Many of our most effective people happen to be women, so the need for an expresso on this issue surprised me at first. But a little research on my part revealed that women enrolled in undergraduate engineering programs has been relatively stagnant over the past two decades, less than 20%. In another study, I discovered that as many as 38% of women leave the profession, citing the work climate and conditions. My entire career has been devoted to growing architectural and engineering professional service firms. I’ve spent over four decades navigating seemingly endless changes in marketing, technology and how we do business in this industry. I’ve learned that how we manage change, and create opportunities along the way, directly affects our success. That kind of experience is important, because we can only learn from the past. The future is unknown, and developing new leadership talent to navigate that unknown is our ongoing challenge. I believe that the effectiveness of the board, and the company, is driven by the knowledge, commitment, diversity of talent and communication skills of everyone involved. It’s refreshing that the composition of the EXP senior management team and board members is nearly half female. Together, we’re a very effective team. It’s our responsibility to ensure equal opportunity and foster a working environment and culture that stimulates personal growth, rewards excellence and treats everyone equally. Finding a balance in life means something different for everyone. For me, it means making good use of my time off, travelling and making time for personal adventure.” Donna Floerchinger (pictured left) Creating and sustaining cultural shifts often start at the top, by providing support and leading by example. Two of EXP’s board members happen to be women, so we asked for their unique perspectives.
As a lawyer, and Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Allston Holdings LLC, I have had the opportunity to advise many boards of directors and C-suite executives, often at critical times for their businesses. That’s how I came to be involved with EXP. Because my background is in law and financial services, rather than engineering and architecture, I can view EXP’s culture from an outsider’s vantage point. I believe that boards function best when their members have diverse viewpoints, and it helps to have both women and men. I have generally worked in male-dominated fields, and I know that having even one close woman colleague can really make a difference, particularly for junior women. Personal mentorship and sponsorship are very important. When a person knows that leadership sees her professional potential, it goes a long way to instilling confidence, whether that leader is male or female. Technology allows us the flexibility we need to fulfill all of our roles. We’re a bit less tied to the office than we used to be. Also, there is a growing appreciation for the fact that work/ life balance is not just something that women are interested in. The important thing is to find a system that works for you and to realize that you will have to be flexible and, at times, put in extra effort to accomplish all of your goals.” Nancy Stern (pictured right)
welcome to expresso
In this issue, we tackle some of the bigger questions surrounding our industry, such as what it’s like to be a woman in engineering, what a career in engineering can offer, and how to find the elusive work/life balance. To find some answers, we went straight to the source, asking 21 of our female colleagues from across North America, to discover how they found their path and what advice they would offer to others.
Emmanuelle Landry Corporate Communications Director
From both of us, to the next generation, the future is as bright as you want to make it. You can do and be anything you want to be. Develop a solid work ethic. Develop people skills as strong as your engineering skills. Demonstrate your leadership. Speak up. Be heard.”
Donna Floerchinger (left) and Nancy Stern attend a board meeting at EXP’s operational headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
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“Ever since I moved here, I’ve always identified myself as a Montrealer and, as such, I have always wanted to help maintain and improve the city .
overcoming obstacles to pursue a dream Elisa Martinez-Avilés, P.Eng., MSc Project Manager, Bridges | Montréal, Quebec
Elisa Martinez-Avilés has always believed that hard work pays off. As a child, she moved from Argentina to Montreal as a refugee, and she’s found opportunities to open more doors ever since. For instance, during her bachelor’s degree in biology at Concordia University, she worked part- time at a fast-food restaurant and a movie theater. After graduation, she worked as a survey team leader for the Town of Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec. “I believe that all youth should find practical job experience and apply to all sorts of positions. They should gain as much experience as possible,” explained Elisa. “I will always be thankful for my customer service work, as it helped me develop interpersonal skills that I would have never acquired by study alone.” Giving back to her adopted home After the completion of her bachelor’s degree in biology, she felt there was more to be learned, and ultimately, more that could be done for the city that she calls home. She decided to complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, which was soon followed with a master’s degree in applied sciences in civil engineering at Concordia University. “Ever since I moved here, I’ve always identified myself as a Montrealer and, as such, I have always wanted to help maintain and improve the city. I believe that, by doing civil engineering degrees, I could eventually assist in building and maintaining Montreal.”
Fifteen years after her first work experience for the Town of Mount Royal, Elisa acquired solid expertise in design, soil and material analysis, and on-site supervision, by working with the cities of Westmount, Dollard-des-Ormeaux and the MTMDET (Quebec’s Ministry of Transportation, Sustainable Mobility and Transportation Electrification). “I’m proud to be able to tell people that I work on Montreal’s biggest revamps,” Elisa says with satisfaction. “It feels great to be entrusted with such high-level projects and being recognized for your hard work.” Bon voyage! As assistant project manager, designer and inspector, Elisa and her team successfully completed the Bickerdike Empire project in the Port of Montreal. This major port handles containers, cargo and passengers coming and going from the city. The project consisted of inspecting and conducting a damage survey of wharfs B1-B6, in conformity with the Port of Montreal’s “Système de gestion et d’inspection des quais”, developed by EXP.
