Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Changing Degrees

Most students applying to university don’t really know what they want to do later in life. Students sometimes take gap years to learn more about themselves, or take a general first year at university to see what different fields exist. All of this is normal, and you should not feel ashamed if this happens to you. My journey to where I am now was long and I wished I talked to more people about it so that I could make an informed decision.

I have always been good at math and science, so I was told that I should be in engineering or a related field. I didn't really bother researching what engineering was, and decided to apply for the most difficult sounding engineering there was, Aerospace Engineering (do not do this, always do research).

During my first semester of engineering, I hated it. It wasn't what I expected, so I decided that I would switch my major. At first I thought I would go into a different type of engineering and Sustainable Renewable Energy Engineering sounded intriguing, as I always had a passion for helping the environment. As the year went on, I decided  to leave engineering altogether. So, again without researching or consulting any of my friends or professors I switched into business for my second year.

During my year in business, I felt many different emotions. It was quite a change from engineering, and I didn't know how I felt about that. The classes, for the most part seemed easier, which was not as challenging as I had wanted. The one reason I chose engineering is I didn't like group projects or presentations. Guess what business is full of? Group projects and presentations. I couldn't stand it. I also had a hard time making friends; most of my friends were in engineering, so we had differing workloads. I knew business was not right for me.

At this point I had a difficult decision to make. I knew I would be really behind if I switched again not to mention the additional financial strain. I decided to go to the Student Academic Success Center, which has career counselors, and they really helped me. If you are thinking of changing your  major, I would highly recommend talking to as many people as possible before you do so. You could just be having a rough time and you don’t want to make any rash decisions... like I did.

After lots of contemplating and weighing benefits, I decided to switch back into engineering but in a different stream. I am now in Software Engineering and am loving it! It isn't the same as other types as engineering, which fits me perfectly. Software Engineering has a wide range of opportunities, which I am really attracted to. I find it fascinating that you can make your own tic-tac-toe game with the computer playing the opponent! I find the main differences (so far) between aerospace and software engineering, is the lack of Mechanics and related courses. I remember taking that in my first year of engineering, and I realized that being in aerospace, I would typically be doing work related to that. I enjoy that I can still be in engineering, and that my lack of interest in mechanics doesn't change that.

It took a lot of time to find where I belong and I still have lots of decisions to make such as, what parts of software engineering I am most interested in, but what's important is that I am now sure of my choice of major.

If you aren't happy in your current major or are looking to make the right choice the first time around my advice to you is this: talk to as many people as you can, go see a guidance counselor, talk to professors and students that are in the fields that you are interested in, do research and gather as much information as you can. You may have misconceptions about certain fields but you won't know until you investigate. If you want to do something but are worried that it will be a set back, go for it anyways! You decide what you want to do and no one else. It may take some time to find out where you belong but time doesn't matter, do whatever makes you happy! Most importantly, don’t let people tell you what you would be good in, make the decision that is best for you.

Bronwyn is a second year Software Engineering student. When she isn't studying, she is either reading books or playing video games. She loves Star Wars.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Useful Study Tips for Exams

It's that time of the year again ….. caffeine filled nights getting ready for exams. I know that this subject may be overdone, but I've decided to summarize a few tips to make this month a bit easier for you.

The first piece of advice that anyone will tell you is to pay attention in class, take great notes and start studying really early in the semester, and not at the last minute. If you are anything like me, that is never going to happen... so, I'll move onto some more useful ideas (If my mother is reading this, I am clearly lying and do all of the above).

I'll start off with my six general steps and then a few specifics tricks that may prove to be helpful. Overall, stress is the worst thing for exams so positive thinking, lots of sunlight and chocolate are a great way to start.

 1. SLEEP First thing first, sleep! I know, I know, everyone tells you this but I bet you ignore this every year. Two hours of studying when you're exhausted will do more harm than good! This is  because  you'll be even more tired the next day, and will remember very little of what you studied. Studies show that students should get 8-10 hours of sleep every night. But, if that's not possible, I'd recommend at least 6 hours of sleep. On that note, don't take this as an excuse to sleep the day away (I have been guilty of this).

