Katie Au

Katie Au

Job title and employer:

Project Manager and Partner, BBA Inc.

 

What does your job title mean?

I’m an electrical engineer specialized in protection, control and automation. I work in the electrical department of a consulting firm where we work on various types of projects for different clients. For example, projects I’ve been involved in include:

  • Protection and control equipment upgrades at generating facilities and substations
  • Control system design for mineral processing applications
  • Design and commissioning for an industrial carbon capture application
  • Cybersecurity compliance for utilities
  • Equipment condition assessments

Background information:

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Hong Kong

Where do you live now?

New Westminster, BC

Where did you complete your training or education?

I completed a degree in Applied Science – Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia

 


What you do at work?

I work in the electrical department of a consulting firm where we work on various types of projects for different clients. Here I wear multiple hats and have several roles:

  • Project engineer: I coordinate, review and mentor other engineers/designers. This includes drawings, lists, specifications, reports, programming, etc.
  • Project manager: I make sure projects meet client expectations and are delivered on time and on budget.
  • Proposal lead: I work with others to make sure the proposals we make for future projects meet client needs.

Most of my day is spent in meetings coordinating, leading discussions and collaborating with others. I work with engineers in offices across the country! The rest of my day is then spent head-down at a desk, working on engineering deliverables and answering emails.

Fieldwork is also part of my job, although I don’t do as much of it anymore in my current roles. Fieldwork can range in the amount of time required. For example, it could be a daytime trip a local panel shop to perform equipment factory acceptance testing. Or it might be a short site trip for information gathering as part of design work. Sometimes it is a much longer (weeks or months!) site trip for commissioning work. This takes place when we oversee the installation of systems, plant and/or equipment at a client’s site.

Sometimes I work on only one large or complex project. At other times I juggle my time between several smaller projects. No two days are alike; every day brings a new challenge and learning opportunity!


How does what you do affect people’s lives?

I’ve worked on projects in different industries: utility, mining and industrial. Although the people that are affected by the projects may vary widely from one project to another, they all have one thing in common. This is the concern for safety and environmental impact. In my work I help address both these concerns. Potential safety hazards are assessed to ensure that the design can be constructed, operated and maintained safely by the crews. Potential safety hazards to the public are also assessed. Environmental impact is assessed to minimize or avoid negative environmental effects.

 


What motivates you in your career?

I enjoy the variety in my duties. I like having different problems to solve and to learn from everyday. I especially enjoy bringing together a team of individuals, with different strengths, to work on projects. A diverse team can bring new perspectives and fresh ideas in order to find the best solution for the client based on the technical, schedule and budgetary constraints.

 


How did you get to where you are today?

In high school, I had planned on going into nursing. But I was inspired to learn about electricity because that was my worst subject. I had difficulty understanding something that I couldn’t visualize. This led to me studying electrical engineering in university. I did not realize that engineering was still such a male dominated sector until I entered university. However, the gender gap didn’t affect me. I was treated as an equal to male students.

While in university, I enrolled in the co-op program. This gave me on-the-job experiences both locally and internationally. Through my co-op work terms, I tried out various career options such as laser welding research and biomedical product development. After completing my degree, I worked at various companies including small, medium and large firms in both private and public sectors. Eventually I ended up at a company with a culture that shares my values and vision. I would have been happy sitting behind a desk designing and programming everyday. However, I was fortunate to have managers that recognize potential in me. Along the way, I got some technical and soft skill professional development training. This eventually led to the people management, project management and business development responsibilities in my current role.  For more details, see my LinkedIn profile.

 


What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I like baking with my kids, walking my dog, and jogging.

 


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

Engineering is a challenging, yet rewarding career. There are many opportunities to explore within engineering. Find a field and industry that best suits your personality and interests.

 


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

Lead by example:

  • Build a network with other women in engineering to support each other by sharing experiences is important.
  • Mentor and encourage younger women entering in the profession.
  • Bring awareness to the industry

I do so by volunteering for EGBC WIEG, and am also a mentor for EGBC, SCWIST and IECBC.

 


 

When I was in high school, I enjoyed…

Art

Computer Science

Foreign languages

Geography

Home Economics / Family Studies

Literature and English language arts

Math

Music

Science

Technology

 

 

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

Enjoyed doing things on my own

Liked helping people

Enjoyed working with my hands

Was motivated by success

Liked being given free range to explore my ideas

Engaged in volunteer activities

Liked reading

Never wanted to be in the classroom

Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades

Liked to take things apart to see how they worked

Liked to design or build things


 

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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