I was born/grew up in: Victoria, British Columbia
I now live in: Victoria, British Columbia
I completed my training/education at: I did a combination of course and programs at different places. I completed a Diploma of Architectural Drafting and Building Technology at the Pacific Design Center. I studied Geography at Camosun College. I took courses in Planning and Subdivision Design at BCIT. I also did a lot of competency-based learning through my years of work experience.
What I do at work
I work in an office and outside. In my office, there are 22 people in different departments and working on different types of projects. Sometimes there is overlap between my civil department and other departments. These are the most exciting projects to work on! I learn much more from interacting with other technologists and engineers that specialize in different types of projects. Sometimes I could be designing a parking lot. At other times, I could be working with the structural engineers on a bridge or marina. No two projects are the same, which makes for more learning opportunities.
My days can be long and challenging; I thrive on this! My mornings generally consist of scheduling project work time for others, and myself as well as speaking on the phone, attending in person and online meetings. I also spend time answering emails, solving problems, juggling tasks, working in teams, working alone, and drinking coffee.
I use my design and drafting skills for part of the day. This is my true love! This is where I get to explore the possibilities for a project and making my CAD drawings the best they can be. This task takes quite a bit of research and review of existing information. It also requires me to collaborate with others working on different parts of the project, and using my skills so that the project is actually constructed.
Then there is the fieldwork part of my job. Some days this consists of reviewing the layout of a curb and sidewalk. At other times, it means heading to the Gulf Islands to review proposed locations for a multi-use path. Each project has different requirements, so field reviews are a great way to learn from peers and contractors.
I would say that the basic goal of each day is to make my team look good!
My career path is
I had absolutely no idea I would be doing this when I was in high school. I was afraid of math and sciences! Once I realized the opportunities at the college level, I thrived. Sometimes a different learning environment really helps to get over the fear of a particular subject. I know a few engineers and techs that were not strong in math and sciences at the high school level, but who excelled at the post-secondary level.
I really enjoyed the different learning style at Camosun College and I spent three years taking courses there. I also completed a Diploma of Architectural Drafting and Building Technology at Pacific Design Center. Then I did some distance learning with BCIT, which eventually lead me to land surveying, then engineering.
After port secondary, I worked for a land-surveying firm for 3 years before I switched to engineering. It was because I had CAD skills that I had the opportunity to work on an engineering team, which I had not done before. It was very helpful that I had a mentor who gave me the confidence to take the leap.
My husband and daughter absolutely influence my career decisions (I’ve been married for a long time!!!). When I was presented with a career change, I went to a Life Coach. I did not know the next steps I should take and this individual made me realize what was truly important to me. I then pivoted my career path to match my needs.
Challenges and failures? It’s hard to determine this. I had the challenge of being laid off multiple times with the same company to owning my own business. The home business was great while my daughter was young, but I worked 24/7. It was draining on my family and myself. I interviewed companies, after seeing a life coach, and found a company that has my values and vision. I would not be where I am today if I didn’t take the risks on my own business, so perhaps it really is a win!
I never actually thought of working in a male dominated field, it just sort of happened. The only time I really noticed was when I worked in Yukon, NWT and Nunavut because I really was the only women on the team, working remotely for weeks at a time. This meant I got my own room or cabin while working in remote communities! See my LinkedIn profile for more information.
I am motivated by
Besides the coffee? My relationships would be number one. This is a team career! I am part of a wonderful supportive group, and we are focused on completing the projects together. We use each other’s strengths to accomplish a common goal.
I think the variety of people I get to interact with is the most interesting. People are such a huge part of this career, and sometimes underestimated. Building relationships is a critical skill to be a part of an engineering team. Being able to say that you don’t know something, but you have someone available to you that does, will help you and your clients reach their goal.
I enjoy the variety in my job. I get to blend inside and outside work, which is great for my personality. I enjoy problem solving and helping people, which is the main part of my job. I also enjoy the continuous learning. There are so many opportunities to explore with the variety of projects. I am happy to have an employer that is supportive of continuous learning and team members that are great mentors.
Personal rewards include driving by a project and saying “Hey, I worked on that!” Sharing those successes with my family is very rewarding. Being a role model for my daughter is huge as well and this career shows her how rewarding hard work can be.
I am thrilled to be the first women President of ASTTBC and have been the recipient of a Top in Technology and Women in Technology awards.
How I affect peoples’ lives
What I do matters, because infrastructure, building and housing projects would not be able to be built unless my team is involved. We work on so many community projects. We also make repairs to aging infrastructure that may not necessarily be visible to the public. All this is critical to the functioning of society.
No one wants to have a wastewater pipe fail on them, or a water main that breaks. What I do helps to keep our community running. I also get to work on fun projects like adventure and spray parks for families! It’s a mix of work and no two projects are identical, keeping things exciting.
Outside of work I
I have an active family with an adrenaline junkie husband and a sport and music involved teen. Relaxing usually involves gardening with my daughter, hiking and walking with hubby and dog. I love watching my daughter play field hockey and basketball and performing in her school band.
I like fun. Bring on the skiing, camping, biking and kite boarding! Weekends are pretty packed out here on Vancouver Island.
I am also a huge proponent of volunteering. I have volunteered with Junior Achievement BC, Santa’s Anonymous, Girl Guides and most recently ASTTBC. Volunteering has helped to shape my career and values.
I am looking to the future as well and I plan to join a local jazz band, once my schedule allows!
My advice to others
The opportunities are many. Engineering is an exciting, challenging career, so start aligning yourself with people that have the same values you do. Get out of your comfort zone! You never know what may come out of an opportunity. Always ask questions; don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer. Seek out those that are knowledgeable. Be a good problem solver.
Start as you mean to continue. Be genuine.