions to problems (or possible problems). Water is a beautiful resource but it takes many different skills to manage it properly! It also takes teamwork. No one person will know everything to solve these complex problems. Working in Quebec, most of my work is done in French. I do use English to talk with specialist from all over the world.

My career path is

I was drawn to science in high school. I loved math and physics. My parents were teachers. They left teaching to become structural steel and fabricated metal contractors. I decided to follow their path and so I went into structural engineering. It was during a student trip to James Bay, offered by them, that I fell in love with dams and hydrology. At the beginning of my career, there were few women in science and engineering. As a result, I experienced some difficult situations with men. I made my mark and got involved in educating girls and women about the engineering profession. 

I am motivated by

My job allows me to learn every day. I also get to give back to society by improving how we manage our water resources. My work also helps us use our water resources safely and protect the environment. Working for a company whose main resource is water has allowed me to expand in many areas. It has also allowed me to appreciate the richness and value of water. I love math, construction, nature and travelling on waterways. Working in the field of hydrology, I get to be part of the design, management and safety of dams. This connects all of the things enjoy doing! 

 

How I affect peoples’ lives

The results of my work allow for the safe management of dams. It also helps us protect the environment.

Outside of work I

I read and listen to a lot of music. I ski, bike, and climb. I like to spend time on the water (canoeing and sailing). I am involved in mentoring youth.

My advice to others

explore, discover, study and deepen what you are passionate about. 

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Math
  • Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Liked helping people
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Liked reading
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Learned Best by Doing
  • Engaged in activities such as fishing, berry picking

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