I'm well aware that this can be both a foreign notion to some of you and a way to procrastinate for others, but it is important! Before you start the never-ending studying session, clean your work area. Declutter, hide the distractions (including your phone), remove any dirty dishes, and give it a quick wipe down and vacuum. This won't take long but it can make all the difference. Please, do not turn this into a three hour cleaning session (or a three hour session of thinking about cleaning). Something else that I find useful, is making lists (I might be addicted) and plans. Make a quick outline of a study plan for the 2-3 weeks of you have left (or more if you're lucky) before exams. Separate the days into hours for specific course subjects, rest, work, etc. You should also make a quick plan for each day of study right before you start that day (ex. get through ch.3-5 of mechanics for today). This will give you a goal to achieve and make it easier to stay on track. Note: DO NOT be like me and spend hours doing this while achieving nothing on the lists.

3. STUDY GROUP As an antisocial and extremely awkward person, this is a hard concept for me to grasp but it really is worth it ; join a STUDY GROUP. Study groups will give you a bit more structure, motivation and focus while you study. It's also great because you can ask your peers for help when you need it and you can help them when they need it. Teaching other people is a great way to cement the knowledge in your brain and ensure that you understand the material. Try to ask some friends or people in your tutorial classes to form a group. In the case that you cannot find a group, remember you always have your TAs and professors that you can go to ask any questions. Also, give yourself or a group of invisible people (I know it sounds silly) a presentation on a topic that you just finished studying. Go full out; diagrams, talking out loud, writing down notes, etc. This will honestly help in the long run.

4. BREAKS Breaks are very important to take or you'll burn out and you will not retain as much information. Taking breaks will improve performance, relieve stress and increase your overall well-being. The research differs in terms of the agreed length, frequency, and number of intervals a person should take a break for that will be most beneficial. I personally like to study for long periods of time (roughly two hours) and then take a 30 minute break. In reality a thirty minute break every two hours may be too long of a break, but it’s what has worked best for me. Another great idea which has been instrumental in my studies has been to create a study music playlist. Create the playlist for the length of time you intend to study for and turn it on shuffle. When the playlist ends, you know that it's time for a break without ever having to look at the clock (try not to spend time watching the time on the clock). Also, try not to pick music that will distract you. Ideally, choose music that is instrumental or calming, but make sure to pick something you like. I personally love classical music, orchestra music and soundtracks (they're not necessarily calm but at least you don't get distracted by the music too much).

5. DANCE PARTY This brings me onto my next subject; what to do during those breaks. Have a dance party! Put on some fun music and just start dancing (don't worry if you can't dance, this is why you do this in private). You may think I'm joking but I'm very serious and expect to see a lot of dancing students once this trend catches. It's a great stress reliever; a quick way to loosen up your stiff joints and a great way to have your endorphins released. Doing some exercise and going outdoors are another way to achieve the same benefits. Unfortunately, in the real world (in Canada), there's already snow on the ground, and no one in their right mind wants to go freeze their behinds off for fun. If you do, good for you; but for the other lazy and winter hating people like me, just dance! It's the best workout to quickly get your heartbeat going (I may be lying) but don't worry about technique since you're not getting in shape or showing off your dance moves, you are just shaking some stress off.
Napolean Dynamite(2004) 

  6. CAFFEINE Depending who you ask, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. On a realistic note, it's impossible to get through this without caffeine (if you can, I hate you) and it really should just be accepted. My only note of advice is to try and avoid it at night since sleep is more important and cut down on the caffeine when you start getting the shakes. Honestly, what you eat and drink is purely up to you and I know it is hard but eating healthy can go a long way for your energy levels and retention abilities. So remember moderation and even though caffeine may be one of my food groups, I don't have a drastic increase in my intake. Plus, remember to drink plenty of water.

 Ok, now that you've actually read through the six steps (or scrolled pass), you deserve to know the true secret of my success during exam period (not really a secret).

