Visit career profiles of individual women in engineering and technology careers in the Kootenay region:


Julie-Claire-Hamilton image

Julie-Claire Hamilton

Instructor, Plant Operator Program

I instruct students to gain knowledge and develop the skills...

Serina-Hall image

Serina Hall

Mechanical Designer

As a Mechanical Designer, I complete calculations, design, and create...

Anne Simonen photo

Anne Simonen

Civil Engineering Technologist

Civil engineering is the kind of work that makes cities...

Julie-Claire-Hamilton image

Julie-Claire Hamilton

Position: Instructor, Plant Operator Program

 

Job title and employer:

Instructor, Plant Operator Program at Selkirk College

 

What does your job title mean?

I instruct students to gain knowledge and develop the skills required for entry-level positions as plant operators. Students learn to operate, monitor and troubleshoot control equipment and processing units found in most industrial settings.  The certificate program is 24-week and offers a variety of classroom, shop and real-world activities; 18 weeks on-campus including plant operations site visits, followed by a 6-week practicum (unpaid) in industry.


Background information:

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the community of Deep Cove located in North Vancouver, BC Canada

Where do you live now?

I live in Nelson located in the Kootenay region of BC, Canada

Where did you complete your training or education?

I have a teaching certificate from Vancouver Community College, and I completed my Electrical foundation program and all four levels of apprenticeship training at Selkirk College.

 


Do you self-identify as Indigenous?

I am a community member of the T’Sou-ke Nation located in Sooke on the west coast of Vancouver Island in BC.

 


What you do at work?

My typical workday is 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Sometimes I stay later to prep for the next day.  I lecture in the mornings, using PowerPoints and worksheets. In the afternoon, I work with students to do hands on activities. This helps the students with application of learning.  I teach students about power engineering, compressors, turbines, valves, thermodynamics, heat transfer, etc. When they begin week five of their training, I take them on about 10 industry tours. This gives them chance to see plant operating systems in action. Selkirk College partnered with local industry (Teck, Zellstoff Celgar) and has a mobile sand plant onsite. Here students can learn how to process contaminated sand through a series of conveyors, pumps, and valves to wash/dry sand. They also learn about instrumentation, sensors, and see how the different processes work together.

As an instructor, I use STEM skills in my program. I teach physics concepts such as mechanical pulleys/leavers, fasteners, and use of hand/power tools. I also teach chemistry concepts such as pH levels, molecules, atoms and titrations. I also provide technology training related to safety and instrumentation. This includes using sensors to monitor temperature, pressure, water level and flow. We study lots of engineering in this program. Students have to understand thermodynamics, heat exchangers, evaporators, cooling towers, steam turbines, compressors, conveyors, ventilation systems, filters, pumps, etc. For math, we use basic math up to learning about geometry.

When I first starting instructing the Plant Operator program three years ago, the curriculum was new to me. As a result, I had to work hard to learn the new technical skills and build my knowledge.  In my teaching, I am able to reflect back on my own experiences as an electrician. I also use by background in teaching other courses such as renewable energy, thermodynamics and solar power to help make curriculum clearer for student. Trouble shooting is a key skill for a plant operator at entry-level positions that have starting wages around $34/hr.  Students are taught to read and interpret drawings as well as how to draw process maps of piping and instrumentation. They also learn how to read gauges, conduct hazard risk assessments, and write standard operating procedures.

I am the only person in my department. I do reach out to other instructors in the trades programs to add content to the Power Operator program curriculum. I also participate in annual meetings with other instructors.


How does what you do affect people’s lives?

In my role, students provide feedback on all parts of program. I feel fulfilled by the positive feedback from not only students but industry partners.

My career matters as I spend most of my time at my job. As a female tradesperson in a male dominated industry, I want to be a good role model for my children, and particularly for my daughter.  I have a strong work ethic and I have a rewarding job in an interesting program. I love going to work and enjoy meeting new students with different personalities and needs.

Helping students become interested in their success in the program comes down to the teacher caring about them. It is important to be someone they can relate to and talk to, almost like a borderline friend/mom to students. It is important for me to build my knowledge, work hard, really care and have self-determination to be a role model to students.  This is especially important for female students who face multiple challenges to succeed in this male dominated industry.

