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Heather Tippin

I am a strong believer in serendipity, and encourage everyone to be open to new challenges. They shouldn’t be too focused on a disciplined career strategy, as life often offers some very interesting alternatives.

I have had a unique career for a civil engineer, and the people that I work with are often surprised when they notice my iron ring. I started my career at Bell Canada, and spent 7 years there, negotiating their purchase of telephone poles and steel hardware, creating technical standards, managing financials for their outside plant construction and engineering organizations, and later running three telephone exchanges. Having an engineering degree also allowed me to join an amazing team that built a large part of the first trans-Canada fibre optic network. I was blasting in the Canadian shield in Temagami, and doing route selection from a helicopter in Eastern Ontario. I think my mom was embarrassed that I worked in overalls and construction boots, and drove a dirty half ton pick-up, but it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at work.

While at Bell, I completed an MBA, and decided that I’d like more of a financial role. I moved to Allstream, working in their Network Engineering group at a time when long distance competition was just being approved in Canada. I had a financial job for several years, and also was responsible for managing their voice network across Canada. From Allstream, I moved to a software provider, in a primarily financial role. The company grew significantly, and I was supporting operations in two Canadian locations, as well as in Ireland and Australia. I learned a great deal about technology and software development, and this has been my world since 1997.

My twins were born in 2000, and I decided to work part-time as an independent consultant, helping early stage technology companies manage their finance, HR, legal, and administrative responsibilities. This has enabled me to stay in a world where I always had to learn new things – software licensing, internet privacy, and how to make things happen. I’ve been lucky enough to work with really great people and companies, and with customers all over the world. This role also (usually) gave me the time I wanted to spend with my family, and to go back to school, and I received my Masters in Business Law from Osgoode last spring.

I am currently the CFO of a number of early stage tech companies, allowing them to have a senior financial person on their team on a fractional basis. I’m helping them to raise angel funding, develop financial models, and establish a strong legal framework for their business. It is very challenging, and enormously rewarding, and has very much been enabled by my engineering background. Since my 25 year reunion, I have been lucky enough to re-engage with the university through our advancement initiatives, and have worked with a number of my classmates to establish a CIV 8T5 scholarship. It is really rewarding to be able to give something back to the university where I had such a great time learning to learn.

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

I currently work as a CFO for emerging technology companies, on a consulting basis. I provide support for the business to raise money, establish customer and partner contracts, and the create back office operations that will scale as the company grows.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

My dad is a civil engineer, and he taught engineering and had a consulting business. I loved the ability of engineering to solve real problems, and the variety of interesting challenges his training allowed him to address.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Even though I work in a finance and legal world, the most rewarding part of my job remains identifying the current key challenges, identifying possible solutions, and deciding how best to apply my skills to solving it efficiently (skills I learned through engineering).

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

It reminds me that I am an engineer, and the terrific value my education has offered to me, even though I rarely directly apply my engineering knowledge.

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

I am a strong believer in serendipity, and encourage everyone to be open to new challenges. They shouldn’t be too focused on a disciplined career strategy, as life often offers some very interesting alternatives.

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

I have just recently become involved in mentoring through Dr. Mavriplis’ initiative. It has been very rewarding to speak with younger engineers, and to help them to talk through their career concerns. I think finding a mentor is much easier than most people think, as you just have to ask – most people are very flattered (as I am).

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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