All subjects are different and need to be studied in a different way but in general, science and engineering courses are all about practice. Reading through your notes isn't very helpful once you get to the exams. The only way to prepare is to actually solve or work through the questions (over and over again) until you truly understand how to get to the answer and what to do in all possible scenarios.
HINT#1: My solids II professor gave me this particular word of advice: once you've done a question, do it backwards. Professors like to be sneaky; they won't give you a question in the same format that they've shown you in class. If they always give you A and B to get to C, make sure you can get to A with B and C. It adds more work but is probably the best advice I've ever received; you'll get more comfortable (and therefore confident) about the theories and equations. 

We all learn in different ways and you should concentrate on which way is best for you. So you can rewrite your notes, or read your notes out loud, or do some sort of 'short experiment' to demonstrate a concept. Anything that helps is great; rereading your notes at a high speed in your head is only useful to a small percentage of people. Try to make studying an interactive activity. Note: Even if you learn primarily through one method, I'd advise you to use a combination of all three methods.
HINT#2: You will get annoyed, tired and sore after all the studying. Documentaries are a great way to change it up a bit while still learning the material. The documentary won't cover everything you need to know but it is still covering the same topic from a different point of view. Even better, it allows you to take a break from writing and sit on a comfy couch. Remember that it doesn't need to be a documentary (Aircraft Investigations for engineer students, A Beautiful Mind for neuroscience students, etc.). 

Do not get stuck on the same material for too long. Your mind will start blurring all the information together and you'll end up making mistakes and forgetting the material. Do a few hours on one subject and then take a big break (work, school, eating, etc.), when you get back start a different subject or at least study a different section of that subject that is completely different. It will do wonders for you in the end. If you find this hard (I do), switch it up between theory and practical (or books and films, etc.) and you will achieve the same results.
HINT#3: This may not occur to most people but changing where you study is important as well. Do not study everything all at the same desk; move to the kitchen for a bit, go to the library, sit on the floor. Avoid your bed if possible though studying right before bed and after you wake up has been proven to be helpful at retaining more information * only successful when you're not exhausted*. 

Remember that you're not the only person who wants you to pass the exam. The professors will be available for extra help, and will often provide you a good idea of what to expect on the exam. The university will also help by giving you access to old exams, PASS sessions, workshops, tutors, etc. Utilize the resources available to you because there's a lot more than you may realize. If you don't know where to look on your school's website, don't be afraid to ask.
Hint #4: Humans, including professors, are creatures of habit. Complete all the old exams (not just one) you can find (especially those by the same professor) because I can almost guarantee that your exam will be similar. The old exams should be used as a tool, and you should not purely rely on them. Do keep in mind that certain subjects haven't changed in a very long time (ex. calculus) but some subjects change relatively often (ex. computers). 

 My final note of advice is a few ways to use technology to your advantage during study periods. We live in a world where technology proves to be one of our greatest distractions but can also be our biggest help.

First and foremost, GOOGLE. Never underestimate the power of Google search when you need help. You can find almost everything you'll need but remember to take it with a grain of salt depending on which sites you use. For engineer and science students, you'll find hundreds of videos online with example of questions and demonstrations.

Self Control
It's hard not to procrastinate and get distracted but there are apps out there that will help. There are a few versions of this idea but one of them is called 'SelfControl', it will block certain sites completely for a set period of time and you will never be able to access them (even if you turn off your computer). Check it out:

Sleep If U Can
Try some of these alarms clocks if you have trouble getting out of bed. The first one forces you to do a math problem to turn it off and the second one forces you to take a photo of a specified object (ideally not in your bedroom). There's many more like it; find one that works for you. 

Exam Time 
My personal discovery of the year that I'm excited for is “ExamTime”! “ExamTime” is an app that will help you study using mind maps, flashcards, notes and quizzes. The reason why it's so great is that it's shared online which means you can look at other people's quizzes and notes as well. As a study group, you can all make quizzes separately (which really does help with your memory) and you can test yourself with their quizzes. Depending on the subject, you can find hundreds (I might be exaggerating) of quizzes/flashcards/etc., that are already completed.

My point is that there's help if you need it, I just listed a few free apps that I know of but there are many others out there that may suit you. Of course, don't let the app be a distraction and don't spend hours looking for the perfect app/site either.

I hope you can utilize my six steps and tricks when studying for exams, but keep in mind that there are different ways of studying for different formats of exam. So remember to study using different techniques depending on the exam format (ie. Multiple choice versus essay exams).