 


What motivates you in your career?

What gets me excited about my work is teaching my students the stuff they need for their career and seeing their success. Learning new skills is cool and I am teaching the tradespeople of tomorrow. My work is my reputation. It also reflects on Selkirk College as a school and can affect their industry relations.  I care that students do a good job and are successful in their careers. Our program often has older students returning to a school environment after a long time. As a result, many students need help to adjust to learning again.  Female students may need extra help as they are in a program that is mostly all males. Sometimes they just need encouragement that confirms they are making good decisions and positive life changes.

What I teach is most interesting to me.  I am good at it and enjoy meeting different people, personalities and backgrounds. It is natural for me to care and get information through to students.  I think my program has fascinating content! I enjoy helping students get interested in it, and retain the information by applying their learning in the field.

In 2018, I was honored to have received the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award. NISOD is a membership organization committed to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning and leadership at the community and technical college level.

 


How did you get to where you are today?

Growing up, my dad was not handy with tools and I was a girly girl so trades was never on my radar. When I graduated high school, I worked as a tree planter and travelled when I wasn’t working. I eventually got sick of seasonal work and wanted a home. A friend of mine was enrolled in the Electrical foundation program at Selkirk so I impulsively signed up with zero research done. I was the only female in foundations class, so I worked hard to prove to others and to myself that I would be successful.

I kept in touch with my electrical foundation instructor throughout my four-year apprenticeship and after I became a Red Seal electrician. He encouraged me to consider teaching and hired me to instruct the electrical skills of the Trades Discovery Program for Women. I did part-time relief instruction while working. Over the years, I also taught other courses such as renewable energy- wind, solar and hydropower. Eventually I was offered a full-time instructor position in Electrical, then Plant Operator program.

There are so many career paths once you get your Red Seal ticket. I was an electrician and started my own lighting design company. Now I am an Instructor and I love my job. I am motivated by seeing my students learn new skills. I did experience some challenges as a female working in the trades. It might have been as simple as showing up on the job site and no one paying you any attention because they thought you must be the daughter of one of the workers. I felt I had to prove myself on the job site. I kept my nose down and worked hard.  I asked lots of questions because I didn’t want to look stupid. One day my foreman told me to stop asking questions saying “you know this”. That gave me lots of confidence that he trusted me to figure it out and I did.

 


What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy running, cross-fit, mountain biking, dirt biking, boating and camping.  Lots of outdoor physical activities with my family. Exercise is relaxing to me.

I volunteer on the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) bargaining committee at Selkirk College. In my personal life, I am a member of the PAC at my kid’s school.

 


What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?

My advice would be to get out and talk to people. Look for job shadow opportunities, ideally with a female on job sites. Have confidence in yourself! There will be challenges along the way but work hard and always be prepared. The payoff is so worth it. Working in the trades is super satisfying. Lean on your support team and find a trusted friend or mentor to guide you through your career. Every day is a job interview. You never know when you will meet the right person.

I am hoping that we get to a point as a society that we don’t notice genders in the trades anymore and have the same expectations of males/females to just get the job done.

 


As a female professional, how can you influence the advancement of women in engineering and technology?

I think it is important to get out there talking to girls at a younger age so they have information needed early enough to select appropriate courses/prerequisites for post-secondary.  Female speakers talking to classes with girls only will help get the message across, when there aren’t boys around to distract the girls like a PE/gym class.

I worked on the Industry Training Authority (ITA) curriculum development committee targeting younger grades to encourage more youth to try the trades. We developed a program targeting Grade 9 to try 3 trades in a month, to help youth decide which trade was a good fit. The Youth in Trades (YIT) program is offered in grade 12 with half a year at school then second half in a trade of their choice. Students receive high school credits and their level 1 apprenticeship completion certificate.

