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Insights Empowering Engineers: Spotlight on Two Remarkable Women in Engineering

Today, meet Sabrina and Claudia, two extraordinary women in engineering. Join us as we delve into their journeys, triumphs, and the impact they have made in this dynamic field. Be inspired by their resilience and achievements, shaping a more diverse and inclusive future for engineering.

What’s your current role and experience with AtkinsRéalis?

team sitting around lunch table

“I am Sabrina Martineau, currently Vice-President & Practice Leader for the Canadian business’ Civil engineering practice. This group focuses on providing professional engineering advisory services and project management in the area of civil engineering to clients across Canada, in markets like transportation, buildings, water, defense, industrial, and power & renewables. Though we work across regions as a company, often involving the expertise of our teams globally for Canadian projects and providing our own expertise to projects in other regions of the world. My role and responsibilities include:

  • Team Leadership: Managing a team of approximately 550 individuals, which comprises a dozen senior engineering managers.

  • Budget Oversight: Taking charge of the development and monitoring of the Civil practice budget.

  • Collaboration and Coordination: Ensuring seamless collaboration within the Civil practice and fostering connections with other practices, markets, strategy, and project execution. This is crucial for efficient resource sharing and maintaining a balanced workload.

  • Operational Leadership: Providing operational leadership by strategically assigning technical and engineering teams to various projects.

  • Quality Assurance: Ensuring the application of the company's technical standards on projects and monitoring the quality of technical work delivered.

  • Skills Development: Managing technical and engineering skills development plans in alignment with market needs and technological advancements.

  • Resource Optimization: Optimizing the utilization of engineers and technicians to enhance efficiency.

  • Collaboration with National and Geographic Leaders: Collaborating with leaders nationally and in other geographic areas to leverage technical expertise within the Civil practice.

  • Organizational Efficiency: Ensuring the Civil practice is organized to efficiently deliver current work and secure future workload.

  • Workforce Planning: Contributing to the workforce planning process for the Civil practice to align skills and capabilities with current and future market strategies, considering external factors and internal drivers.

  • Cultural Leadership: Inspiring and leading a culture of excellence and innovation within the Civil practice, resulting in outstanding customer results, industry awards, and exceptional customer feedback and renewed contracts.

  • Safety and Ethics Leadership: Being a leader in AtkinsRéalis' culture of safety, ethics, integrity, equality, diversity, and inclusion.

  • Sales Support: Allocating teams of engineers/technicians to support markets in sales efforts, including contributions to proposals and presentations to customers.

    I have an extensive project experience in municipal engineering, transportation, wastewater treatment and hydraulic development. In addition to my position as Project Manager, I have also acted as Department Manager, Urban Infrastructure, for the Infrastructure Engineering Division - Eastern Canada between 2018 and 2021, as well as Federal Market Portfolio Director from Ottawa to Maritimes between 2021 to 2022, including handling major clients in the municipal sector.

    Some of the cornerstone projects I’ve been involved in at AtkinsRéalis are:

  • Promenade Samuel-De Champlain, phase 1;

  • Promenade Samuel-De Champlain, phase 3;
  • Calgary Green Line.”

                            team sitting around lunch table                       

“ I am Claudia Velasco, a structural engineer in the Waterpower and Dams division. I analyse structures in finite element analysis as well as perform multidisciplinary coordination with hydroelectric refurbishment projects. I have been working at AtkinsRéalis for over 5 years now. I started doing analysis and design of several concrete structures. The past two years I started assisting project managers in different coordination among the different engineering disciplines that are involved in hydroelectric projects such as civil, mechanical, hydraulic, geotechnical, electrical, architecture, just to name a few.”

Could you please describe your career path?

“I studied civil engineering at Laval University between 2002 and 2006,” said Sabrina. “During my studies I had the chance to do some internships at a small consulting engineering firm in Quebec City area called Terra Experts Conseils in 2005 and 2006. After that experience, I worked for a few weeks for a local contractor called Jean Leclerc Excavation. During this period, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by one of the directors working at what is now AtkinsRéalis. I then interviewed with him and was hired a few minutes later! Since then, I've had the chance to grow within AtkinsRéalis in a variety of roles.”

What brought you to AtkinsRéalis?

“I was fortunate enough to be contacted directly by one of the directors of the Quebec City office,” says Sabrina. “I still remember discussing this with my parents after my interview. After a few minutes of discussion, my father said to me: ‘Just think what a company like that can offer you. I think it’s an easy choice.’ He wasn't wrong.”

“I had heard from AtkinsRéalis since I was in university, about the amazing projects that were improving the lives of many of us in Canada and worldwide,“ says Claudia.

Can you provide an overview of AtkinsRéalis’ core values and how they influence the day-to-day within the company?