Elisa inspects wharfs B1-B6 in the port of Montreal.
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Ysela stands tall next to a drill rig assembly.
Originally from Panama, Ysela was destined to become an engineer. Following in her father’s footsteps, she had a natural inclination for mathematics and sciences that would serve her well through her higher education and burgeoning career. As a graduate from Florida State University with a degree in chemical engineering and a specialty in polymers, Ysela is putting her degree to good use, working on large scale pipeline projects like Sweeney Midstream, Keystone–Houston Lateral and now Keystone XL. As a field engineer, she has been a keen observer of all the different skills and expertise that everyone brings to a project. From early meetings, to obtaining permits, to overseeing the construction, Ysela gained an appreciation for people’s unique management styles and how drawings translate to the real world. The experience has sharpened her ability to design and work with people in other disciplines. “I love being in the field,” Ysela explains. “You really work as a team and see all the hard work you do in the office come to life.” fol lowing her destiny Ysela Love, PE Intermediate Engineer | Tallahassee, Florida
Only one chance to get it right One of Ysela’s biggest challenges was on a project that involved microtunneling and horizontal directional drilling. Precision was key to prevent any negative impacts on the project, but also for the safety of everyone involved. “When you start digging, you don’t want to stop. You don’t want the hole to collapse. You need to keep advancing. On this project, it was a 24-hour, non-stop effort,” says Ysela. “Besides, when you’re using multimillion-dollar equipment, it’s best not to lose it! It’s so important that all your measurements are taken carefully.” engineering licensing, a career goal, and has gained invaluable experience working along side some of the industry’s best engineers at EXP. So what’s next for Ysela? “Life decisions are a team effort. My husband has been very supportive while I build my career through study and field work. I’ve studied a long time, and now it’s time to start a family. We welcomed our first child in March, and I’m loving it. I never want to sacrifice career or family for the other. It is possible to have both.” No need to sacrifice Ysela recently completed her professional
I love being in the field. You really work as a team and see all the hard work you do in the office come to life .”
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sharing her vision Lisa Moore Senior Architectural Technologist | Halifax, Nova Scotia
Lisa Moore, a senior architectural technologist for over 26 years, keeps challenging herself, setting and achieving new targets every day. Whether it’s for personal fitness, giving her time to a meaningful cause, or the latest design project for EXP, Lisa tackles each goal with the same drive. Seeing the space through their eyes If you’re designing an entire building, or laying out an office space, the primary concern is to meet or exceed your client’s expectations, but that should always include the people who will actually use the space. “Ultimately, you’re doing the job for the client, but at the same time, you have to think about who is using the space and how they will use it,” says Lisa. Lisa’s thought process is best exemplified in one of her most rewarding projects. EXP was contracted to redesign the interior of a hemodialysis unit (typically used to treat chronic kidney diseases) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Creating an uplifting environment The unit was approximately 7,600 square feet, including 10 dialysis beds, a nursing station and a waiting room. The beds faced the nursing unit, away from any natural light source. Lisa immediately saw an opportunity to use the existing oversized windows to allow sunshine to fill the space, and create a bright and open atmosphere.
“When you’re going for dialysis treatment, you’re expected to spend at least five to six hours in there,” explains Lisa. “No one wants to sit in an enclosed space for that long. It was important to make sure that it was an uplifting environment for everyone.” The new design provides a degree of privacy, but still allows healthcare professionals to stay in visual contact with their patients so they can quickly see and respond to any discomfort or technical issues that may arise. Replicating success Aside from the practical aspects of the space, Lisa also paid close attention to creature comforts, such as integrated entertainment facilities, stylish and hygienic finishes, and soothing color choices that create the right ambience to help with the healing process. The project was such a great success that two other dialysis units in Nova Scotia are using it as a template for their new construction. “I’m glad to see my work being used to improve the quality of life of people having to go through treatment,” Lisa explains. “It’s not easy to spend so many hours in a hospital alone, so I wanted to do what I could to make the patients at this dialysis unit happier.”
Healthcare facilities, from hospitals to dialysis units, need to keep patients at the center of their design process.
Ultimately, you’re doing the job for the client, but at the same time, you have to think about who is using the space and how they will use it.”
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Rachael welcomes us to the construction site in San Diego, California.
bui lding cl ient relationships Rachael Sampson, PE Senior Project Manager | San Diego, California
Rachael Sampson is a straight shooter. You’ll always know what’s on her mind and where you stand. Her confidence and candor have helped develop strong, long-term relationships with her clients. “I don’t like to sugar-coat things. People don’t always expect that in the construction industry, but many find my confidence a refreshing change of pace.” In the spotlight: Illumina Illumina is a company based in San Diego, California that creates sequencing solutions for genetic research. Rachael coordinated and managed many challenging projects, including the tenant improvement construction of a three building, 360,000 square foot campus in Foster City, California, and two new buildings located at their corporate headquarters. At first, Rachael started with smaller projects, connecting with influential decision makers. Now, she is the lead contact for all of their new projects. “I started when Illumina leased a three-building campus in San Diego, where they decided to do an entire remodel. As time went on, I started to grow in my role and became lead-mechanical project coordinator for their first two new building projects at that campus.