Good luck to everyone and enjoy your well-deserved holiday vacation after exams!

Gabrielle is a 2nd/3rd year aerospace engineer student. She has a bachelor of science in mathematics and physics from Australia where she lived for four years. She's your typical engineer student; loves the classes (well.. most of them) but spends way too much time playing games instead. Her favorite activity is watching Broadways (even though she doesn't have an artistic bone in her body).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Remembering - 25 Years After the Montreal Massacre

One day, fourteen lives lost.

If you have walked through the University Centre at some point this week, you may have seen the names of 14 different women as you climbed the stairs to the atrium. You may also have seen their pictures and names on the wall; you may even have stopped to read a little about who they were.

Those blurry photographs show the faces of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre twenty-five years ago. On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine shot and killed thirteen female students and one female faculty member at École Polytechnique de Montreal, home to Canada’s largest engineering program. In the engineering classroom where his rampage started, Lépine separated the men from the women and declared that he hated feminists before he shot nine female students, six of whom were killed. In forty-five minutes, Lépine covered three floors, and entered several classrooms. In addition to the women killed, thirteen people were injured before Lépine took his own life. This event sparked outrage and a national debate about gun control and violence against women.

In the 2000 block of the Mackenzie Building, there is a bulletin memorial dedicated to remembering the Massacre. I had seen it many times coming down the stairs after tutorials, but I have to be honest and say that I hadn't given the event itself much thought. I felt that it was a horrific and tragic act, but I knew essentially nothing about the particulars of the event itself. This year, I decided to learn more about it and I was surprised by how much I was affected by what I learned. I couldn't help but associate myself with those women. They were female engineering students. I am a female engineering student. I really could not wrap my head around such a thing happening.

There are many events on campus dedicated to remembering the fourteen women who had their lives cut short, and to honoring the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (Dec. 6). On Tuesday of this week, a commemorative gathering was held by the Faculty of Engineering. On Thursday December 4, the Womyn’s Centre will be holding a candle light vigil in the Minto/Mackenzie quad (4:30pm), after which they will be showing the film “Polytechnique,” a documentary about the Massacre, at BECAMPS. On Saturday December 6, there will be a community gathering in Minto Park (Elgin and Gilmour) to honor the women killed. The Womyn Centre will have a table on the 3rd floor of the University Centre throughout the week providing information about the commemorative events, the Montreal Massacre itself, and the women who lost their lives as a result.

If you can, I would highly recommend that you take a moment to research a little about the Montreal Massacre or the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. These are not pleasant things to think about, but they are important nevertheless.

This post is dedicated to the women who lost their lives so tragically twenty-five years ago, to women who have suffered violence because of their gender, and to those working to end violence against women everywhere.

- Lauren

The Montreal Massacre victims:
Anne St-Arneault, 23; Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klueznick, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; and Annie Turcotte, 21.

Lauren is a second year Architectural Conservation and Sustainability Engineering student. (Quite the title, she knows.) She is a big fan of good food, good friends and good conversation. Her collection of scarves and tea is matched only by the list of places she wants to visit and books she wants to read. She loves ballroom and Latin dancing, and can often be found dancing in the atrium or wherever salsa music is played. She is passionate about improving the lives of women and girls around the world and about encouraging girls to pursue studies and careers in STEM.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Path of Science and Engineering!

When I was a kid, I was in Girl Guides. One unforgettable thing I learned at Girl Guide camp when I was ten was a lesson from my leader about why we stay on the path during a hike. She told us that it only takes ten people to walk on a patch of the forest before the foliage there starts to thin out. Now, my leader meant this in a forest-conservation kind of way; but a recent experience  made me think of this lesson in a whole new light...

