It was 20 years ago I was asked by a high school friend:
Q: What kind of career do you want Caroline?
At the age of 18 with grade 13 under my belt, I was done with school. I got my first real job in a restaurant. Late nights, shift work, long walks to work, no raises, no job security, but I was happy. I had a job. Anything was better than growing up on welfare. I finally had my own money. I was moving up in the world.
I didnít grow up planning to be anything, but I did think school was important, so after two years of restaurants and warehouse work, I moved from Toronto to Montreal and studied Social Sciences. After getting my College diploma I returned to the work force again because I still had not found a career path to follow.
Slinging sausages in a German restaurant, tree planting in BC, busking in Montreal metros, baking in bakeries, caring for children, doing home repairs and snow shoveling helped me pay the bills for the next eight years, but something was missing. At the age of 28 I realized none of these jobs was secure. I could lose my job at any time. I started thinking about my salary and realized I would never earn much more than minimum wage.
I decided to go to my local Employment Canada Centre to sign up for a program for Women in Trades. I met with a woman who I believe is at least partly responsible for the life changing decision that I was, unknown to me, about to make. When enquiring about a Women and Trades program, she asked me how I did in math in High School, since I would need Algebra, Functions and Physics as a prerequisite. I passed her my grades and Iíll never forget what she said to me.
ďOh my dearĒ, she said, Ēyou will never succeed in a math based career, you barely passed Algebra 10 years ago!Ē
I was devastated. I left the building.
I thought about her statement the following day and decided that if there was anything I could succeed in, it was proving her wrong. After two months of fulltime home study and hiring a tutor, I taught myself Algebra. Remember this was someone who had forgotten how to add fractions. In the following three months I went back to high school and achieved 90% averages in both Functions and Physics, not because I discovered how brilliant I was, but because I discovered I wanted to learn. During that time the average day in my life was spent in class, doing homework or in the library. It was not the easy life but the grades were my reward and armed with these grades, I walked back into the employment centre to secure a place for my name in Mechanical Engineering Technology. No, I didnít suddenly discover what I wanted to be but I knew I had to choose something, so I took the plunge.
I studied for two years and graduated winning the Outstanding Student of the Year Award. Hard work pays off! Before I graduated officially, I got my fist job inspecting mechanical components for a manufacturer of pharmaceutical packaging machinery. I moved quickly through the company to purchasing and then to design and learned how to design and draft (draw) mechanical components. I learned about purchasing, cost analysis, project management and research and development, among other things.
After seven years I was ready to move on and left Montreal for St. Johnís, Newfoundland. As a mechanical technologist I had the benefit of flexibility in choosing my next career. Within six months I landed a job with Griffiths Guitars International as their Senior Designer. I am now the Manager of Technical Projects and I spend my days designing jigs and fixtures and managing all our technical projects including designing the tools to make 60 guitars a day and determining the high standards required to manufacture our products. I can tell you the entire manufacturing process involved in the production of our guitars and every dimension of each individual component! Itís a very demanding position where thinking on my feet and teamwork play a big part in my day.
After ten years in my new career if Iíve learned anything, it is to
believe in yourself. You donít have to be a genius to succeed but you have
to be a hard worker who isnít afraid to say ďI donít know the answer Ė
I need helpĒ. No one was born with answers - your job is to believe you
can find them! Keep a positive attitude and seek out people who support
your goals. Lastly never stop trying to improve yourself Ė you deserve
Hi, my name is Kim Keating and I am a safety engineer. I graduated from Memorial University in 1998 with a Bachelorís degree in civil engineering. I am employed with Petro-Canada, Canadaís third largest integrated oil and gas company. My husband Jim is also an engineer working in the East Coast oil industry. Most of my time has been spent working on the Terra Nova Project with the Total Loss Management (TLM) Team helping to create and maintain the systems that keep the Terra Nova oil production facilities safe for workers and the environment.
My first year working with Petro-Canada was spent in London, England working in the design office of a large engineering contractor. This was a great opportunity to learn about how offshore oil production facilities like FPSOs (Floating, Production Storage and Offloading) are designed. Working overseas was a great experience both from a career and personal development perspective. The oil and gas industry is truly international. In the few short years since my graduation, I have had the opportunity to travel to many different places and to meet people of different cultures.
I am now working as part of the commissioning team in Bull Arm, Newfoundland where I am responsible for the commissioning of safety systems such as Firefighting, Firewater, and Fire and Gas Detection. Commissioning basically means making sure things are working properly and to ďliven-upĒ newly assembled systems before the production facility is ready to go into action. For example, we need to make sure that if there should be a gas leak from a piece of equipment on the FPSO that it is properly detected by the equipment installed. Also, through the Fire and Gas detection system and in conjunction with other alarm and suppression systems, we should see that an appropriate response is taken to ensure the leak does not escalate into a hazardous situation. It is my teamís responsibility to make sure that the FPSO is a safe as possible before it leaves Bull Arm to begin a 15-year service on the Grand Banks. Until that time, I will work and live on the FPSO for two-week rotations working at least 12 hours a day.