“By getting to know them, and working with them in a more senior position, I was able to become their main point of contact.” What’s her secret? Working specifically in the development of pharmaceutical and research facilities, Rachael shares her experience and expertise with all her clients. She has worked on various projects for ARE, BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, Biomed Realty, Gilead and Pfizer, to name a few. “It’s simple,” Rachael says. “Strike up conversations, the kind that build rapport and genuine relationships with your clients. Be personable and professional.” Finding work/life balance Her open and honest approach to her job has helped her make a plan for her home life, too. Rachael insists that her greatest career achievement has been to balance her work and personal life. “I’ve always wanted a family, and when I finally had one, it was very difficult for me to find that balance as I was always so focused on work before having my first born. It is important to perform well at work, but finding a balance between time with your family and time at work is an even greater accomplishment.”
“It’s simple. Strike up conversations, the kind that build rapport and genuine relationships with your clients. Be personable and professional .
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“We are looking at expanding our expertise to support other developing countries in Asia and Africa.
Ever since she was researching wastewater treatment in Mexico, Julie Beauséjour has loved working around the world. She loved it so much, she flew all the way to Vietnam to work on her PhD thesis in environmental planning and design, which focused on low-cost sanitary drainage solutions for developing countries. Her passion for international projects stems from the ability to create. “Here in Quebec, we often end up repairing small segments within water treatment plants, or we add segments to a plant for it to reach new residential areas,” explains Julie. “However, whenever our team is contracted to do work abroad, we are given the freedom to build an entirely new system from scratch. It allows for all kinds of possibilities.” In Dalat, Vietnam, her team is overseeing and managing the construction of a main sewer being connected to the wastewater treatment plant. It will serve the main commercial and residential areas of the city. Julie points out that the design should provide infrastructure that is sustainable and low-cost in order to be adapted to the local context. “In developed countries like Canada, we haven’t built entire sewer systems in over 50 years. Here, in Vietnam, most of the towns have never had a sewer system to begin with. Now we can finally create sustainable wastewater systems to improve their quality of life. helping those in need Julie Beauséjour, P.Eng., PhD Vice President, International | Montréal, Quebec
“This project has seen the immediate improvement of the environmental conditions in the city, from flooding reduction to converting sewers into clean water ways. I think it’s incredible how these changes can bring a wave of fresh air to Dalat and its people.” Julie is definitely building a solid foundation for the future. She currently has 12 active water and urban infrastructure projects in Vietnam, all financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and is trying to expand the international market by working directly with international funding development agencies. “I’ll definitely have my hands full for years to come, that’s for sure!” laughs Julie. “I’m excited to assist with these projects and be part of Vietnam’s continuous development. Most of all, we are looking at expanding our expertise to support other developing countries in Asia and Africa, where the need for basic infrastructure is also huge.”
Julie oversaw and managed the construction of the wastewater treatment plant in Dalat, Vietnam.
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Crews collect samples for hydrogeological investigation on site and in the laboratory.
fol lowing in her fami ly’s footsteps Nataliya Tkach, MSc, P.Geo, PMP Senior Hydrogeologist | Brampton, Ontario
Having been raised in a family of engineers, it was an easy decision for Nataliya Tkach to pursue a similar career path. When she entered university, she was drawn to the fields of engineering geology and hydrogeology which have always fascinated her. “I chose this specialty because I am very passionate about groundwater resources and its management,” explains Nataliya. ”It allows me to direct my knowledge and experience towards the protection and preservation of clean water for future generations.” Since 2016, Nataliya has been involved in numerous projects at EXP. She works in hydrogeological investigations and multidisciplinary projects while also conducting with geotechnical, environmental and infrastructure studies. Source Water Impact Assessment and Mitigation Plan (SWIAMP) Nataliya recently formulated a source water impact assessment and mitigation plan for a land development within a wellhead protection area. Based on the source water protection plan requirements, a hydrogeological evaluation was required to support the approvals from the regional municipality.
“This project involved close stakeholder management and direct liaison with different reviewing and approvals agencies,” says Nataliya. “Once the relationship was properly established, the project challenges were overcome and it was successfully delivered, on time and on budget.” Key to success? Teamwork Whenever Nataliya works on a project, she knows that she can deliver the best solution to her clients because of the close collaboration with her colleagues. “I would consider teamwork to be my greatest motivator. After properly analyzing the client’s needs, you need to bring in the right people to deliver the project.” The role of hydrogeology in the engineering industry Nataliya believes the role of hydrogeology will become increasingly important in the years to come. “Direct collaboration with other disciplines will need hydrogeology to play a bigger role for a better understanding of existing background conditions. It’s necessary for sustainable management of groundwater resources.”