During my reading week this fall, I volunteered with the Carleton Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at a career convention for eighth graders in the city. The convention was meant to give these students an opportunity to learn about different career paths and meet professionals in these fields. At this convention, I was manning (ironic word choice, I know) an info table on EWB with another girl from our Carleton Chapter. Our table happened to be located next to one on masonry, which had an interactive area where students could try their hand at building part of a wall with some bricks and mortar. The girl I was with is an engineering student, but she always loved the trades and working with her hands. She enthusiastically went over to the next table and joined the brick-laying lesson. What happened next made me smile! The masonry booth had been occupied mostly by groups of boys all day. But, as my fellow EWBer scraped around mortar and laid bricks, a few eighth grade girls came over and joined her, and then a few more. These girls seemed much less timid and self-conscious, and more engaged in the lesson than any of the previous solitary girls who had tried the booth earlier that day. All it took was one other girl there, one other person like them to make the girls realize that they could do masonry too, that working with your hands isn't just for boys!

I know masonry isn't STEM, but the trades are male-dominated fields, just like Science and Engineering. And here is where the forest lesson comes in: Each one of you, a woman in Science and Engineering, can play the same role for young women interested in STEM as my EWBer friend! You would be taking a step off the path into the forest and treading into the foliage! With every woman who does what she loves and pursues a career in STEM, the foliage thins out just a little bit more. With time, the new path becomes easier to find and follow for the next girl. You are one more female face in an engineering class that stops the next girl from thinking "I'm not a boy. I don't belong here". You are the successful older student or prominent figure in your field that reminds those girls in the initial struggles of Science and Engineering that "I can do this!"
 In my Psychology class last year, I learned about how stereotype threat (the fear that if you fail, other people will say you failed because you are part of some minority or social group) can actually make people perform worse and fail more often. It has been said for years that women are not as smart as men and worse at math. This is not true, of course, but it can still trigger stereotype threat in girls and women in STEM; they worry that their failure will be attributed to them being a "dumb girl". Yet, every example they have that contradicts the stereotype, makes the stereotype threat diminish more and more. Every one of you is making that girl less and less afraid of being herself, and less scared of failing.

That's part of the reason I love Science! It lets me be a role model and encourage tones of young girls to pursue their love for STEM. And this is simply achieved by doing what I love and find SO interesting.

So stay inspiring ladies and keep treading that widening path through the forest!!!


Sarah is in her second year of Neuroscience combined honors at Carleton. She loves introducing young minds to the mind-blowing amazingness of science and encouraging girls and women to be whatever they want to be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

WISE conversations with inspiring women

Between chunks of cheese and slices of cake, 25 women swapped career advice at WISE-Ottawa’s opening event at Carleton University on October 1, 2014. First year students mingled with PhDs and industry experts long past 8:00 p.m.

The event began with brief presentations by Judith Lockwood, Gina Courtland and Catherine Lemay about their mentors. For the rest of the night the speakers led informal discussions. Here are their thoughts on some of the topics covered:

Gender discrimination

“Ignore it, and if it’s too much to ignore, go through it,” said Gina. She never paid attention to discrimination. If your workplace is not supportive of women, find one that is.

One of Judith’s mentors had a different view. According to him, women have an advantage because they exactly know what prejudices they will face at work, an advantage many men don’t have.

Jobs in a tough economy

Judith said that today’s job market is much like the one she faced in the 80s; few jobs in science and engineering and no job security.

For job seekers she advised making contacts in your industry, and knowing what you can bring to a company.


Mentorship gives life continuity and direction. Mentors can be supervisors, peers or even family. They don’t need to work in your field, and they don’t even need to be female. “Ironically, I’m coming (to this event) and I don’t have any female mentors” said Judith.

Balancing family and career

Students should consider their priorities before they start their career, advised Catherine. If you want to start a family, look carefully at a job’s benefits such as paid maternity leave and flexible work arrangements. If you value work-life balance, find an employer who does too.


Everyone knows that networking is important, but not everyone likes cocktails and conferences. Networking just means meeting people, any kind of people. Get involved activities that interest you like volunteering or recreational sports. When you do things you’re passionate about, people will see you at your best. You never know who will be able to help you get where you want to go.


“As women, we always want to be liked” said Judith. “You don’t have to like the people you work with, you just have to work with them.”

Reflecting on a mentor who ran an interior design firm, Gina said “She was stylish, she was confident, she was herself.” Gina says women should be risk takers, and even a little bit cocky. “You are strong, so be strong.”

