Engineering was a natural career choice for Stephanie: Lego bricks were her childhood toys, she loved math, and both her father and grandfather were engineers. She had considered a career in the biomedical sector before graduating as a chemical engineer from the University of Calgary before a summer job in the oil and gas industry opened up a new world of possibilities.
“I realized that energy companies aren’t this all-evil thing that I kind of pictured them to be. But I saw the innovation and the growth; they had all these new technologies to reduce emissions and save on energy. So, right away, I started falling in love with the idea of how you can actually build a technology from the inside and make something better rather than fighting from the outside.”
Her course and goals were set – to work within the industry with a focus on sustainability, attain her professional engineering license, and be a role model and advocate for women in strong technical roles.
During the first years of her career in Canada, she worked upstream, downstream and at production sites as a field engineer – a very hands-on role with long days in remote locations for weeks on end. This afforded her the opportunity to witness first-hand that there was room for improvement in the industry, and her next role was in the innovation department where she could work on brand new technologies to reduce emissions.
This first experience came to an end when Stephanie fell victim to the crash in the sector and was laid off. But it did nothing to dampen her enthusiasm and dreams to bring about change from the inside, reinforced by her next role at a traditional oil and gas company. In the meantime, she gained her professional licence and was ready and equipped to make that all important move into renewables with a small company specialized in membrane technology for the biofuels industry.
“That was the dream come true. I finally had made it into renewable fuels. I felt like my career was now finally in the place I wanted to be.”
But it was also a time for reflection and coming to the realization that engineering work in an office was not enough, she wanted to make a difference and to do that by working with people. A career pivot was on the horizon – as well as an MBA at IMD. Stephanie applied to the MBA through the Women Leaders Assessment challenge and was awarded a Merit scholarship.
“This was the exact program I wanted because it had a small cohort, a focus on sustainability combined with all the business side, strategy, leadership…”
All the pieces fell into place for this skier (she was a member of the Alberta cross-country Ski Team 2010-2011) who had always dreamed of living in Switzerland, spoke French, and was looking for her next education milestone that would take her a step closer to achieving her career dreams.
She feels that the quality of her instruction, the leadership stream, team dynamics, and cultural diversity coupled with the sustainability elements are very much aligned with her goals.
“There’ve been a lot of ‘aha’ moments, like in terms of the quality of instruction. I felt like I was in a Ted Talk every single day. How passionate the teachers are about the subjects was something I was blown away by.”
She is also learning about herself: she always knew she was assertive but, thanks to a new lens, she is now capable of seeing this as a positive quality, as a communication and collaboration skill that she can tap into.
Stephanie is a passionate role model for young girls as part of Fast and Female, a charity that fosters the lasting involvement of girls in sports. Another of her goals is to encourage more women to take on strong technical roles as a member of Calgary Women in Energy, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and empowering women in Calgary’s energy sector.
Where does Stephanie’s own future lie?
“How do we get to net zero? I’d like to be involved more in the strategy to reach that goal working with new innovative technologies. So that’s how I’m thinking and why I chose IMD.”