International Women in Engineering Day is designed to raise the profile of women in engineering, focus attention on career opportunities in the sector, and celebrate the achievements of women in engineering.
June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). This year, the theme is 'Shape the World'. We wanted to do our part to celebrate INWED by asking women in engineering-related roles at DIALOG what motivates them, what they’re proud of, and how they’re contributing to the profession. It turns out that innate curiosity, an interest in STEM initiatives, and even the Brady Bunch all play a part.
Read on to find out how these women are shaping the world for future generations of female engineers.
What about engineering interested you? How did you know a career in this field was right for you?
Kiran Natt, Building Performance Analyst | Mechanical Engineering, Calgary: I was really interested in understanding how things worked. I was always working on cars and trucks with my dad and really enjoyed understanding the practical side of how things worked.
Elaine Hu, EIT | Structural Engineering, Toronto: What I love about engineering is that everything can be explained... why high rise buildings have revolving doors, roads with a speed limit of 70km/hr are actually designed for 90, how far apart to space wind turbines to be most efficient. Realizing how diverse even one branch of engineering was, I knew I had picked the right career path.
Alfiya Hasan, Design Technology Specialist | Technology, Toronto: As an architectural designer, I figured that collaboration with engineers with the process of BIM was inevitable. Hence, after getting my bachelor in Architecture I decided to pursue my master degree in Building Engineering; specializing in BIM. This now helps me understand/conceive an overall picture of a construction project.
Negin Vahdat, Engineer | Electrical Engineering, Toronto: My earliest memory about any one career was my father job who was engineer and used to work on a large-scale projects. It encouraged me to get into a job that involves innovation and construction. -
Diana Smith, Engineer, Associate | Mechanical Engineering, Edmonton: I love being able to see the work I do at DIALOG and walk into a building I was involved with. I enlighten, possibly annoy, all my family and friends with fun tidbits about each project. Joking aside, it’s wonderful to see people using the space and how it makes a difference to them.
Andrea Powell, Engineer in Training | Mechanical Engineering, Edmonton: The first time that I can distinctly remember being interested in building design was in the third grade after watching Mike Brady, from The Brady Bunch, assemble scale concept models. After that, I started dreaming up my own designs... Even on my most challenging days I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Sholpan Altynbayeva, Technologist | Mechanical Engineering, Toronto: I studied architecture and after working in that area I wanted to explore more – engineering systems are a whole separate world in AEC industry.
Angie Mason, Engineer in Training | Structural Engineering, Edmonton: Structural engineering drew me in because I liked the idea of seeing the work that I do physically get built and have a visible impact on communities. The bridges and buildings that we design are so well-known that it’s fun and easy to explain to others what I do.
Olga Shuster, Technologist | Electrical Engineering, Toronto: I knew that I will go for engineering since high school, because I liked technical subjects and had great examples in my family.
Debby Deng, Technologist | Electrical Engineering, Toronto: It was not hard to choose career when I applied for university. I’m good at physics and math, and electronics engineering was very popular, so it was my first choice.
Stephanie Dalo, Structural Engineer / Sustainability Specialist | Vancouver: I was fortunate to grow up in places with treated water, maintained roads, managed wastewater, distributed power, and well-maintained sewers. In my early teens, I began to question who is responsible for all of this. I realized that infrastructure touches the lives of everyone, and that good infrastructure creates cities that thrive. That became my passion and led me to my career as a structural engineer.
Electrical, Mechanical, & Structural Engineering
Vivo for Healthier Generations - Calgary, AB
I love being able to see the work I do at DIALOG and walk into a building I was involved with. I enlighten, possibly annoy, all my family and friends with fun tidbits about each project. Joking aside, it’s wonderful to see people using the space and how it makes a difference to them.Diana Smith
Electrical, Mechanical & Structural Engineering
Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre - Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON
What do you do to inspire future generations of women in engineering?
Kiran: I want to inspire future female engineers to be confident in their abilities and also not be afraid to take charge and become leaders in their industry.
Elaine: The push to bring more STEM into classrooms and to get young students thinking about pursuing a career in STEM has been gaining a lot of momentum. I’ve always look for opportunities to volunteer my time at events such as design hackathons ... or programs that help teachers diversify the curriculum.