Student Impression
As a student, this event was a great opportunity to speak with women of all ages and interests. It also helped me think about the big picture. For example, what networking can I do at the clubs I already attend? How will children fit into my career path?

It was especially comforting to learn that ours is not the only generation to face a tough economy upon graduating. While it was good to get advice from women well into their careers, I also realized the value of networking with my peers. For example, I was able to connect a computer engineering student to a few of my friends who work in her field. It was a great night and I’m eager to attend future Ottawa WISE events.

Amelia Buchanan is a journalism student at Algonquin College with a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Ottawa. She’s interested in communicating science to non-scientists. She blogs about urban wildlife at Lab Bench to Park Bench.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hai! Welcome Back!!!


You’re about three weeks in, but welcome back nonetheless.
Whether this is your first year at Carleton or 10th (no judgment here). We hope that you have a productive yet fun year!

Since I have been here FOREVER, I've complied a list of tips and tricks of the trade (yes I equated being a student to a trade).

1)   Read your course syllabus… Seriously. All the important information is on there and it acts a contract between you and your professor.
2)   Use your TA’s, they’re job is to make sure you are feeling comfortable with the material.
3)   Use your Prof’s office hours. Again, get comfortable asking questions.
4)   Attend class. I know this seems like a no brainer and granted some classes are bruuutaal. Try really hard to show up. Make an effort. I know this goes without saying, but you guys are paying $500+ per course… Seems like a complete waste if you’re not coming to class or using the Prof and TA’s
5)   Keep up with the material. You don’t need to be making an appearance at a house party every night of the week. You do need to make an appearance at the library or an equivalent place to get your shit done.
6)   Don’t compare yourself with anyone. We all know those students….The ones that party all night, don’t show up to class  (or show up only to fall asleep), that start their assignments 1 hr before they are due, and that seem to never open a text book YET the buggers end up with a fantastic mark…
They are not you. Recognize and appreciate how YOU learn. The earlier you do this the less heart ache and potential awful marks you will experience.
7)   Join at least one “social” group (salsa anyone?) and one “academic” group (every department has a society, get involved).

Shameless self plug here, but ahem CU-WISE is both social (who doesn't love cupcake socials and movie nights?) AND  academic (we have smart people come in to talk about smart things) .

                                      We also are changing the world, seriously.

Our outreach efforts over the last 2 years alone has reached more then 600 girls ranging from ages 10 to 18...   #NBD ;)

Our members are the absolute best (not biased at all) and our events are AH-MAZING (again, cupcakes, roller coasters and nonstop giggling, can’t be beat).

8)   Expand your social horizons, get to know people that are your opposites... Makes for fun evenings
9)   Pack food. Campus food is …well... you know...(unless you go to Roosters… They’re all right for certain things). But seriously, pack food or buy granola bars and stuff them in your locker. Nothing is worse then setting down to study and being hungry. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.
10)  Workout. I know I knooooow. “Sweating is sooo awful” (this is the exact statement that my lazy labmate tells me when we workout... but he’s has a lot of issues we need to sort out) Anyway. Find a physical activity you enjoy, tennis, swimming, weights, running (barf), yoga etc. Get moving. No one wants to be out of breath climbing the Uni Center stairs ;)

I hope I see you folks at our upcoming events!!
As always,
Stay fabulous,


Rim is an institution within Carleton (that is to say she has been here for so long that there has been talk to erect a statue in her honour).  Word on the street is that she’s “finishing up” her PhD in Neuroscience (don’t ever get her started on her research, she’s turns into a 12 y/old on a sugar high..it’s terrifying. No one should be that excited about science). She also happens to be the Science Co-Chair CU-WISE (or as she calls it THE BOSS OF ALL THINGS), where she spends her time hustling , planning events, motivating (coughharrasingcough) students and flirting with her Engineering Co-Chair. You will see her around campus (she lives here) please stop her and say hello. She responds well to cookies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Experience : The Measure of Tomorrow

Daniella was part of a delegation of four CU-WISE members who recently travelled to Toronto to attend the 2014 WISE National Conference. In the next coming weeks you'll get to hear from all the delegates. Here are Daniella's impressions.

