Okay, so technically “Introduce a Girl To Engineering Day” was last week according to the folks at National Engineers Week. Although we might be a bit late, we think everyday is a good day to support and encourage young women to pursue careers in engineering. But don’t take our word for it.
Lisa Cooper, a supremely talented engineer (who we’re lucky to have on our team at Inertia) took some time out of her busy day to share some perspective on her work here as well as talk about her own path towards establishing herself as an engineer.
Can you describe what you do at Inertia on a day to day basis?
My day to day work really depends on what project I’m working on and how far along in development it is. For a new project, I could be doing a lot of concept sketches, and very basic CAD studies to get an idea of what mechanisms and packaging might work for that particular problem. As development continues, I do a lot of prototyping, testing and updating of designs based on the data we get from those prototypes. Once we get close to releasing parts I’ll do some updates to make the parts more manufacturable and make drawings to tell the manufacturer everything they need to know about the part. Through all of this I do daily reports to keep the customer in the loop with my progress and to gather their feedback on the design direction.
Can you share an example of a product you’ve worked on recently?
The images below show a wheel design (called Wheelz) that are part of a shower commode wheelchair Inertia developed for Raz Designs. This was one of my first projects at Inertia. The goals for the design of Wheelz were to create a wheel that showcased the Raz brand, was aesthetically pleasing and had a comfortable ergonomic grip. You can learn more about our work with Raz by checking out our RAZ case study linked here.
What’s an example of a significant challenge you overcame at work?
The biggest challenges are often the non-technical ones. We have customers with incredibly tight deadlines and deciding what work is critical and what can be deferred is always difficult. Similarly, updating the customers expectations as to what is feasible in the time given involves a lot of tricky conversations and diplomacy. Engineering is as much soft skills as it is technical smarts.
When did you know you wanted to become an Engineer?
Both of my parents are in the STEM field, so I was always exposed to it, and encouraged to explore it. I had a little rebellious streak in me, so for a long time I was determined NOT to go into STEM. It wasn’t until high school that I finally accepted that I really liked building things and solving problems, and that engineering was probably the right fit for me after all. By the time I’d finished my first year of university I was absolutely confident I’d made the right decision.
Where did you study to become an Engineer?
I got my degree at the University of Waterloo, studying Mechatronics Engineering.
How did you stand out to land a job at Inertia?
I first came to Inertia as a co-op student. At that point I had a few other product design related co-ops under my belt so my experience probably helped me stand out. I’d also received outstanding reviews from my previous employers which always helps when looking for a new job. During my co-op term I was able to handle client relations as well as design and analysis which proved I could be an effective and well rounded team member so I was given a full time offer once I graduated.
What type of Engineering do you specialize in?
I studied mechatronics engineering which is a combination of mechanical, electrical and software engineering. Throughout my degree, I realized I much preferred the mechanical side of things, so now I specialize in mechanical engineering, but I still have the background in electrical and software engineering that I can draw upon when the need arises.
What courses did you have to take before going to University? Did you participate in any extra-curricular activities that helped prepare you for studying Engineering at University?
Most engineering programs in Ontario will require Grade 12 English, Advanced Functions, Calculus, Physics and Chemistry. As an extra effort, I took AP Physics and Chemistry which made my first year of university a little easier as I’d already seen some of the material. As far as extra curriculars, I participated in less ‘technical’ clubs and teams. I was on the Student Council, and I ran the arts council, I played on the Slo-Pitch team, in the band and was in the debate club. Though these might not have helped me directly with my first year class work, they definitely taught me time management. They also probably helped me get into Waterloo as they typically look for well rounded students.
What advice would you give to a young woman interested in becoming an Engineer?
Don’t be intimidated. Don’t feel you have to be a ‘woman in engineering’. You can just be an engineer.
We hope you enjoyed Lisa’s insights on establishing herself as an engineer. We encourage all young women to explore STEM related fields. Promoting workplace diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us at Inertia. Recently we were recognized by the Great Place to WorkⓇ organization as one of Canada’s Best Workplaces™ for Inclusion in 2019.
Inertia is growing and we’re looking for great people to join our team. Check out our current job openings.