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Stephanie Price

What is your current job?

I am the Manager, Qualifications at Engineers Canada. This job involves supporting the engineering regulators – the individuals who license and regulate engineers in each province and territory – and helping them to achieve greater consistency in their practices for admission and professional practice. In my day-to-day work, I work with staff and volunteers from across Canada. We develop guidelines that help with setting exams, evaluating new applicants for licensure, establishing continuing professional development or mentoring programs, or establishing professional practice guides on topics like professional supervision, risk management or signing and sealing drawings. Because we have at least twelve potential users for everything we create, my job involves a lot of consultation and collaboration, to make sure that our end product is useful to as many users as possible.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I was drawn to engineering because I wanted to know how things work. I had a book by that title when I was a kid and it fascinated me. I also enjoyed high school physics and clearly remember the “isn’t that cool” feeling when concepts were illustrated or became clear. When I was in high school, we had a female civil engineer visit our class and I remember being impressed by the work that she described and thinking it would be neat to do what she does. I didn’t end up in civil engineering, but she was my first real example of what was possible with an engineering education.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my current job is working with people from across Canada, and working with volunteers. I really like helping a group of different people who are facing a similar challenge find a solution that benefits all of them. That challenge of building something that will work for everyone appeals to me – even if what I build now are documents and not cement plants!

When I practised engineering, I enjoyed the same type of thing, but in an even more concrete way. I loved getting a group together, exploring and analysing the problem that they were facing in their cement plant, and coming up with a solution that would satisfy all the constraints: financial, operational, maintenance, quality, customer/client service, etc. It’s so invigorating to work towards a common goal, and to face and overcome all the related challenges of budget, schedule, change management, etc.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

Honestly, I don’t normally celebrate. I have been involved in judging competitions at the Canadian Engineering Competition before, which is a lot of fun. It’s also an opportunity to see some amazing work that’s being done by engineering students from across the country.

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

Engineering, and working in cement, is like any other field: you have to work hard to succeed. In my own experience, the willingness to take on new responsibilities and to always be willing to learn new things has been a key to professional success and to my own satisfaction.

Once you know your stuff, you have to speak up about it and stand up for what you know and what you want. It’s not at all unusual to be the only woman in the room, and it happened to me more than once that people were surprised when I spoke up, surprised that I was there to contribute as an engineer. You can’t let that attitude bother you. I’ve got a bit of a contrarian streak, and so I used to actually enjoy that moment when people realized, “Oh, she’s not here as a secretary, she’s one of us.” If you know your stuff, you’ll be taken seriously and they’ll remember you, because they weren’t expecting it.

It’s incredibly rewarding to be continuously learning, to be helping people, and to be building actual things. I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in those things to pursue engineering.

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I started my engineering life in a cubicle, as a mechanical engineering in a cement consulting office. My main jobs were selection and design of equipment for cement plants, and some project management for new and existing cement plants in the Americas. After just six months on the job, I was asked to go to a cement plant in Columbia, in South America where I spent six months learning the ropes. While I was there I learned Spanish, saw my first cement plant under construction, and participated in the testing and starting up of equipment for the plant.

When I returned to Canada, I continued to work on projects for cement plants in the United States and in Chile. When the opportunity arose to go “back on site”, I jumped at it and soon found myself in South Carolina, working as a cement plant’s project engineer. My one-year contract was extended to five years when the decision was made to build a new production line at that plant. As a member of that project team I specified, purchased, installed and tested quarrying equipment, grinding equipment and even a new office building. This was some of the most interesting work that I did. I was working with a dedicated project team, under time and budget pressure, trying to build the best possible plant and ensuring that the existing personnel would be ready to operate it once it was built. I learned a lot by just being willing to take on any new responsibilities and working hard.

Once this plant was up and running, I moved into technical support and training. I spent two years travelling to plants in the United States, helping them to analyze their grinding processes to reduce their energy consumption, increase their production or improve the quality of their end products. I enjoyed this because I was working with people, analysing their problems and supporting them in developing solutions that made them more successful.

Eventually, this led me into training. One of the best ways to support people in solving their problems is to teach them how to solve them on their own. I took courses in andragogy (adult education) and learned how to evaluate jobs, determine the knowledge, skill and abilities required to do those jobs, and then design and deliver training. Teaching people how to solve problems on their own was rewarding. Yet again, I was helping people do their jobs better, and get better production from their plants.

My biggest change came when I started with Engineers Canada. Suddenly I wasn’t building things, I was working on ideas. What’s the best way to mentor engineers-in-training? How do we help engineers keep their skills up-to-date? The common thread, though, is that I was still helping people: helping them articulate their ideas and investigating the best ways to regulate engineers. I’ve gone from hard hat and remote cement plants to high heels and a downtown office building, but I still feel like I’m helping people do their job better.

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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