– The Ontario Construction Report Special Feature
Recent university engineering graduate Tamara Harb is an engineer in training (EIT) with Robinson Consultants Inc. She discovered this career, despite limited exposure to trades or engineering opportunities through high school.
Harb says she wouldn’t have known what engineering was had it not been for her father, who is an engineer, and a high school teacher who taught a design course based partially on his own engineering background. She says she realized her experience was not uncommon when she reached university and there were a countable number of women in each class.
During her time with Robinson Consultants she realized very quickly that school and the career experience she anticipated were very different from the real world.
“The actual work is a lot more than design,” she said. “I have been on sites, worked with contract administration, with contractors, and gained an understanding of the financial aspects of projects. The early months really opened my eyes to the possibility this career holds but even now, I am still being exposed to new aspects and new opportunities.”
Though she has become far more comfortable in her environment, she says the early days were an adjustment. “My first project I worked alongside a senior engineer. We would be at a meeting where I was the only woman around a table of 15.”
She says a normal accommodation technique of finding someone who is similar to you and who you can connect with doesn’t work in this situation so there was a period of adjustment. However, now she says people know her and what she is capable of, and she knows more people so this is less an issue.
Harb says she is grateful to have landed at Robinson Consultants for her first professional experience because it is an environment in which she feels supported and recognized. It is evident, she says, that people here want her to succeed and will provide the opportunities she needs to try different aspects of the work and to find her best fit.
Enjoying her own experiences, Harb says she recommends engineering as a career for women and wishes it was an option presented to girls earlier and more often. “To see a project through from concept through construction to completion and understanding the value it adds to the community is very rewarding.”
Her advice to young people graduating or about to graduate is to be creative. She says with the Internet today, every job is accessible to so many candidates, those who want to work have to find unique ways to stand out.
“Use LinkedIn, walk in the door and introduce yourself, find the contact information for a senior member of the company you want to work with and contact them directly,” she said. “You have to get their attention and then you can let them know why they should pick you.”