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Sarah Oliveira

The best attribute for a mentor is someone who has nothing invested in your success or failure. In other words, no conflict of interest.

Sarah graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2005. When she’s not working, Sarah likes to be outdoors, usually hiking. You’ll often find her with a camera in hand, but don’t worry, she doesn’t take pictures of people!

Tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your current job?

Senior Electrical Engineer, Pratt & Whitney Canada (transitioning to Electrical Manager UTC Aerospace Systems, a sister company, in April).

If it is electrical and on an engine, chances are I’ve seen it. Our group is responsible for integration of various electrical sensors used to control and monitor engine performance attributes such as speed, temperature and pressure. In my new role, I will be responsible for the overall electrical system integration, from generation to distribution to storage.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I loved science and math, but I was too practical to become a scientist or mathematician. I wasn’t the stereotypical engineer that took things apart to find out how they worked. But I definitely wanted to be part of the action to create things!

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part is when things don’t work; that’s definitely when you can show what you are made of by finding out why! And it is when you learn the most!

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

When you work in engineering, every month is engineering month!

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Never doubt your ability. I know many women who believe that their technical ability is below that of their male counterparts, or who often undersell themselves. You’ve earned your place in this field; own it! During one mentoring session, a senior manager shared a story about how when she first started in engineering she always sat at the table during meetings, instead of chairs at the wall, to show that she knew she deserved to be there. It really stuck with me.

How would you describe the relationship with your mentor/mentee?

I’ve had several mentors in my career. The most significant was probably a former manager I had. Even though we no longer work for the same company, he is a resource I know on whom I can rely to give me unbiased advice about both professional and personal work related problems. As a female engineer, I think it is always a good idea to have a female mentor/mentee who can help you navigate female specific situations. I have a mentee who I met at a University of Toronto dinner. We meet up about once a year to catch up; it’s mainly a forum for my mentee to ask questions about difficulties she is having and if to ask how I would handle it. The best attribute for a mentor is someone who has nothing invested in your success or failure. In other words, no conflict of interest. Also, do they walk the walk. My mentor showed me by his actions that he practiced what he preached

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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