From sound understanding to seeing possibilities

Posted: June 21, 2020

For as long as I can remember, I have loved learning. From an early age, I was drawn to the logic of mathematics and was curious about the world around me – most specifically, its matter and forces. I was 11 when I first became fascinated with scientific investigation. Of all things, it was an experimental measurement of sound across materials and distance that lit the fire; a transformational memory I can recall as if it happened yesterday.

That curiosity drove me to do a lot of research and learning; it involved begging my parents to take me to the Ontario Science Center six hours away, and it focused my pursuit of all things math and science throughout high school. I was in grade 11 when my chemistry teacher said to me one day, “you should be a chemical engineer”. I thought, why not? However, at the time, I knew absolutely nothing about it, and didn’t have the means to find out. But in blind ambition, I pursued this path.

It was a perfect fit for me, but that is not to say I didn’t struggle. My determination kept me on course, and I can look back with fond memories of post-secondary learning. On reflection, I realized that engineering is the means by which we can explore and better understand how the world works. To me, this means from the micro level of matter, chemicals, and forces, to the macro level of market changes, economics, and the impact of geopolitical forces.

I started my career in documentation, training, and technical support for SimSci (now AVEVA). It might sound like an illogical choice for a chemical engineering graduate, but at its core, the role involved taking rigorous process simulation tools and making them understandable to end users. I would help customers use software to build or troubleshoot their refinery or chemical plant, optimize their processes, and/or improve productivity. I then moved into working as a process simulation business consultant, again helping customers use our technology to efficiently execute their projects, driving down costs and inefficiencies.

Today, marketing is a natural extension of my engineering career and allows me to better explore the creative side of my mind. I get to take something very technical and tell a story of its importance, how it addresses a customer’s challenge, and showcase some really cool technology, like augmented reality and artificial intelligence. I also enjoy the aspects of strategy development, including how to tackle a new problem or situation (i.e., help customers be more agile in response to fluctuating oil prices or covid-19). I also like trying things that have never been done before and could possibly fail. It helps if you can find a company as great as AVEVA – one that is visionary in the digital transformation of the industry, employs stellar people, and provides tremendous opportunities for growth!

My advice to girls considering engineering as a career option is to pursue your passion and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Engineering is a lifetime of learning and discovery. Every day can present an opportunity to learn something new. That’s what makes it so exciting. Even now in marketing, I use the skills attained throughout my education and career to evaluate, strategize, and formulate go to market plans within the context of what’s going on in the world around us.

Once in the career, be a role model for engineering. It’s never too early to start. When my daughter was three or four, I started inserting little scientific things about the world around her into common conversation, on her terms. For example, our world is mostly water, so how does it “act” as a solid, liquid, or gas? I deliberately ask questions like ‘why do you think frost forms on grass?’ to encourage critical thinking, instead of telling. She can connect the dots.  Look for opportunities where you can get involved. Certainly, there are professional organizations, but you can impact your local community as well. At every opportunity they allow, I go into my daughter’s class at school to share science and engineering with her entire class. Plant the seed of curiosity and let it grow. When there was no STEM camp for my daughter’s age group, I created one. Small effort, big impact.

While my curiosity started early with math and science, it has led to a career of possibilities I could have never imagined. My best advice: Be open to new things, and then re-discover the “thing” that drove your engineering passion and share it with the world!

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