Meet a few of the experts at RST Instruments who engineer solutions to complex problems
According to Engineers Canada, women account for less than 13 percent of practising professional engineers in Canada. While enrollment in university programs steadily increases, under-representation for women in the engineering profession remains a reality.
As a company that seeks to create a workplace community that promotes equality and inclusion, Measurand recognizes the importance of supporting women in engineering as the profession grows. This June 23, we are proud to observe International Women in Engineering Day (INWED2020). #shapetheworld
Measurand wishes to share the experiences of some of the talented women we work with in order to inspire and encourage young women and girls to think about career opportunities in the engineering industry. Join us as we highlight a few of the women who are part of the engineering industry with RST Instruments.
"I used to go to the grocery store with my mom and then before she hit the cashier, I already knew how much she spent." Adriana Gonçalves, Director of Sales, Latin America at RST Instruments, remembers of her childhood in Brazil. Her early aptitude for math eventually led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and further postgraduate study in industrial process engineering.
"I want to make a difference, and I want to help society to be better," Gonçalves says of her decision to be an engineer.
Thinking back to her days in university in Brazil, Gonçalves says the classroom tended to be male-dominated.
"I would say, out of a hundred students, only five percent of the students were female," Gonçalves says. "And then, when I look into my colleagues nowadays in the Brazilian market, none of the female colleagues hold management positions, which is a shame."
Gonçalves went on to work in quality assurance and research and development for flexible packaging products for multinational clients in a variety of industries—including, food, pharmaceuticals, construction, and chemical supply. She eventually received a master of applied science in mining engineering at the University of British Columbia, an achievement that required learning English and emigrating from Brazil to Canada, a challenging process that required discipline and plenty of self-sacrifice. She credits her thesis advisor, Dr. Marcello Veiga, as a valuable mentor throughout the process of pursuing a career in the mining industry and getting her degree at UBC.
"I used to say that I went through the back door to come out the front door. In the first three months I was just sitting in on the courses while I got the paperwork ready. And Marcello? I would say that he was the angel that I needed to open the doors.” It was during this time that Adriana gained experience in mining operations, especially in small-scale gold processing, open-pit mining, and tailings dams.
Promoting the role of women in engineering is a passion for Gonçlaves, who is part of the Women in Mining Association in British Columbia and helped create a sister organization in Brazil, which aims to bring more opportunities for women into the mining industry.
"Not only in processing, finance, operations—the entire chain," Gonçlaves says, "I think by 2030 we are going to see a big flip in those numbers, and that's what I'm looking for, that's what I fight for, and I think education is the best way to bring more people to the team."
Savanna Herman, Instrumentation Engineer with RST Instruments, studied geological engineering at the University of British Columbia. While there, she was part of a co-op program where she worked at Amec Foster Wheeler in 2012 (Nanaimo, BC), GeoNorth Engineering in 2013 (Prince George, BC), and Golder Associates in their Mine Waste Group in 2014 (Burnaby, BC). After graduation, she accepted an offer to go back to Nanaimo, BC, to work for Amec Foster Wheeler full time. Her diverse range of experiences and expertise has seen her work on projects in sectors from mining to infrastructure, involved in tasks including construction monitoring, site and drilling investigation programs, modelling slope failures in software, and assisting with the preparation of reports to key stakeholders . She has even helped colleagues perform environmental monitoring when the occasion demanded it. Herman describes geotechnical instrumentation as the common thread running through her previous roles. Piezometer, inclinometer, and data-acquisition-system installation were part of the day-to-day routine.
During her first year at university, before deciding which engineering concentration she would focus on, Herman found the geological engineering clubroom during a student event and was instantly struck by its appeal.
"It was a mix of everything I like," Herman says.
She remembers a generally equal gender representation in her geological program but that other programs had a greater proportion of men, specifically mechanical and mining engineering. The difference was even more apparent when she entered the field, especially on mine or construction sites; on many occasions she was the only woman on site. She describes the pressure to surpass expectations and appear confident as part of the role that female engineers play in those situations, especially those just starting out.
"I think there is just a natural feeling where you sort of feel like you have to prove yourself," Herman says. "You want people to take you seriously."
She describes the industry as open and encouraging with signs of positive movement towards eliminating the gap in female representation but notes that there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially for those in leadership positions.
"I think there can be more work towards promoting females to the higher end of the management scale, even in the C-level positions, vice presidents, presidents," Herman says.