I would consider teamwork to be my greatest motivator. After properly analyzing the clients’ needs, you need to bring in the right people to deliver the project .”
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ILLINOIS ROUTE 104 Two miles of new roadway connects Illinois Route 104 to a new 2,500-foot bridge spanning the Illinois River. The bridge was built at a different alignment and required a substantial profile raise. Working in close coordination with town officials, EXP integrated the revised river crossing within the downtown street grid. Sandra’s expertise helped prevent flooding in this small community along the Illinois River where water would get trapped on the land side of the river levee and cause flooding and roadway damage. The project included design and construction of a pump station combined with an underground retention chamber to store stormwater during peak flow periods and pump it into the river, away from downtown.
going with the flow Sandra L. Homola, PE, CFM, LEED AP Department Manager, Water Resources | Chicago, Illinois
As a Water resources specialist, Sandra Homola started her career in an unconventional way. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan and interned with a lab working for the US Department of Defense. Working on a site where a jet fuel spill had occurred, she gained invaluable experience researching micro bacterial solutions to deal with water contamination. She then transitioned to a smaller company in Chicago that gave her a foundation in hydrology, hydraulics and water resources. With EXP, Sandra has been managing the water resources department for almost four years, overseeing multiple concurrent projects, managing staff, and contributing to business development. She is currently handling the full scope of drainage and floodplain work for the master planning of 14 miles along Interstate 294. Sandra is also managing her professional development as a Director for the IL Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and an active member of the Women in Transportation Seminar. “I’ve found it’s important to network with our clients and other engineers in the same industry. It’s also important to keep up with the latest advancements in software, design techniques, and sustainable practices.
“My vision for the water resources team in Chicago is to start winning more water-resource specific work, such as preparing large scale watershed and floodplain studies, storm water management plans and to continue to help the global EXP practice grow by offering our stormwater expertise wherever it’s needed.” Water: a resource to control The Chicago area is blessed with several large river systems, unfortunately it also gets a lot of storms and rain. The water resources team, under Sandra’s supervision, prepared a hydraulic model for the Illinois Route 173 crossing over the Des Plaines River as part of Phase 1 engineering. The model showed that water overtopped the low point in the roadway during large storm events. The team went out to the site just after a large rainfall and were able to verify that the flooding conditions on site matched their modeling results very closely. “There is a water shortage in much of the world, but in Chicago, we have the opposite problem because we have so much flooding. As we continue to grow and develop as a city, there’s less space for water to flow. We need to find better ways to control where the water goes.”
I’ve found it’s important to network with our clients and other engineers in the same industry.”
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“Our clients and key business stakeholders are part of our communities , they’re our neighbors.
Isabelle grew up hearing about construction projects. Her dad, who worked as a carpenter and estimator for the construction or retrofit of commercial and institutional buildings, was proud of his accomplishments. Whenever she could, Isabelle would visit the construction sites where her father worked and, when he brought construction plans home, she’d ask if she could perform the material quantity calculations. Fresh out of Sherbrooke University with her degree in engineering, Isabelle showed up for work and was surprised to see that her supervisor was … a woman! That woman, who belonged to a generation that saw very few women choosing engineering as a profession, has had a tremendous influence on Isabelle’s career. “She had a degree in engineering physics from the École Polytechnique where she was the only woman in her group. For her, as for me, gender is irrelevant and does not define what we are. We’re engineers, plain and simple!” Isabelle has never lost sight of her goal: to work on projects, and play a key part in their execution, as a municipal engineering consulting expert. She wants to be known for her thoroughness and for her commitment to ensuring that her expert services are up to her clients’ needs and expectations. Agent of change in her community Agent of change. Now that’s not a title you’re likely to find on an EXP business card! But it’s certainly one that would be appropriate on Isabelle’s. In addition to the solid reputation she has built through her impressive urban infrastructure engineering work in Quebec’s Lanaudière and Mauricie regions, and her 23 years at EXP, Isabelle has also made a name for herself in her community. There she is known for her perseverance and the active part she plays in supporting community initiatives. going beyond the title Isabelle Mireault, P.Eng., MEng. Director, Urban Infrastructure | Joliette, Quebec
It all started when she got involved in the implementation of a childcare center in her small municipality. She has since continued to contribute by sitting on the boards of a variety of organizations. They each helped her grow as a person, and allowed her to gain additional insight into her community’s needs. A sustainable solution for citizens Located a little over an hour’s drive north of Montreal, surrounded by forests and lakes, the municipality of Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez is a popular vacation destination. Faced with an environmental issue resulting from the absence of a municipal waste water management system, the municipality called on experts in the engineering field to help implement sanitation solutions. Familiar with the workings of municipal bodies, and the administrative and technical requirements specific to sanitation projects, Isabelle went to work and EXP got the job. “Our clients and key business stakeholders are part of our communities, they’re our neighbors. We meet them everywhere, at the restaurant or walking down the street. It’s the same for our projects. We see them, we experience them … and they make us proud.” Acting as project manager, Isabelle worked closely with municipal authorities and the different teams of professionals, setting the pace throughout every phase of the plan. The project gave her the opportunity to leverage her knowledge of government requirements and municipal constraints, and helped master the art of managing a major construction project. The experience has only strengthened her desire to find solutions to help municipalities optimize their funding.