UofT WISE hosted its second National Conference on March 22-23 in downtown Toronto. The theme of this year’s conference was “Experience: The Measure of Tomorrow”. The mission was to provide us with inspiration and direction for leading our lives as we embark upon professional careers. [Aren't you excited about the rest of this post? I bet you are!]. For this post, I decided to take you to the Opening Keynote speech given by Kathy Lee

Kathy Lee, President & CEO of GE Capital Canada opened the conference with these words “If you’re not failing enough, are you challenging yourself enough?”. She went on and reminded us that we have to make things happen! Failure is an option but fear is not. [Quite a reminder since I (and maybe you do too) sometimes tend to let fear sit in a corner of my mind, but I’m not renting that space anymore!]. We should have a POSITIVE and CAN DO attitude. 

WISENC14 - Opening Keynote

Now, what are the success factors to effectively gain experience? Her answers were the right environment and the right attitude. 

  • The right environment - You might need several trials but it's about: 
  1. Choosing a workplace you feel involved in
  2. Choosing a workplace you are inspired by

  • The right attitude 
  1. Vision: “The only thing worst than being blind is having sight with no vision” Helen Keller 
  2. Networking: Have Coaches, Role Models, Connections and Sponsors 
  3. Continuous Learning: Never stop learning! 
  4. Risk Taking: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk” Mark Zuckerberg 
  5. Personal Branding: Differentiate yourself. Value what you are good at and have your personal signature. 

Kathy also warned us about the battle that always takes place between our Plan (e.g. I’m going to graduate, have an awesome position, climb the career ladder, have kids by 30…) VS Reality (e.g. You don’t see any career ladder at all. It’s your 30th birthday and you are wondering if the father of your children is lost in another dimension because you have no kids yet). It’s okay if your reality does not match your plan. In fact, nobody has it all figured out and you won’t have all the answers. So, don’t get too attached to your plan and be open to change. We have to learn how to deal with challenges and change. Do not only embrace change, thrive with it! Plus, what we think as failure might not be failure but strength. You learn from every experience you gain and every risk you take. So, be bold, be fierce and be fearless!
Besides, Kathy also recommended to surround ourselves with people who will give good advice (Family, friends, ….)

The President & CEO of GE Capital Canada concluded with these notes : “Keep Calm and Enjoy your Life” and beware  “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them and they have consequences” (Jack Welch) [See this Wall Street Journal article]

I really had a great experience at the WISE National Conference and I hope you appreciated your ride to the opening keynote! 

Stay great,

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gaining Inspiration from Successful Women at the 2014 WISE National Conference

Francisca was part of a delegation of four CU-WISE members who recently traveled to Toronto to attend the 2014 WISE National Conference. In the next coming weeks you'll get to hear from all the delegates. Here are Francisca's impressions.

The returns of a 4-hour train ride along with three other goal oriented ladies as delegates to the Women in Science and Engineering National Conference 2014 hosted by the University of Toronto’s WISE chapter at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Toronto only proved that indeed nothing is more important in life than experience, and truly it is “The Measure of Tomorrow”. The experiences benefited between the 22-23rd of March only reiterated, the quote “Learn what not to do from the experience of others. It's cheaper than your own” (J. Winter Smith). And for the organisers, know that the purpose of providing the delegates with inspiration and direction for leading our lives as we embark upon our professional careers has totally been fulfilled.

The experiences gained from successful women who have strived against all odds to make an impact in this tidal ocean of voracious challenges, daring obstacles and unmovable barriers has left an indelible mark filling me with invaluable experience. They have painstakingly given their time, shared their experiences with me and now I know.

From Kathy Lee, President and CEO of GE Capital Canada, I have learnt to have a vision, to cultivate good relationships, to strive to continue learning, to be a wise and articulated risk taker, and have a personal brand. I have learnt to devote myself to the next idea, to give myself a year to change, survive and thrive knowing that everything would look similar when I get back. From her experiences, I now know that in the early stages of my career, when I think it is not happening I would only be surprised by how much I have learnt and how many people I know.