She encourages young girls and women to consider the benefits and opportunities of a career in engineering. Herman says she has been able to be part of unique projects, make new connections, and build relationships with professionals that she wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
"Engineering is a great foundation for any path you choose," Herman says. "I think maybe sometimes there's a bit of hesitation because engineering sounds challenging. I say just jump in."
"I was always interested in understanding how things worked, why things were the way they are, and why we saw behaviors in nature," Lilliana Cordoba, Instrument Specialist at RST Instruments says. She credits her parents for encouraging her curiosity about the interrelationships between materials in the natural world early. Her father worked as a machinist. Cordoba says that she remembers him during her childhood working on his car in his spare time, and how careful he was to explain how the parts worked together.
"My dad was always very open to sharing insights," she says.
Her sense of curiosity eventually led Cordoba to pursue a diploma in engineering technology with a concentration in chemical engineering. There, she noticed gender disparity in some of the engineering programs, which carried over into the professional sphere. More broadly, Cordoba describes the challenge of dealing with the competing pressures of a career and the expectations of serving a domestic role in the home.
"I come from a Latino family where breaking that role is—there's a resistance and not necessarily an appreciation for breaking outside of that," Cordoba says.
After her education, Cordoba worked in the chemical industry, leading process improvements for operators and technicians in a laboratory environment.
"We're looking at data, and we're reacting to data, and that leads to instrumentation and control to improve the process," Cordoba says. "I found it rewarding that I had the opportunity to apply a lot of the principles of chemical engineering and utilize them and see the impacts that it has, not only on your product but also on the people that contribute to the making of that product."
Cordoba transitioned into a technical sales role as an instrumentation specialist at RST Instruments, building on her practical experience and communication skills.
"I enjoyed the practical side of things, the application side of things," Cordoba says. "So I had the opportunity to not only contribute a lot of how I wanted that lab to run, but I would say that my strength is bringing people together to have productive conversations."
Jessica Galavan is an instrumentation engineer and technical supervisor with RST Instruments at Site C, a hydroelectric dam project in British Columbia. Galavan oversees a team of instrumentation supervisors and technicians in charge of installation, monitoring, troubleshooting, and maintenance of the on site instrumentation network.
She studied at Queen's University and majored in geological engineering. Galavan interned with Knight Piésold Consulting during her studies before joining them full time after graduation. With Knight Piésold she performed geotechnical site characterizations associated with tailings facilities and open pit mines in locations all over North America.
"The different people that you meet from all over the place and all the points of view that most people would never get the chance to see is amazing," Galavan says of working on site.
It was during this time that Galavan gained experience installing what she calls "the bread and butter" of geotechnical investigations—instrumentation like piezometers and inclinometers.
When her role began to involve more and more time in the office, Galavan began to search for a way to get back into the field. When a position at RST Instruments opened for an on-site engineer; Galavan leaped at the chance.
"That's where I like to be—on site and getting my hands dirty," Galavan says.
She says her experience is what benefits the team at Site C. She says her skill set is "more on the ground. Get the (instrumentation) in the hole and once it's installed: What does this mean? Can we trust the data?”
Thinking back to her classes at school, she says that women in her geological engineering classes at Queen's were well represented but that it didn't necessarily extend to other concentrations, and certainly not to the field, where male drillers and contractors still outnumber women by a wide margin.
" As the site engineer you're expected to be in charge and to step up […] and a lot of times, especially as a young woman, a lot of men don't really like being told what to do by a young lady," Galavan says. "But I also feel like it was incredibly valuable to me and my personal growth. It was a challenge and now I feel, now that I'm at Site C, I have so much of that in my back pocket, it just doesn't faze me anymore."
International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) was started in the United Kingdom by the Women's Engineering Society in 2014 to encourage girls and young women to consider career opportunities in engineering.
Engineers Canada has launched the 30 by 30 Program, which seeks to increase the number of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 percent by 2030 by focusing on recruitment, retention, and professional development. Click to learn more about Engineers Canada's work to raise the profile of women in engineering.
U.S. Patent 5,321,257
U.S. Patent 5,633,494
Canadian Patent 2,073,162
U.S. Patent 6,127,672, 6,563,107
U.S. Patent 6,127,672, 6,563,107
U.S. Patent 7,296,363
Canadian Patent 2,472,421
U.S. Patent 7,296,363
Canadian Patent 2,472,421
Canadian application 2,815,199 & 2,815,195
Cyclical Sensor Array, Canadian application 2,815,199 & 2,911,175