Infrastructure projects connect and enhance our communities in rural and urban environments.
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I am passionate about women helping women. We need to build each other up , support one another, and not be judgmental.”
becoming an engineer by accident Chantal Wing, P.Eng., BSc Project Manager | Calgary, Alberta
Chantal holds a bachelor of science in civil engineering from the University of Calgary, but her studies could have gone in a very different direction. While working towards her biomedical engineering specialty, she had dreams of going to medical school, but was unsure of the definition of ‘civil-biomed’. “My biomed internship was stem cell research and I did not enjoy it. We were dependent on government research grants and I developed a strong distaste for bureaucracy,” recalls Chantal. “In my civil internship, I worked 12 hours north of Winnipeg on the Wuscwatim Generation Project in Taskinigup Falls. We built a 50-kilometer access road for a dam project under Manitoba Hydro. I was doing sieve analysis and survey. I loved being outside. I loved seeing the progress of construction. I tell people that I accidentally became a civil engineer!” After graduating, she joined a small land development start-up, gaining valuable experience as a project manager. Chantal brought her diverse experience to EXP in 2014, where she is currently on maternity leave with her first child. If that wasn’t enough, she is also completing her masters in business administration with a Real Estate Studies Major at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. She is also an active member of CREW Calgary – Commercial Real Estate Women, co-chairing the Events Committee for 2017. “I am passionate about women helping women. We need to build each other up, support one another, and not be judgmental. There are many business opportunities that come from CREW and the relationships I’ve made will enhance my career long-term.”
Bring on the difficult projects As a project manager in land development, Chantal enjoys difficult assignments, the more complicated the better. Finding the right solution that works for the developer and the community at large is a challenge that she can’t resist. “Heartland by Apex Land Developments is a multi- phase development in Cochrane, Alberta, that includes single and multi-family residential lots, and a commercial component. The unique design features include a sanitary lift station, an infiltration basin for stormwater management, multiple highway intersections with Alberta Transportation, and a potential connection to a Canadian Pacific Railway crossing. The biggest challenge on this project was retrofitting non-typical designs between the original developer and the current owner. Mentoring Chantal’s development has been guided by two primary factors; having a mentor and continuing education. Her advice to starting engineers is that it is so important to find a good mentor that will help you grow your confidence in your career and navigate ideas for all aspects of life. When asked about her future and what she wants to accomplish, Chantal’s path is very clear. “I’m taking my MBA, so I think it’s pretty obvious that I want to be in management. I appreciate my projects, design work, and managing land developments, but I love leading teams, business development, and contributing to the ongoing success of the company. I want to be involved in the bigger picture.”
Heartland by Apex Land Developments is a multi-phase development in Cochrane, Alberta, that includes single and multi-family residential lots, and a commercial component.
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striving for environmental excel lence Marie-Julie Garneau, MSc Director, Air Quality and Industrial Hygiene | Longueuil, Quebec
Even 15 years after Marie-Julie achieved her Master of Science degree from the University of Montreal’s School of Public Health, she can see the impact of her education on her career. “When I entered the program, I knew it would help shape me as a scientist,” explains Marie-Julie. “I learned how to find solutions to problems related to the impact of various environmental hazards, such as chemical substances found in indoor air in workplaces.” From reading the program description, Marie-Julie knew that she wanted to pursue a career in this field, and became increasingly interested in the Breathing easy Now, as Director, Air Quality and Industrial Hygiene at EXP, she has participated in more than five hundred studies in different workplace environments. Her dedication to improving workspaces stems from the impact her work has on people’s quality of life. “By studying contaminants in work environments, my team’s work benefits everyone, which I am very proud of,” explains Marie-Julie. “I love being asked by my clients or colleagues to provide assistance on projects. My team can help them not only achieve their goals, but enhance their designs for air quality and safety or help them manage the risks during the work.” various physical, chemical and biological agents that cause environmental risks in work environments.
Clean air can be a battle A few years ago, Marie-Julie and her team worked on a maintenance workshop for tanks and other military vehicles for Defense Canada’s Montreal Garrison. This was Marie-Julie’s first important industrial hygiene project, as she was involved throughout the entire project. The project’s main goal was to detect the amount of lead dust, and other metals, on all building surfaces and to correct the situation. To do it, the team had to propose a chemical characterization plan, provide a procedure to decontaminate the site, and prepare a health and safety plan for cleaning and post cleaning operations. For Marie-Julie, presenting the results of their inspection and cleaning plans to many Defense Canada employees was a homecoming, of sorts. “It reminded me of my seven years as a cadet when I was stationed at the Canadian Armed Forces Valcartier base,” explains Marie-Julie. “It was great to blend a part of my childhood with the work I’m doing now.”
