Tell us a bit about your profession or business.
I am a civil, hydrotechnical engineer working in a medium sized consulting firm, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHC). NHC is an independent, employee-owned company providing innovative and specialized hydrotechnical engineering and geoscience consulting services. We are known for combining practical knowledge and experience with sophisticated modelling and analysis to identify and develop solutions for our clients.
I am a Principal in NHC’s North Vancouver office. My approach focuses on team collaboration, science-based methodologies, innovation, and client satisfaction. I thrive on working with team members to complete water-related engineering assignments. I have more than 20 years of hydraulic design experience working on numerous projects ranging from hydroelectric developments, municipal projects, spillway and dam design, dam safety studies, and flood and erosion studies.
Why did choose your career?
Starting way back, from my childhood, I grew up in a home that backed onto Brother’s Creek. I spent many childhood days walking the creek. I think this fundamentally grew my love of learning about rivers. Fast forwarding to my senior year of high school, I was sitting with a group of friends in between classes talking about options for different areas to study at university. We were all taking a number of the advanced sciences and math courses together. I had a friend mention to me that if I wasn’t as interested in biology, but was interested in sciences and math, that I might want to consider engineer. The rest is history, I guess!
How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
For me, it has been a combination of design and chance to get me here today.
Design – For engineering, a solid education base is required. I completed both an undergrad and Master’s in Civil Engineering at Queen’s. This base of education was required for me to pursue a career in engineering.
Chance – My chance, is from way back in 1999, I walked into the NHC North Vancouver office at the time (we have since moved) with a resume in hand. The reception person was on lunch break. My would-be future boss happened to be heading to a make a photocopy at the same time. I started a conversation with him, and had an interview on the spot. I was hired a week later, and worked closely with him as my mentor for the first 18 years of my career. He set the stage for me to be successful in my role here as a consulting engineer.
What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
At this point in my career, being promoted to a Principal Owner in our firm has been my most significant achievement to date. Also, a few years ago, I was recognized by my peers when I received an Award of Excellence by Engineers & Geoscientists BC for work on a run of river hydroelectric (clean energy) project here in BC.
In terms of the day-to-day, I am most proud of some of the multi-disciplinary teams that I have been involved in to provide clients with unique, well-thought-out solutions. A more recent project included leading NHC’s hydrotechnical aspects of the largest ever dam removal project in North America (located in Oregon and California). Also, I am currently working with a local First Nation, helping them with some flooding issues related to their land which is very rewarding.
What are some key challenges and opportunities for working mothers?
Challenges – For me, especially when the kids were young, the biggest challenge was securing reliable childcare that worked well for our family. If childcare was in place, that set myself up for the best chance of success each day.
Opportunities - The juggling, multitasking, and human experience of being a mother has developed me into a better colleague, manager, and engineer. It all comes together in a package of “you”. I find being a mother has given me perspective when working with others, an ability to juggle multiple projects, and an capacity to hyper focus when needed on the job to meet critical deadlines.
What advice would you give a woman starting her career?
A few thoughts…
- Being yourself is more than enough.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.