Being an engineer in the Oil and Gas industry is a very exciting and challenging. As the industry on the East Coast of Canada continues to expand, there will be many new opportunities for young engineers. An engineering background provides you with the technical capabilities to embark on a broad range of opportunities. Itís a demanding course of study that teaches you mostly how to problem solve and to push for improved solutions. Engineering also teaches you the importance of teamwork. I believe engineers are the wealth creators of society, adding value to our day to day endeavors. We constantly strive to optimize how people interact with their physical environment, maximize the benefit of our resources, and minimize conflicts that sometimes go hand in hand with progress.
In the last few years I have started to become more involved in the
local WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) chapter and was a member
of the planning committee for the New Frontiers New Traditions national
conference. Being involved in WISE and the conference has been a
very rewarding experience for me and has given me the opportunity to connect
with other women in the community working in science and engineering fields.
It is great support to have a network of people with whom you can share
experiences and ideas.
Dr. Luise Hermanutz
Hi, Iím Luise Hermanutz and Iím an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Sometimes I even surprise myself when I read that! I guess I never really thought Iíd be teaching at a University. But neither did my mother, or any of my high school teachers. My husband, David is also a biology professor and we have 6 year old twin boys, Stefan and Peter.
I love my job, which is a combination of teaching and research. It is exciting to be involved with students and help them establish their career goals, for students are really the lifeblood of any University or College. One of the courses I teach is Boreal Ecology, which I really enjoy because we spent all our laboratory time in the forest. One weekend we take a field trip to one of the National Parks to try to understand how the boreal forest works. We always see lots of moose and hare (well, at least their ďcalling cardsĒ!). The students have a great time and actually enjoy learning!
I am a Plant Ecologist, which means I try to understand why plants grow where they do and what sorts of things affect them. I am currently working on several projects. For example, how do moose affect the regeneration of an important forest tree, balsam fir? We think that what the moose like to eat actually changes how the forest regenerates. This is extremely important for all the other plants and animals that live in balsam fir forests. I also work on Newfoundlandís only endangered plant, Longís braya, found only on the Limestone Barrens of Great Northern Peninsula of the province. We are interested in how we can ensure that this plant doesnít go extinct.
Iíve always loved nature Ė why, I loved it so much I used to eat worms! (or so my mother tells me). When I was a youngster I spent most of my time out in the wild area behind my house watching animals. At that time I had no clue about plants. In High School I found Biology and Chemistry interesting, but it really wasnít until University that I realized that I wanted a career in Biology. After three degrees and a dozen years in University (with my mother saying, not another degree!), I finally got a job of my dreams. But you do have to be patient, and believe you can do it!
I cannot think of a time in my life when I wanted to be anything but a biologist. I grew up in St. Anthony, a small community on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. I was fascinated with nature, spent all my time outdoors and fancied myself as a naturalist at a very tender age. My parents were not keen on us having pets, but I always had a mason jar collection of bugs in our back porch. My parents grew to accept the fact that my curiosities needed constant care and observation, and that somewhere amongst their six children in the back seat of the car were other critters of no blood relation. My high school biology teacher was also quite tolerant of me ... I was always borrowing something from the biology lab. One afternoon, I got to test out the eye wash station in the lab when I blew the cap off of the bottle of biological stain and covered myself and the lab wall. My friends were disgusted with me because I never agonized over my career choice; I was going to be a naturalist, no question about it!
I am completing my last semester of a Ph.D. program in medical genetics at Memorial University. This is my third degree at the post secondary level and with one exception, all my science professors have been male. I would like women to see themselves as scientists or whatever they dare to imagine. I have also been involved with a graduate student outreach program called ďLets Talk ScienceĒ, where two or more students give research presentations and talk about their own careers at schools and colleges in communities around the province. Their policy is that at least one of the presenters is female.
Recently, I joined our local WISE chapter and in less than a year I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful role models locally and at the CCWEST conference in Vancouver. My most rewarding and humbling experience, so far, was the opportunity to supervise a WISE high school student working this past summer in our lab. It was a real learning experience for me!
I love what I do...some days I donít feel particularly good at it ... but I always enjoy the work. I never know how things are going to work out ... and I guess I like the uncertainty of research ... especially the satisfaction I feel during those rare moments when the bits of data fit together to tell the story. The field of genetics is an exciting place to be right now. The competition for research funds and the race to be the first to publish findings can be tough. I would encourage everyone, particularly young women, to find what appeals to you and then to ďdive right in.Ē Your success may surprise no one but you!