 


 

When I was in high school, I enjoyed…

Foods and Nutrition

Foreign languages

Geography

Home Economics/Family Studies

Literature and English language arts

Math

Physical Education/Health

Science

 

When I was in high school, I was someone who…

Brought people together

Always wanted to be outside

Liked helping people

Organized activities for my friends

Played on a sports team

Enjoyed working with my hands

Was motivated by success

Wanted to be in charge

Engaged in volunteer activities

Felt at home in the outside, natural environment

Always threw the best parties

Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades

Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do

Learned best “by doing”

Being social with my friends


 

ASTTBC thanks Let’s Talk Science for their partnership in developing this career profile.  Let’s Talk Science – a leading partner in Canadian education – is a national charitable organization committed to inspiring and empowering Canadian youth to develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in an ever-changing world. To accomplish this, Let’s Talk Science offers a comprehensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based programs to support youth, educators, and volunteers across Canada. For more information about Let’s Talk Science, visit letstalkscience.ca.

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#CareerDiscovery #LetsTalkScience

Serina-Hall image

Serina Hall

Position: Mechanical Designer

Job title and employer:

Mechanical Designer, Infinity Solutions

 

What does your job title mean?

As a Mechanical Designer, I complete calculations, design, and create detailed drawings for commercial and residential buildings. Most of this work is on heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing and fire protection systems. I decide which system is best for the situation. I coordinate with other professionals to make sure the design works. When the building is being built, I go to site to make sure the building is being built as outlined in the drawings and specifications.


Background information:

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Born in Burns Lake, BC. Grew up in Fraser Lake, BC. Canada

Where do you live now?

Cranbrook, BC. Canada

Where did you complete your training or education?

Engineering Design and Drafting Technology, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops BC, Canada

 


What you do at work?

As a Mechanical Designer, I complete calculations, design, and create detailed drawings for commercial and residential buildings. Most of this work is on heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing and fire protection systems. I decide which system is best for the situation. I coordinate with other professionals to make sure the design works. When the building is being built, I go to site to make sure the building is being build as outlined in the drawings and specifications.

My typical day to day looks like this:

  • Receiving a new project. Completing a schematic design to present to the client / owner. I use a PDF maker to colour on the drawings. It makes the drawings look beautiful and presentable. This is where loving art is helpful.
  • Running calculations using a software program. This is where math is important. Converting units, double checking areas and heights, solving for the right variable, all particularly important in sizing the right equipment.
  • Layout and design the systems using software programs. Currently using a 3D program. It is like building a puzzle, problem solve each component to ensure it will fit in the building. Coordinate with other disciplines (architectural, structural, electrical, civil etc.) and members of each team. We must make sure current codes and rules are being followed. We read a lot of different books. We typically email but I like talking on the phone the most. We share drawings and models and make great friendships. Once we are coordinated, we issue drawing sets for contractors to build.
  • Once the building has started being built, we work with the contractors to make sure the building is built the way we designed it. We go to site a few times and lately we have been face timing with the contractors on site. It is nice to see the progress more often.
  • Once the building is completed the job is done. And we start the next one all over again!

How does what you do affect people’s lives?

I like driving from town to town and seeing all the buildings I have worked on. So many people use these buildings daily and it is fulfilling to know I had a part in it. Although most of our designs are hidden, people always feel warm in the winter or cool in the summer. They always have a hot showers and water in their sinks. We make sure we put fresh air in, and we take all the bad air out. We also design sprinklers in case of fires, which can help save lives! Next time you are in a building look up; you might see something interesting.

 


What motivates you in your career?

I like what I do because the work is always different, but the same. So, although I am challenged, I still have comfort. I am familiar with the pieces, but I must figure out how they go together in each situation.

I enjoy being the main point of contact – the person you call when help is needed. I have the knowledge and experience and prove to be an important part of the team. I am constantly learning and growing.

My proudest accomplishments are receiving my P.L.Eng in Alberta and my Eng.L. in British Columbia. This allows me to stamp my own work within my approved scope.

 


How did you get to where you are today?

My dreams of becoming a figure skater never did come true… neither did learning to speak Russian or master Chemistry. After a few rough years, my mom gave me some tough love. I went to speak to a counselor at TRU in Kamloops, and she recommended Engineering Design and Drafting Technology Program. I had a few challenges as expected, we moved and finding work was difficult. I worked temporary jobs and drafted in the evenings and weekends. I stuck to it and am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities and people I have met.

