June 23 was International Women in Engineering Day, and to celebrate, we spoke with Heather Reid, Associate and Building Science Engineer (Vancouver), and Amy Montgomery, Building Science Engineer (Toronto) to learn more about their stories. We discussed their career journeys, the challenges they met, and the advice they have for future generations of aspiring young engineers.

Heather Reid | P.Eng.

Associate, Building Science Engineer
 

 
 
 
 
 

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

I was always interested in how things worked and were built, and I liked math and science in school, so it was a natural fit. I was also excited about the opportunities to have a dynamic career, which engineering offers.

Are there any challenges you have had to overcome to get to your current position?

The biggest challenge was the loss of my mum to leukemia in my first semester of college. This changed the course of my life and perspective, and I took some time after I finished my diploma to travel and reflect. My education allowed me the chance to work abroad in a related field, but I always wanted to finish my degree. It took almost two decades and a few different careers to achieve that goal, and I’m so happy I get to do what I do every day as an engineer.

Tell us the best career advice you’ve received from a mentor?

No one is going to negotiate the terms of your career except you. Know your worth.

Looking back on your career so far, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

Finishing my degree and being adaptable to change.

What advice would you give to those young people aspiring to work in the same industry?

Do it! Diversity is needed at the discussion table, and your voice has value in making the industry better.  Young people have had to adapt to rapidly changing technology more than many of the older generations. The industry could benefit greatly from some of that knowledge and experience.

Amy Montgomery | M.A.Sc., P.Eng., CPHC

Building Science Engineer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really plan to pursue a career in engineering. I attended a trades high school in my home town and was in an apprentice program to become an autobody mechanic (my dream job was to restore classic cars). However, I struggled to find a job when I graduated and ended up taking someone’s advice to study mechanical engineering instead. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I was still unsure of my career direction. So I dabbled—starting with LEED consulting at a small architecture firm, doing reserve fund studies at a big engineering firm, enrolling in art school, being unemployed, enrolling in graduate school where I spent my time in a research lab trying to turn stem cells into neurons, enrolling in a different art school … meanwhile coming back to the building sector and finding something that clicked at RDH.

I mention this because I am always a little relieved to learn of others’ career meanderings and missteps. I think that a clear, inspired direction is a useful start to, but certainly not a prerequisite, for a rewarding career in the construction industry.

Are there any challenges you have had to overcome to get to your current position?

I guess this follows on from my response to the first question. One of the challenges I faced career-wise is the (self-imposed) challenge of wanting to try everything (I think it’s a fear of missing out, but specifically related to work!). Engineering is a very broad discipline, with so many unique and interesting opportunities. Even within consulting engineering, there can be such different trajectories—not to mention all the other uses for engineers in public service, academics, research, policy, management … and there’s always the option of going back to school to study that completely different thing. So, I ended up using personal career counselling—it helped me to identify the elements of a career that are important to me and also helped me to turn my focus more effectively on those areas. And I definitely started to feel more grounded as a result.

I think this is a challenge that may resonate with others who start a career in engineering without knowing anything about the field beforehand. It can be daunting to carve out that path if you are doing it more or less based on your first impressions of a handful of different co-op terms or EIT positions—so this is where having a few key role models and mentors along the way can really help.

Tell us the best career advice you’ve received from a mentor?

You don’t need to feel 100% ready before taking on something for the first time.

Looking back on your career so far, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

I don’t know if I can point anything specific out as a single accomplishment—but I do feel pride in being part of the collective effort that is pushing for better energy efficiency in buildings. I have noticed a positive shift in the general attitude toward energy requirements in the last 10 years, which is encouraging.

What advice would you give to those young people aspiring to work in the same industry?

Just go for it. Being a female engineer will eventually stop being a “thing” in this industry. I try to keep that in mind when dealing with things that come up in my day-to-day.

To learn more about what it is like to work at RDH and read the stories of our staff, visit our careers page.

Lucas Schmidt
Written by:

Lucas Schmidt

As the Communications Coordinator, Lucas is dedicated to sharing the stories of RDH's people and projects.