Crews test the air quality in the ventilation systems in an industrial setting.
My team can help other colleagues not only achieve their goals, but enhance their designs for air quality and safety .”
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“Engineering safety is at the core of everything we do.
For Margot, proficiency with math and science runs in the family. Margot’s father was an engineer and her mother had a PhD in geology. Margot was raised to understand that, with the right education, there’s really no limit to what a woman can achieve in her career. Margot completed a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at McMaster University, and graduated from the University of Waterloo with a masters in transportation engineering. “I was very fortunate to quickly find my path,” says Margot. “I met a professor who became a life- long mentor. Together, we worked on a research project to develop the speed-flow relationship on highways, using some of the first freeway traffic data at that time in Ontario.” Vulnerable road users in mind Early on in her career, as a traffic operations engineer designing collision counter measures, Margot felt the weight of reducing accidents on our roadways. “Engineering safety is at the core of everything we do. Reducing potential collisions, crashes, or other impacts is key. One aspect that I’ve always paid close attention to is the protection of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.” the road ahead Margot Smeenk, P.Eng., PTOE Senior Traffic Engineer | Brampton, Ontario
SIR JOHN A. MCDONALD PARKWAY The National Capital Commission (NCC) wanted to redesign the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway corridor to increase accessibility to the historic shoreline of the Ottawa River. EXP provided designs for two public spaces along the parkway to be incorporated into the City of Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit facilities on behalf of the NCC. They include a new parking facility (using low impact development criteria), new traffic control and pedestrian signals, site grading, and servicing for an outdoor ice rink and washroom facilities ready for future mixed-use developments. “This project is a great example of inter-office teamwork; with roundabout design from Sherbrooke, traffic operations and modeling from Brampton, and project coordination and civil works from Ottawa,” says Margot.
In transportation engineering, it’s easy to see the impact of our designs on the community. We’re reducing commute times, improving school zone safety, and more. A new path: building a service team In stark contrast with the seemingly linear progression of her early career, Margot has recently changed gears to follow a new calling. Her entrepreneurial spirit has led to taking on the challenge of growing EXP’s transportation presence in Ontario. She’s building a new, multidisciplinary team to secure new projects. She finds the daily interaction with architects, contractors and other staff exciting and keeps her motivated. For all the change that she has seen in her time with EXP, one thing has remained the same – Margot is committed to following her interests, wherever that may lead.
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I’m proud to contribute to solutions that strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection .”
finding a common thread: water Vero Rabemanana, PhD Geophysicist | Gatineau, Quebec
ZIBI PROJECT The Anishinabe word for River,
Vero Rabemanana was only ten years old when, while reading Marie Curie’s biography, it all became clear as water: she was going to be a Doctor of Science. Having grown up surrounded by water in Madagascar, an island also known for its biodiversity and varied terrain, it’s no surprise that Vero developed a great interest for hydrogeology. Already an accomplished geophysicist, Vero set sail for Europe to pursue her studies in the distribution and movement of groundwater. She attended the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris, where she earned her master’s and PhD in hydrogeology. With her degrees in hand, Vero spent two years working in Switzerland before changing continents again, heading for the province of Quebec. Known for its wealth of natural resources, Quebec offered many opportunities in drinking water resources management. Rehabilitation project Vero’s multidisciplinary expertise gives her a unique and valuable perspective. Her in-depth knowledge
That unique expertise is what caught the attention of a residential and commercial neighborhood developer — Zibi — on a site previously occupied by a paper mill. Carried out over a ten-year period, the project was required to comply with Quebec’s Environment Quality Act. Vero oversaw all environmental characterization work, as well as the development of the remediation plan, making sure that all regulatory requirements would be met, from start to finish. However, considering the speed at which regulatory requirements evolve and change, ten years can be a very long time. That challenge is one that Vero understands and has integrated to her approach. In addition to being flexible, she anticipated and assessed future amendments to regulations and took them into account when developing a plan that covers the life of the project. “Environmental assessment and remediation are essential in the initial stages of economic development projects. I’m proud to contribute to solutions that strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection. It’s a complex task, but very rewarding.”
Zibi was chosen for this redeveloped community to honor the river and the Algonquin-Anishinabe people. Resting along the banks of the Ottawa River, and located within the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, Zibi was designed to provide sustainable and environmentally friendly living environments. The core strategy driving the design is to rethink and redevelop the community to reflect and adapt to the natural environment. To help ensure sustainability and eco-friendly planning, its design was guided by the ten One Planet Living principles, which range from saving energy and reducing waste, to residents’ health and happiness. The ten principles are a commitment to zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, materials, food and water, land use and wildlife, culture and community, equity and local economy, and health and happiness.
and experience with soil and groundwater characterization and remediation help her anticipate challenges and client requests.
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“Engineering favors collaboration and autonomy.
