International Women in Engineering Day takes place every year on June 23. Organized by the Women’s Engineering Society, this day serves as an awareness campaign to recognize outstanding women engineers, and showcase career opportunities available in this exciting industry.
ADI Systems employs many female engineers who greatly contribute to the company’s success. Since the goal of International Women in Engineering Day is to profile women engineers so that girls can visualize themselves in those positions, we decided to interview a few of our female engineers: Ke Xie (Environmental Engineer), Michelle Penington (Chemical Engineer), and Gabriela Brill (Environmental Engineer).
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in engineering?
Ke: “When I was in high school, I remember attending a presentation by an environmentalist about the status of the Yangtze River in China. Industrial development had negatively impacted the water quality of the river, and there was very little environmental protection at the time. The Yangtze River is one of the most important rivers throughout Chinese history, and my father’s side of the family still lives along the Yangtze River Delta. I wondered if there was anything I could do to help protect this natural resource, so I decided to direct my academic studies toward that area.”
Gabriela: “I always liked nature and science in high school. I saw it as a path to contribute to a sustainable environment and help ensure a better world for future generations.”
Michelle: "I had always been intrigued by how things were made. I had an interest in the pharmaceutical industry, but knew that I didn’t want to be a pharmacist in a store selling prescriptions; I wanted to be behind the scenes, being a part of the innovation, making the medicine. This led me down the path of pursuing Chemical Engineering at university.”
Q: Have you had to overcome any obstacles on your path to become an engineer?
Michelle: “I graduated university during the mining boom in Australia, so unlike pharmaceuticals, there was an abundance of jobs available to young engineers in the mining industry. I started my career in mining and metallurgy, and continued down that path until about two years ago when I realised that I was not enjoying mining and that I had become increasingly environmentally conscious. Having then spent nine years of my career in the mining industry, completely changing direction into the environmental, wastewater treatment industry was a very difficult decision, as well as a challenging one. I had to completely retrain myself as an engineer and redefine my ambitions. But it was something I found myself very passionate about and I was determined to make it work.”
Ke: “Yes. When I completed my undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering 13 years ago in China, there weren’t many career options. Many of my classmates had to choose different career paths, and I was very close to switching directions myself. But in the end, I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to make practical contributions to what I believe in. So I came to Canada to further my studies, and luckily I was able to stick with my original career goal.”
Q: What advice do you have for girls who want to become engineers?
Gabriela: “Do not give up on your dreams despite the adversities.”
Michelle: “It can be challenging deciding what you want to do, or what interests you. Being an engineer isn’t just the stereotypical mechanical job that you see advertised. Since graduating high-school, I have changed my idea on what interests me many times; from pharmaceuticals, to winemaking, to mining and now finally to an industry that I want to pursue for the rest of my life, the environmental and water sector. Being an engineer gives you the flexibility to explore.”
Ke: “Always remember what got you into the field in the first place. Stay true to what’s important to you and persevere.”
It is our hope that International Women in Engineering Day is successful in inspiring women of all ages to actively participate as engineers, scientists, and technical leaders.