From Lesley-Ann Scorgie, a trusted financial advisor and best-selling author of ‘Rich by Thirty’ and ‘Rich by 40’, I have met Oprah Winfrey (Interesting!!!!). I  have learnt how to harness my financial potential by curbing excessive spending, gaining financial literacy, having good money management skills, and being financially independent by saving better, spending wisely only on things that grow in value and most importantly, increasing my income through creative ideas. Now I can follow the right path to being a self-made millionaire.

From Swati Mylavarapu, leading Canadian business growth and development at Square, I know that the term career path is not expected to be a one way street but in some cases even a maze-like road which only keeps on unfolding as I met a corner. I know that only the decision to succeed come what may and make an impact in this world of ours would in the end propel me to greater heights and navigate me through the thick bushes of the fierce career circle.

From Marilyn Mcharg, President and CEO of Dignitas International, I have learnt that investing my time in order to reach out to others just as she gave her time to many souls opening up opportunities to improved health and access to quality treatment is not only the right thing to do but also because its ripple effect travels millions of miles all over the world saving lives. I have realised that rest can only be found when working in saving the lives of people dying day-by-day from terrible diseases cutting short their lifespan untimely.

And then it was time to return. "There was no need to cry because the event was over, rather it was to smile because it happened" Dr. Seuss. Now to me, as all of these women encompassed in my experience bosom deeply rooted in my fragile framework, and knowing that “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him”  Aldous Huxley, I am back to my lectures, assignment deadlines and research thesis, with a clear goal and vision and new pool of strength to strive beyond whatever limit I had set for myself going beyond borders to explore, impact and most of all have fun as the best , unbeatable and unstoppable female Systems  Engineer the world is yet to meet. My mind once enlightened by this cannot again become dark (Thomas Paine). I am more than I was before.


Francisca F. Adaramola is a Graduate Student in Systems and Computer Engineering at Carleton University. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Celebrate Yourself - A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform!

International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world on March 8th. This year, the official theme is “Inspiring Change”. March is also the National Engineering Month and the theme of National Engineering Month Ontario 2014 is ‘Make a World of Difference’! [I bet you guessed where I’m going with this! And yes, I’m very excited about being a woman AND in engineering!]

I absolutely love that there is a day dedicated to women, and I couldn't help but write a post. As women, we can make a world of difference by inspiring change for more women in science, engineering, and technology. Every time, I hear girls afraid to embrace STEM careers because they might not be good at it [See myths about girls and science], or because it’s a man’s world [but again as the song says “it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”], my heart breaks a little. It’s important to close the STEM gender gap [Check out why here]. Here are few 'natural' reasons that show that women have what it takes:
  • Diane MarieChild once said that “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform”. This is not only valid in the “Carrying babies” context. It also applies to a plethora of domains. Engineering is about creating, designing, transforming what was before into greater things for the humanity welfare. So, ladies … Engineering might turn out to be more natural to us than we think.
  • Engineering is about using scientific knowledge to solve problems. I find it fantastic to solve problems on a regular basis in a way that might change people's lives [It’s almost like being a superhero]. Again, women also have problem solving skills and love to help others.
  • Women’s brains do not freeze when they encounter equations or complex mathematical tables and formulas. Here are graphs that refute the idea that women are bad at Math.
  • I could go on and on with arguments but today is about celebrating Women in Science and Engineering! 
Why is it essential to do so? Because as Women in Science and Engineering, we are going against the stereotypes. We are also the ones responsible of changing implicit biases [Read Natalie’s blog post and this chapter]. Recent studies indicate that people don’t think implicitly of females being associated with STEM related careers when compared to other careers such as teacher, secretary, etc. These unconscious beliefs or implicit biases may be more powerful than explicitly held beliefs and values simply because we are not aware of them. We need to remind ourselves [yes, sometimes we hold ourselves back!] and the society that women have a lot to offer and their potential can't be reduced to just sitting and being pretty. As Nancy Rathburn said “A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.”

CU-WISE is celebrating you!

Being present, leaning in and talking about our experiences as Women in STEM are ways to change these biases and have more girls embrace STEM! We are creating, nurturing and transforming the image of Women in STEM.
So Celebrate Yourself!!! You are inspiring change and making a world of difference!

Stay great,

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!