“AtkinsRéalis’ core values are integrity, safety, collaboration, excellence and innovation,” explains Claudia. “For me, the ones that have resonated with me the most have been collaboration and innovation. Since day one, my colleagues have offered me a helping hand and had their door open for any questions I had. Also learning from the innovative methodologies we use in our division concerning designs that involve 3D modelling and how to further automate these processes has been fulfilling. Integrity has always been a core value. We all feel safe and valued no matter our background and there is no distinction among us. We are always working towards a common goal. Safety is present on all site visits but also at the office when we take care of each other not only our physical but also mental wellbeing.”

“Collaboration has always been a part of me,” replies Sabrina. “I truly believe that together we are better. I like to collaborate with the people around me, my network. My network is of the highest importance. It allows me to benefit from their experience, knowledge and perspectives. My network includes mentors, coaches, colleagues, friends and family. They can guide, motivate and encourage me. I can share my successes and challenges with them. This enables me to make informed decisions, calculating risks with a view to achieving the best results in all aspects of my work, including safety, integrity and innovation.

My network can mean people in the professional organizations I’m part of, like the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada where I sit on the Board. But also, across countries and practice lines here at AtkinsRéalis. We’re a global company headquartered in Canada. But we have a presence in over 50 countries, with about 37,000 staff. That means often the person with the best answer isn’t the one next to me in an org chart; it could be someone from the UK, the US, or the Middle East who has worked on a similar challenge already in a project in their country. But first, you have to ask them in order to find out what they know! Reminding yourself to do this is really what collaboration looks like in a practical sense. It’s a way of thinking and working as one company, to bring the best of our global capabilities to our clients locally, regardless of who reports into who.”

What are AtkinsRéalis’ main initiatives for students and new graduates looking to work within the industry?

“At AtkinsRéalis, we have important initiatives for students and new graduates like the Graduate Development Program, the YAI, and the Emerging Professionals Network,” explains Sabrina.

“The Graduate Development Program is designed to introduce our new graduates to AtkinsRéalis’ culture, to help them integrate quickly into the organization, leverage their networking potential and set them up for a successful career with us.

The #YAI is The Youth Advisors Initiative. It’s our young professionals committee created with the support of our President and CEO, to energize the company’s culture, improve working conditions, enrich social life and contribute to the meaning and pride of work at AtkinsRéalis.

The Emerging Professionals Network (EPN) is an initiative aimed at professionals with less than 10 years of work experience. The EPN strives to provide emerging professionals with the knowledge, resources, and opportunities needed to embark on a successful and meaningful career path. The EPN promotes training opportunities, connects peers seeking informal guidance, facilitates knowledge sharing with senior management, exposes EPN members to Engineering Services development initiatives, provides networking opportunities for new professionals, and empowers network members to develop business and leadership skills.”

What sort of initiatives and resources are available at AtkinsRéalis in regard to women in engineering?

“At AtkinsRéalis, we're committed to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace where every employee can thrive. The Employee Resource Group ExcELLEnce was created to achieve this goal and celebrate the incredible contributions of our women in the workforce,” says Sabrina.

“ExcELLEnce is a dynamic group dedicated to empowering and attracting women employees by inspiring their career journeys and championing initiatives to support their advancement all while driving positive change within our organization. We are committed to strengthening the voice of women throughout our organization by fostering networking, collaboration, and mentoring opportunities. Additionally, we are proactive in addressing workplace issues that affect women by partnering with leadership and driving grassroots initiatives.

I’m proud to say that our President, Canada who leads our Canadian business is a woman (Stéphanie Vaillancourt). The Company has also set a target of achieving a 25% female representation at the executive level, with our Board having already achieved a 30% figure. Executive compensation and the cost of our borrowing facilities are both tied to the achievement of these targets, as well as other targets such as our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.”

What are the main challenges female leaders face in the workplace?

Sabrina explains: “Females leaders still face challenges in the engineering sector, like gender bias and stereotypes, lack of representation, lack of mentorship and leaders to follow.

For gender bias and stereotypes: we still see some situations where people consider that women cannot do part of a job.

For lack of mentorship and leaders to follow: with the targets set for representation, we are working very hard to have more and more women in leadership positions. This gives everyone, including women, role models to follow.

Engineering as a profession lags many industries regarding women in the workplace and particularly in senior roles. Change takes time, but we want to be on the leading edge of it. And we are taking action now to this end.

We commissioned a career deflection report in collaboration with the Institute for Employment Studies in the UK to look at some of the root causes for this in the industry, as well as to produce recommendations to rectify them. You can find the report here.”

Ready to make your mark in engineering and make a difference like Sabrina and Claudia? Explore exciting opportunities with us, that are helping to engineer a better future for our planet and its people. Apply now and be part of shaping the future! Your engineering journey begins here. Join us today!