While in high school, Marie-Hélène Fortin connected with the world of sciences, especially physics. It was an educational realm where she truly felt at home. When it came time to apply to university, she wanted to find an area of expertise where she could use her knowledge and deepen her connection to science and physics. In 1991, she completed her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Polytechnique Montréal. “When I embarked on this journey at Polytechnique Montréal, I knew what I was getting into,” explains Marie-Hélène. “To me, engineering is the most practical way that I can apply my scientific knowledge.” Creating long-lasting relationships Today, as a mechanical engineer with EXP, Marie- Hélène works on hydroelectric developments and projects in Quebec. Her expertise covers various systems, including auxiliary systems, cooling water, drainage, regulation, gates, hoists and cranes. “In my field, the projects are quite diverse. It requires collaboration with fellow EXP engineers from all specialties, all over North America. It allows us to develop great relationships with our colleagues so we can work together and get the best results.” engineering – an art form Marie-Hélène Fortin, P.Eng. Mechanical Engineer | Montréal, Quebec
Above all else, she feels as though her time as an engineer has allowed her to unleash her creativity. “I can now say that, after having completed many projects, my work has allowed me to use my creative and imaginative side. I have come to realize how engineering favors collaboration and autonomy, while also providing a great feeling of accomplishment after giving our best work to our clients.” An evolving industry Marie-Hélène recognizes how technology’s continuous development has changed the industry. The new tools at her team’s disposal allows them to be more efficient, especially when everyone is busy. “I need to keep up with new technologies to be able to create, manage, analyze and plan the work to be done,” explains Marie-Hélène. “These new technologies help find new ways to approach projects and deliver outstanding results.”
Marie-Hélène’s expertise has been applied to many hydroelectric developments throughout Quebec.
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Rebecca joined EXP in 2016 and has made a significant impact. In a brief time, building on her international engineering and project management experience, she has demonstrated her readiness to take on bigger projects and influence the direction of the company. As a professional engineer with a degree in electrical engineering, she has a diverse portfolio with many projects in the infrastructure, healthcare, hospitality, commercial, industrial and educational sectors. Since obtaining her LEED® accreditation in 2006, Rebecca has been actively involved in adopting sustainability as a standard practice for our design teams. Rebecca’s leadership ability is obvious to anyone who works with her, and as a result, Rebecca has been recently named Vice President, Buildings in central Canada. She has the distinction of being EXP’s first female sector leader, but Rebecca shrugs it off as an outdated consideration. “Being the first to do something is meaningful, but EXP’s success is not about me, or any one individual,” Rebecca declares. “It’s about taking advantage of the diverse sets of skills everyone brings to the table to solve problems and find new ways of doing things. Frankly, it’s about time!” Partnering for success For Rebecca, finding the right mix of internal and external partners is essential to effectively deliver multi-faceted, multidisciplinary proposals that grow the business and develop top talent at the same time. “In addition to our engineers, we have an amazing shared services team, where HR, Marketing, Legal, IT and Finance complete the picture. Win or lose, we are together.” diversity is the key Rebecca Huang, P.Eng., LEED AP Vice President & Sector Leader, Buildings | Markham, Ontario
Some people fear change, others embrace it. A 28-year EXP veteran, Viviane Donay, our Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technology manager, has learned to adjust, enjoy the challenges and take changes in stride. “Honestly, it can be quite simple,” says Viviane. “Change has allowed me to advance my career and tackle new challenges. However, I must admit that uncertainty can make people uneasy.” Opportunity is where you find it Before joining EXP, Viviane’s educational background was in architecture. But once she graduated, there were no jobs available in that field. “There were no full-time jobs for me in architecture in Montreal at that time,” explains Viviane. “Architecture was a saturated market, so I had to start looking at jobs outside that world, as well as at furthering my education.” deal ing with change Viviane Donay BIM and CAD Technology Manager | Brampton, Ontario
She found an opportunity at Tredec (now EXP) in structural engineering, and later in information technology. Her responsibilities were to focus on testing and selecting new software, implementing CAD and Revit standards, and managing engineering software licensing. “With technological advancements, there are always new developments, new technologies to explore and software to consider. You need to be on your toes to make sure we have the most current software for the company to allow for productive project teams.” The quest for work/life balance What brings Viviane the most satisfaction is being able to leverage technology to help geographically-dispersed teams collaborate and achieve balance in their lives. The implementation of Citrix, a virtualization technology that enables employees to access their project data and information from anywhere, allows staff to telecommute without missing a beat. Viviane is a strong advocate of telecommuting, as it allows her to remain close with her family and children. “Cloud computing and virtualization technologies provide a continuous workflow, allowing mobile access to our project data from anywhere, at any time”, says Viviane. “It provides flexibility, permitting employees to work remotely, respect tight deadlines, travel, and focus on specific projects. It’s also what allowed me to relocate to Toronto a few years ago with no impact to my work, and what has let me be the parent I want to be while holding on to my career.” Looking back on her 28 years at EXP, Viviane is thankful to have been surrounded by supportive people that have helped her develop both personally and professionally. “As a woman in the architecture, engineering and construction world, my experience with EXP has shown me that it’s possible to have everything you need in life to be happy – to find balance in a challenging, evolving work environment, all while raising my children and cherishing precious time and travels with family.”