Negin: The engineering [field] is something that has been dominated by men for a long period of time. Although the situation has been changed, the number of men in this kind of job is still more than women. I want to show everyone that we can be as good as men - even better in some areas!
Diana: I’ve been involved in a handful of events such as APEGA Science Olympics or elementary school career days. My hope is that seeing a working female engineer will spark interest in young women and they will consider it a real option.
Andrea: I advocate for STEM initiatives by being involved in the community, volunteering my time as a mentor to women in science, and tutoring mathematics.
Angie: I’ve coached a few young female hockey teams in the past few years, and the players like to ask me questions about what I do for a living. I reinforce that both school and hockey are important, and tell the players that they can strive to succeed in both. I talk to the players about the choices that I made in regards to hockey and education and tell them about how cool structural engineering is.
Rizwana Hussain, Designer | Electrical Engineering, Toronto: I always share my great journey in engineering with younger generations of women and try to inspire them with the work I (other engineering disciplines) do. I always assure them, I will help them out throughout their engineering career wherever possible.
Sandra Renihan, Engineer, Associate | Structural Engineering, Edmonton: I have been involved with WISEST (Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology) at the University of Alberta for several years, and I try to volunteer as a role model/mentor for girls and young women at their events as often as I can. I also am a part of their External Relations Committee, which fundraises for WISEST to support their programs.
Stephanie: As I developed both professionally and personally, I realized how much I would appreciate having a woman in engineering also provide mentorship. I do my best to make myself accessible to aspiring women in engineering and be a good example to them. I am a mentor to a few students and young professionals, some of which happen to be young men too.
Mechanical & Structural Engineering
Seneca College - Newnham Campus Building A - Toronto, ON
What are you passionate about pursuing in your professional life?
Kiran: I’m passionate about working on projects that improve quality of life for citizens but also protect our environment. Projects that support environmental and community well being.
Sholpan: I get inspired by new unconventional projects and things I learn while working on them.
Olga: I just love what I do! I have enjoyed my work for 20 years already!
Rizwana: Doing a design and seeing it getting constructed with my eyes is rewarding. A successful project gives me indescribable joy. That is what drives me to complete each project with passion!
I want to leave the world better than I found it. Leaving a legacy behind is really important to me, and being able to drive by a building and say, “I’ve worked on this one, here’s all the cool stuff we did” is what motivates me.Kiran Natt
What project(s) are you particularly proud of and why?
Alfiya: A beach house project in Saudi Arabia - a luxury retirement home for a prince. I was an on-site architect ... and I learnt a lot with the project, interacting with different consultants and contractors. This is where I decided to pursue my Masters in engineering.
Sandra: I’m most proud that I’ve been able to be involved in so many diverse projects that have created important places/services for the community, like the Royal Alberta Museum, Edson Healthcare Centre, Norquest Singhmar Centre for Learning, the Edmonton Valley Zoo entry and the future Valley Line West LRT.
Electrical, Mechanical & Structural Engineering
Royal Alberta Museum - Edmonton, AB
What kind of challenges have you faced in your career?
Kiran: I think the major challenge I faced as new grad was deciding which company would be a good fit for my values and goals.
Olga: My biggest challenge is the choice between work and kids. I love them both.
Rizwana: The engineering industry in Bangladesh is not ready for women. Once I moved to Canada, I started fresh and got a great opportunity at DIALOG.
Sandra: My latest challenge is figuring out how to balance motherhood with my career, and this will continue to be a work in progress!
Stephanie: I have experienced sexism and misogyny, and I know that many other women I have worked with have experienced it too... All I can say is – don’t let yourself get pushed around. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in... No matter what gender you identify with, one thing that you will deal with in this profession is that some people will cut corners to save time. Communication is everything, and sometimes the best we can do is adapt and learn how to communicate in a way that makes others want to listen.
First and foremost, we want to extend a big thank you to all of the women who work in engineering-related roles at DIALOG for their innumerable contributions to both projects and the practice as a whole.
Second, we also wanted to say thank you to Sholpan Altynbayeva, Debby Deng, Alfiya Hasan, Elaine Hu, Rizwana Hussain, Angie Mason, Kiran Natt, Andrea Powell, Sandra Renihan, Olga Shuster, Diana Smith, and Negin Vahdat for their contributions to this piece. We hope you enjoyed the insights they had to share!