As a woman, I never thought to myself that I was going into a male dominated sector. I have always worked with more men. I am fortunate to have worked with many great individuals (men and women) who have always accepted me for who I am!

 


What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I like to camp with my family, garden, grow flowers, bake with my son and I am learning to paint. I love animals. We have dogs, a cat, chickens, and a duck who thinks he is a chicken. I have been volunteering locally with the annual popsicle bridge building contests at the college and did a presentation about the popsicle bridges at my son’s school.

 


What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?

This is a deadline driven industry and things change quickly and can be stressful. Be strong, be confident but not rude. Ask how people are doing and wait to hear their response. Learn from your experienced peers, regardless of their credentials. Be kind; most people are under pressure and laughter always makes things better.

 


As a female professional, how can you influence the advancement of women in engineering and technology?

Mentor other women who are new to the industry. Use a positive attitude, have a great work ethic, and anything can be achieved. Volunteer in your community or at your child’s school and bring awareness to the industry. You can inspire young women to explore things they might not think twice about. Be present at functions. It is always nice to see other women in the room. Say hi to them. Be yourself and have fun, it is good to be different from the norm!

 


 

When I was in high school, I enjoyed…

Art

Math

Music

Science

 

 

When I was in high school, I was someone who…

Liked helping people

Played on a sports team

Enjoyed working with my hands

Was motivated by success

Wanted to be in charge

Was really creative

Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades

Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do


 

ASTTBC thanks Let’s Talk Science for their partnership in developing this career profile.  Let’s Talk Science – a leading partner in Canadian education – is a national charitable organization committed to inspiring and empowering Canadian youth to develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in an ever-changing world. To accomplish this, Let’s Talk Science offers a comprehensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based programs to support youth, educators, and volunteers across Canada. For more information about Let’s Talk Science, visit letstalkscience.ca.

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#CareerDiscovery #LetsTalkScience

Anne Simonen photo

Anne Simonen

Position: Civil Engineering Technologist

Job title and employer:

Civil Engineering Technologist, Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd.

 

What does your job title mean?

Civil engineering is the kind of work that makes cities work. It can cover the design and construction of water mains, sewer mains, storm water management, roads, water treatment, and wastewater treatment (among a lot else). A technologist is somebody who has a diploma in engineering, instead of a degree, like an engineer.

 


Background information:

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Rossland, BC, Canada, in the west Kootenays.

Where do you live now?

Nelson, BC, Canada, only an hour away from Rossland.

Where did you complete your training or education?

I did my Diploma of Civil Engineering at BCIT. Later I completed a Bachelor Degree in Construction Management there too.

 


What you do at work?

What my day looks like will be different depending on what projects I’m working on. Sometimes I need to learn something new so I do research. For example, when I was involved in a wastewater treatment project in Dawson City, Yukon, I researched a lot about northern climates. I also did research on how you have to build things differently in the extreme north to prevent freezing. On a day where I’m designing something like a water main, I’ll do calculations, usually using Excel. These calculations help me make sure the pipe is the right size to make sure enough water can get through to all the houses and fire hydrants. Then I use a computer program to draw the water main in 3D so a contractor can build it. Some days I go to the site to make sure the contractor is building according to my design. I work as part of a team. My team includes my supervisor who checks my work. It also includes my colleagues who I’m working directly with on the project.

I’m always engaged in problem solving. Sometimes the problems are simple. Simple problems are those that have a solution I learned about in school or for which there are guidelines on how to solve. There are always problems that even experts don’t have set answers for. When this happens, I work with the other people on the project to try to come up with a new solution.

In terms of school subjects, I definitely use a lot of physics, math and general science. There is also a lot of creativity involved in what I do. When I’m creating drawings for a contractor to use, it’s a creative process. We always want to make sure that what we build is useful but also looks nice. It takes an eye for detail and creativity to do this really well. Problem solving is also a creative act because you have to look at things from different viewpoints to figure out the best answer. Often, the answer is not obvious.

 


How does what you do affect people’s lives?

My work matters because I help make sure people and the environment are both healthy. My work helps make sure that people have safe drinking water at their taps. I also make sure that the wastewater that goes down household drains is treated and safe for the environment before it gets discharged. Storm water management helps make sure cities don’t flood from rainfall. It also protects the environment too by making sure oils and other pollutants on roads and sidewalks don’t flow into our lakes and rivers.

