Feb. 23, 2022

Schulich students pay it forward at Women in Engineering Day

Annual UCalgary event aimed at high school students scheduled for Feb. 24
Gillian Alm, left, and Jessica Tremblay work with Robert Barnes in early-2020. Melanie McDonald

Gillian Alm vividly remembers being the bright-eyed Grade 9 student at St. Brigid School attending her first Women in Engineering Day at the University of Calgary.

“I loved hearing the panellists talk about their careers and their journeys to get there,” she recalls of the 2015 event. “It was inspiring to see all the different opportunities available to me.”

A few years later, Alm is getting ready to be one of the speakers at this year’s virtual event, giving her an opportunity to look back at her own journey at the Schulich School of Engineering.

“It was a great introduction to what my future might look like, and it got me thinking about my future beyond high school,” she says. “That was something I hadn’t considered much at that point.”

Dreaming big

Alm credits her teachers for taking that initial step of signing up for her first Women in Engineering Day.

“My Grade 6 math teacher and Physics 30 teacher both had a passion for math and science that was contagious,” she says. “They helped me fall in love with gaining a deep understanding of complex problems.

Having finished her third year of chemical engineering in April 2021, and now completing her internship with NOVA Chemicals, Alm wants to inspire young girls to follow their dreams.

She admits engineering can be an intimidating field for women to get into, but adds her time at Schulich has broken down the stereotypes.

Remember that all of your classmates are in the same position as you. Just be yourself, introduce yourself to others, and you will make friends who want to see you succeed.

Making friends

Caroline Dawoud knows exactly what Alm is talking about.

Also inspired by her time at UCalgary’s Women in Engineering Day when she was in Grade 10, Dawoud finished her third year in April 2021 and has been on an internship with TC Energy ever since.

“My role with (TC Energy’s) Incident Response and Investigation team has allowed me to apply much of the technical knowledge and interpersonal skills that I developed through my courses, leading clubs, and volunteering with Schulich,” says the mechanical and manufacturing student.

“My leaders and the engineers on my team consistently go the extra mile to further my development.”

Like her friend, Dawoud also wants to inspire girls and has an “open-door” policy as she works with groups like the STEAM Dream Team and Cybermentor, a group that she previously participated and mentored with.

My advice would be to reach out and talk to women in the degree and profession who are eager to share their candid experiences and opinions with you, as well as anyone else you can connect with. These mentors and connections form an immensely valuable support system and network for you.

Dawoud also recommends finding internal measures of success and trying experiences that might be out of your comfort zone, adding that “engineering can grow and benefit greatly from your authenticity.”

Opportunities aplenty

When it comes to the next steps of their respective journeys, both Dawoud and Alm are excited about the same thing — the unknown.

“I am highly interested in the unique position and role we have in Calgary with respect to the evolving energy industry,” Dawoud says. “However, in true ‘mechie’ fashion, my interests and goals are diverse, and my mind is open to a vast range of possibilities.”

Alm is taking part in the chemical engineering co-op program and would like to continue working with her company once school is over, but she’s amenable to other opportunities in industries like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and even nuclear power.

“I have a feeling I won’t be able to pick and will end up trying a bit of everything over the course of my career,” she says. “That’s the beautiful thing about engineering — it’s a really versatile degree that will allow you to get a job in many different fields.”

This year’s Women in Engineering Day, aimed at students in Grades 10 and 11, is slated for Feb. 24.