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Insights Kim's advice to women starting their engineering careers

Since writing this blog Kimberly has moved onto a different position in the company as Vice-President, Practice Lead, Geotech. We wish her the very best of success in her new role. At AtkinsRéalis , we foster an environment of continuous learning and development. This means, just like Kimberly, you receive the right support and training to help you learn and acquire what you need to succeed.

As part of our #PeopleDriveResults campaign, we caught up with Kimberly Doran, Director, of Geoscience and Materials based in Saskatchewan, Canada, and a finalist for the 2022 Women’s Infrastructure Network (WIN) Awards in the Emerging Leader category.

woman hugging a little girl and smiling

Hi Kim! Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I grew up in a small town in the Prairies. I studied Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, where I was one of only two women in the Geological Engineering Program in my graduating year. 

In my third year at university, I was approached by one of my professors who owned MDH Engineered Solutions and asked if I wanted a summer job. I remember sitting in the interview with two highly successful Caucasian men, very nervous, until one of them broke the ice and said, “We know you are a great candidate for this position, we just want to get to know you.” This put me at ease and allowed me to continue the interview by truly getting to know the two men who became both my mentors and sponsors in my career progression.

Before summer was over, they offered me a full-time position upon completion of my bachelor’s. I have since continued my career with this team.

Joining AtkinsRéalis (through the acquisition of MDH Engineered Solutions in 2011) gave me a whole new breadth of opportunities. A few highlights have been working on the Evergreen Line Rapid Transit project in Vancouver and later taking on the role of Geotechnical Design Lead for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto. 

After spending many years traveling and working on major projects across the country, I was given the opportunity to take on an operations role managing the geotechnical team in Saskatchewan. I maintained a strong technical focus but was able to explore and learn in a new capacity. 

Most recently, I was presented with the opportunity to lead a larger team of professionals across multiple regions. This was a pivotal point in my career, as I had to make the decision to move away from a predominantly technical focus. I am currently the Director of Geoscience and Materials for Central and Western Canada. Navigating and understanding the diverse local markets across each of the regions is my current challenge in striving for success. 

What inspired you to become an engineer?

I like to see how things are designed to be built and subsequently used by the public. It is a very practical and rewarding field in which to build a career. 

It’s a bit cliché, but the foundation is what supports all infrastructure, and as a geotechnical engineer, our design input holds it all up!

If you have a passion for developing the built environment, there are a range of paths you can pursue within environment and geoscience at AtkinsRéalis

What led to the creation of the ExcELLEnce Employee Resource Group (ERG)?

I see the progression we are making towards gender parity as I advance my career, especially when compared to my parents’ generation. 

And there’s still work to be done. Women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)

As a founding member and Chair of the ExcELLEence ERG, I want to continue to bridge the gap and pave the way for the next generation, and open more doors for women in science and engineering. I hope my daughter will not be impacted by gender discrimination. 

To me, gender diversity isn’t so much about equal representation, but more about equal opportunity.

An Employee Resource Group is a great way to build a diverse and inclusive culture in our organization. ExcELLEnce aims to:

  • Empower and attract female employees to grow, retain and advance female leaders.
  • Strengthen the voice of women across the organization through networking, collaboration and mentoring.
  • Provide a forum to support members in their professional development.

What was your reaction to being shortlisted for the 2022 WIN Awards?

I was in disbelief, but extremely honoured to be recognized for the 2022 WIN Awards. This was further reinforced when I had a chance to meet the other nominees and those who were shortlisted. It was amazing to be recognized among a group of absolutely outstanding women in the industry! 

What does ED&I mean to you?

Equality is about fairness, diversity means respecting differences and inclusion is the act of being included. We live and work in a diverse world where equality and inclusion are moral responsibilities. I truly believe integrating people of diverse backgrounds in our workforce leads to improved practices and policies that enhance the delivery and quality of our services.

What do you think are some of the main challenges female leaders face in the workplace, and how did you overcome them?

Being a woman in the industry, I have never felt that I was lesser compared to my male colleagues; however, I have experienced bias that has led me to question my abilities and role.

I have built confidence by working hard and gaining trust. In most cases, this meant going above and beyond what was required so that I felt confident in the result being presented to colleagues and clients. 

Making connections through mentors, allies and sponsors has been a huge asset in building my professional network and in overcoming impostor syndrome. 

What advice would you give to women who are starting their careers in engineering?

  • Don’t be afraid to say no
  • Always explore new opportunities - you’ll develop exceptional skills when you accept challenges.
  • Leverage and expand your network - connect with male and female colleagues in your organization and industry.
  • Never stop learning.
  • Be confident, and speak up.
  • Always remember: you deserve every opportunity, promotion, and recognition that comes your way.

What is your favorite hobby?

I like to run – a casual run on a sunny Sunday afternoon is the perfect preparation for the week ahead. Spending time at our family cabin throughout the summer is my little piece of paradise and a hobby I quite enjoy.

 Explore geotechnical engineering jobs at AtkinsRéalis

Are you Interested in making a sustainable difference? We're always looking for like-minded individuals to join our global team. We hire passionate people and then give them the support and tools to grow their skills. So you won't just be finding an environment and geoscience job or taking on a geotechnical engineering role, you'll be building a career that rewards you.

Find out more about what equality, diversity and inclusion mean to AtkinsRéalis . Or, why not head to our blog that covers why we believe diversity is important in engineering?