Leading the next generation Looking to the future, Rebecca recognizes the value of mentorship, accepting the responsibility of being a role model, and helping others find their optimal career path. Leaders need to get involved to help develop the next generation of engineers. “The firms that will have the most success are the firms who embrace diversity at every level,” Rebecca explains. “Everything from how we promote ourselves to our hiring practices need to be reviewed and updated to ensure that we are a firm that all people can identify with and relate to.”
The firms that will have the most success are the firms who embrace diversity at every level .”
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Meet the panel
Priscilla Ahn General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Brampton, Ontario
Priscilla has been with EXP for over 10 years, acting on a wide range of matters on the company’s behalf.
Stephanie Hunt Global Director, Corporate Marketing and Communications San Francisco, California
panel discussion Shared services leadership
Stephanie joined EXP in 2012 with a strong background in marketing for the AEC industry.
One of the goals of expresso is to start conversations. Some of them planned, some of them spontaneous, but always lively and well informed. We captured one such conversation with some of the leaders of our shared services teams to get their thoughts as women in a male dominated industry.
Sarah Skinner Vice President, Human Resources Brampton, Ontario
Since 2007, Sarah has advanced her career from HR Business Partner to her current role.
Deborah has spent most of her career as a senior leader in the AEC industry and joined EXP in 2016.
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Was there a mentor, or other major influence, that helped guide your career? Priscilla : Nothing is more valuable to me than listening and learning from others. Hearing their lessons learned and what they would do differently makes me think about what I would do in their place. Deborah : I agree. To add to that, I’ve also been fortunate to be surrounded by leaders who allow employees to shine and be rewarded based on their efforts and achievements. That has had a big influence on how I approach my job, and on how I work with others. What barriers do you still see for women, in engineering or business in general, and what can be done about it? Stephanie : Perceptions of gender appropriate education and career options, the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question, start at a very young age. We all need to encourage and support STEM related programs for young girls to know that this a career where they will find success, endless challenges and enjoyment. Sarah : That’s true. It’s also important to note that diversity – whether you’re talking gender, race, or accessibility – it doesn’t happen by itself. We must make purposeful efforts across all levels of the organization. That’s why I’m truly proud to say that I work for EXP. There’s more work to do, but we’ve made such meaningful strides in a short time towards a more diverse workforce.
What role do you feel you play in overcoming those barriers? Stephanie : I’m passionate about mentorship, professional development and advocacy. I want to help others find avenues for their personal and professional growth. As a mentor, it’s important to share my experiences, give advice, and support other women to have the confidence and ambition to seek out opportunities for growth and leadership. Deborah : Well said, Stephanie. Personally, I try to reach out through networking opportunities and encourage people to apply their talents at EXP. Within my team, I always encourage everyone to speak up in meetings, offer their ideas and contribute to their highest potential. Priscilla : In recent years, many law schools have seen an increase in female enrollment. In private practice and in-house, women are being recognized and promoted more and more often as senior leaders. I expect similar progress in engineering. With more focus on STEM at an early age, more girls will be given the opportunity and encouragement to explore and choose engineering as a career. Sarah : That’s right, we’re also seeing the number of females graduating from university-level engineering programs increase in recent years, but disproportionately more women still leave the profession early in their careers. Our industry needs to evolve and shift its focus to encourage women to build and develop their careers in engineering, particularly consulting engineering. This might include flexible work policies, job sharing, etc. What’s your outlook for the future of women in engineering?
The struggle for work/life is a recurring theme in many of the interviews. What would be your advice for women entering the industry? Deborah : To me, finding balance comes from being organized and choosing how to use your time. Understand that you will need to make sacrifices and compromise. Regardless of how much time you spend at work or at home, I believe children benefit from having parents who enjoy what they are doing. Priscilla : Absolutely, Deborah, you can’t do everything. Well, maybe you can with no sleep, but I have had to learn to humbly accept my own limitations. This actually helps me prioritize better and not be afraid to ask for help.
contributors: Priscilla Ahn Eliza Martinez Avilès Julie Beauséjour
Ashley Brown Phil Desmarais Viviane Donay Ivan Dvorak Mark Dvorak
Thank you to our panelists for providing us with the benefit of their insights, perspectives and experiences. We hope that the discussion expands and continues as more women start and grow their careers in this exciting and rewarding industry.
Donna Floerchinger Marie-Hélène Fortin Marie-Julie Garneau Sandra Homola Rebecca Huang Stephanie Hunt Megan King Emmanuelle Landry Marie-Hélène Laneville Ysela Love Isabelle Mireault Lisa Moore
Vero Rabemanana Rachael Sampson Sarah Skinner Margot Smeenk Nancy Stern Nataliya Tkach Deborah Walters Chantal Wing