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Deitra Sawh

I have had several mentors in my life; in all cases, “respect” has been a fundamental tenor in the relationship.

Deitra Sawh, BASc, MMF and PhD candidate is an enthusiastic engineer, presenter and educator. She holds a Bachelors of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo and a Masters of Mathematical Finance from the University of Toronto.

She is currently researching artificially intelligent methods of fraud detection for her PhD in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Her ten years of experience in the financial industry taught her that anomalies generated by humans do not usually follow a pattern; rather, they evolve from the conditions of the system. Her research is based on this principle and will change the way engineers approach data mining.

Deitra’s influence on society is not only technical. She also trains undergraduate engineers in sales skills. Her seminar, “6 steps to selling” has attracted hundreds of participants who found the 6 steps easy to remember and applicable to both professional and personal scenarios. Her goal is to teach students the art of having structured conversations early in their careers to give them confidence and increase their effectiveness as future leaders.

Deitra is a natural leader and an enthusiastic educator of all ages. She lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Outside of work Deitra is busy playing tennis and exploring nature.

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

I am lucky to have several occupations at the moment. I am a PhD candidate in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo researching machine learning algorithms for anomaly detection. I run a workshop “6 steps to selling” for University students in Math and Engineering to train them in sales skills useful for networking, interviews and project management. I am also a TA for Design, Systems and Society where I facilitate tutorials on how to write advocacy statements and present balanced opinions.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I loved math and science and have always thought creatively so my mother encouraged me to go into engineering. As I proceeded through the co-op program at the University of Waterloo I understood the diversity of roles engineers play in society and became attracted to its multi-disciplinary approach to decision making.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I really enjoy mentoring and teaching students. After a successful career in finance plus a few years in graduate school I have learned a lot of professional, technical and life skills. I enjoy sharing these skills and using them to influence my lectures. The look of understanding in a student’s eyes is the most rewarding part of my job.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

I tell everyone how much fun engineering is!

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

Pursue the career – no matter what your brain and society tells you. If you enjoy it, you will be successful no matter the conditions.

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

I have had several mentors in my life; in all cases, “respect” has been a fundamental tenor in the relationship. While I admired my mentors they have always been confident in my abilities and supportive in the face of adversity. Their most useful advice has been about “lifestyle” which can be overlooked in a challenging career such as engineering.

For more on Deitra, please visit her personal website: www.deitrasawh.com

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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