 


What motivates you in your career?

The favourite part of my job is when I get to do contract administration and project management. These are tasks where you work to make sure a project is done properly. This means that the project is built according to the drawings and on time. It also means that no more money is spent than was agreed upon.

I also like this work because it takes a lot of teamwork. For the best results, you have to have input from the contractor building the project, the client who is paying for it to be built, and the engineer who designed the project. I’m a good communicator, so summarizing issues, tasks, and updates to all these people is fairly easy for me and enjoyable. These tasks also require a good head for fairness. For example, I make sure that the contractor is being fair to the owner, and that the owner fair to the contractor. Sometimes there are disagreements, and I have to make sure everyone is treated fairly. To do this I get everybody’s opinion and look at the contract (the book of rules for the construction project). Using this I figure out what is fair for everybody. This also takes a great deal of problem solving too. I like the idea of helping build fairness in the world. It is rewarding to me to be seen as trustworthy by both the client and contractor and help everybody work together to build something that betters society.

 


How did you get to where you are today?

When I was I school, I really liked literature and English language arts. I did a lot better in these subjects than in math or science. I originally thought I was going to get a degree in English Literature. However, in grade 11 I did a pasta bridge contest in physics class. I thought it was fun, so I went home and googled “who builds bridges?” I didn’t even know what engineering was! I learned that civil engineering is where bridges were designed and built. Civil engineering is what makes towns and cities work. It can cover the design and construction of bridges, water mains, sewer mains, and roads. It is also involved in storm water management, water and wastewater treatment (and a lot more!).

I applied to do the Civil Engineering diploma at BCIT because it is only 2 years. I figured if I didn’t like engineering, I could quit after 2 years and would still have a diploma and could get a job. A civil engineering degree program would take 4 years. School was really hard and I failed a few courses. I had to do them again and they made a lot more sense the second time around, and this didn’t affect my career. I don’t remember if I thought about gender a lot when deciding to pursue engineering.  I did get a hard time from some people who doubted whether an English nerd like me would succeed, especially because I was not very good at math. I had to work hard to improve my grades, but I showed them I could do it!  Later I went back to BCIT to complete a Bachelor Degree in Construction Management. This gave me the knowledge and credentials to lead engineering projects.

 


What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

My favourite activity is volunteering with Girl Guides. I lead a unit of about 20 Guides where I teach leadership and life skills, as well as other things that interest them. I have a small sailboat on Kootenay Lake that keeps me busy in the summer (along with hiking). In the winter I cross-country ski. Year ‘round I’m also an avid reader, which fills all the rest of my time.

 


What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?

The best thing I did is accept that it is okay not to know something and learn to say “I don’t know” without feeling shame. It was great for my mental health to accept it and get help rather than worry that somebody will “find out”.

 


As a female professional, how can you influence the advancement of women in engineering and technology?

One way I do this is through my Girl Guide group. I lead activities for the unit to help learn about engineering, and often help at other units too. I also try to build networks with other women in engineering. This gives us a network so we can each help each other.

 


 

When I was in high school, I enjoyed…

Foreign languages

Literature and English language arts

Music

Science

Physics

 

 

When I was in high school, I was someone who…

Enjoyed doing things on my own

Liked helping people

Liked reading

Played video games

Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades (in English and French)

Didn’t really care about grades (in most of the other classes)

Thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do

Was in Girl Guides

Was in a high school band

Got average grades for the most part


 

ASTTBC thanks Let’s Talk Science for their partnership in developing this career profile.  Let’s Talk Science – a leading partner in Canadian education – is a national charitable organization committed to inspiring and empowering Canadian youth to develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in an ever-changing world. To accomplish this, Let’s Talk Science offers a comprehensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based programs to support youth, educators, and volunteers across Canada. For more information about Let’s Talk Science, visit letstalkscience.ca.

Lets Talk Science logo


#CareerDiscovery #LetsTalkScience

 

 

Tune in to a podcast interview with Anne Simonen, a civil engineering technologist residing in the Kootenay region:


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