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Jessica Li

The most valuable mentor/mentee relationships exist when there is mutual respect – look for a mentor you connect with and whose values are in alignment with yours.

Jessica Li graduated from the University of Toronto in 2013 with a Bachelors of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering, as well as a minor in Bioengineering. To further pursue her avid interest in biological and biomedical engineering, Jessica also conducted research as a summer and thesis student in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, resulting in peer-reviewed publications.

During her undergraduate studies, Jessica participated in extra-curricular activities, holding various leadership positions inside the Department of Chemical Engineering. Jessica was the Professional Development Director of the U of T Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE) Student Chapter, where her role included organizing Annual CSChE Research Symposiums as well as the trips to the CSChE Conference. In addition, Jessica sat on the organizing committee for the Department’s Annual Chemical Engineering Dinner, serving as Co-Chair of the event in 2012. Jessica was also involved with the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. As one of two student representatives on Faculty’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, Jessica represented student viewpoints and voted on proposed curriculum changes during her final year at the university.

Throughout her time at U of T, Jessica played on and captained many of the Co-Ed Engineering Intramural Volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee teams. Her role as the Engineering Athletics Association Co-Ed Sports Director from 2011 to 2013 culminated with the achievement of the Division I Bradley-Copp Award, given by the University of Toronto to the College / Faculty obtaining the most participation and competitive performance in Co-Ed sports.

Currently, Jessica works as a Process Specialist with Cheme Engineering. Outside of work, she enjoys training for running events, practicing yoga, and paying back the sleep debt she accumulated while in undergrad.

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

I currently work as a Process Specialist for Cheme Engineering Inc, an engineering firm servicing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. I work closely with clients, colleagues and other professionals to complete projects. Some of my past projects have involved preparing Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams and Engineering Specifications for the design of Purified Water and other Clean Utility systems. I have also participated in commissioning and validation of various new and modified processes.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I enjoyed my science classes in high school, and became fascinated with learning about the processes happening inside the human body. However, I made a last minute switch to pursue engineering over the biological sciences when feedback from my first year university friends revealed that an engineering education was less around learning the correct facts, and more about problem solving and finding practical solutions, which I felt was a better fit for my personality.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of the job is the variety it affords, since my tasks and responsibilities depend heavily on the project I’m working on. Sometimes I’m doing hands-on work in the field, and other time I’ll be in the office completing calculations, or I can be at a Client site doing risk assessments. The constant change in pace and tasks keeps the job exciting for me.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

I’ll be celebrating with my friends who are receiving their iron rings this month! As well, I’ll use National Engineering Month to study for my coming Professional Practice Exam. I’m also looking forward to reading about the other women featured in 30in30.

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

Your education will equip you a lot of skills and knowledge, but it can’t replace the learning and growth that comes from work experience. Put yourself out there and actively seek and try out different positions in the “real world” while you’re in school. It took me until 3rd year of my undergrad to really understand what being chemical engineer entailed, because I finally got a job doing it!

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

I owe lot of my personal and professional growth to the mentors I was fortunate enough meet and form relationships with. Upper year students in my program were often a source of sound advice, valuable resources, and much-appreciated empathy. I met most of them through extracurricular activities, as well as mutual friends. However, my most significant mentor to date is my undergraduate thesis supervisor, a professor who I met in 2nd year when I inquired about a summer research position in his lab. My mentor pushes me to develop well-rounded technical abilities, while creating space for me to mistakes and to learn from them. In addition, he is someone I consult and get feedback from, whether it’s regarding another class, or my career plans.

When seeking a mentor, it’s important to remember that almost everyone (whether a prof, manager, classmate, etc) is generally interested in helping you. Don’t be afraid to ask honestly for what you want. The most valuable mentor/mentee relationships exist when there is mutual respect – look for a mentor you connect with and whose values are in alignment with yours. Mentors more established in their careers often have a wide network of contacts that they can put in you in touch with, so don’t be shy about sharing your interests and goals, even if you aren’t completely sure about them.

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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