Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women's Day - Angelique Davis

In celebration of International Women’s Day this year, we’re profiling some of our talented female engineers. Women are underrepresented in engineering professions across the board and it starts in the classroom. Let’s recognize the potential that both women and men bring to the table. 

Angelique Davis is a Senior Naval Architect at Vard Marine who had a knack for the sciences and math at an early age. We’ve seen Angelique progress since she joined the company six years ago and as she dives deeper into project management, we couldn’t be prouder of her achievements.  Read her profile below. 

Name: Angelique Davis

Discipline: Naval Architecture

Years worked at Vard Marine: 6

Vard Marine (VM): Why did you choose to study engineering?

Angelique Davis (AD): I enjoyed math and physics in high school and originally planned to do a double major and be a mathematical physicist. My father steered me towards the more practical option of engineering (thanks, Dad!) and I’m forever glad he did, since I turned out to enjoy the practical side of things more than the theoretical. When the time came, I chose to major in ocean engineering and naval architecture for two reasons: one, the shipping industry will never go away because it has been and will always be the cheapest, most efficient way to move goods around the world (aka fantastic job security); and, two, I lived on an island with a burgeoning oil and gas industry and figured if I ever wanted to get a job back home, this was the way to go.

VM: What are your job responsibilities at Vard Marine?

AD: I spend most of my time on project work, which can include calculations, analysis, research, and report writing. Occasionally, I help prepare proposals, in particular government proposals. Recently, I’ve moved into project management, which has been a fun challenge and I’ve been enjoying all the personal interaction and necessary attention to detail.

VM: What makes you excited to come to work every day?

AD: During COVID times, a high point of every workday has been the social aspect of connecting with my coworkers and chatting not just about work, but the weather or the news or what someone did over the weekend. Even when we were in the office physically, I’ve always enjoyed the team aspect, picking other people’s brains and learning new things. With respect to my own work, I enjoy problem solving, working with numbers, and report writing. The high when something all comes together into a well-rounded solution and product at the end of the day is very satisfying.

VM: What are you most proud of career-wise and how does Vard Marine support your career development?

AD: Career-wise, I’m most proud of those times I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone. For example, I was on the planning committee and also hosted a panel for the 2019 Mari-Tech conference (it was my first time up at the podium at a major industry conference). More recently, my move into project management has been both challenging as I get up to speed with Vard processes and take the lead in client communications, but also very rewarding, having a higher-level understanding of the whole project and the detailed day-to-day management of people, schedule, budget, tasks, and deliverables. I have been lucky at Vard to have some great VPs and managers who have pushed me to have more confidence in myself and supported my involvement in external organizations.

VM: What are some of the challenges women face in male-dominated STEM industries and what do you think needs to change to overcome these challenges?

AD: I think the biggest challenge as a woman in engineering is finding appropriate roles models that speak to your own career goals and progression. Starting out in my career, it was easy to find mid-level technical experts to look up to. But as my career has progressed and I’ve started looking at senior roles and, more importantly, as I’ve started a family and took long maternity leaves, it’s been harder to find role models who have taken the same sort of leave and still maintained senior positions and progressed their careers. Since most senior management, especially on the technical side, are men, in order to encourage the development of these sorts of roles models, I think it requires a two-pronged approach: supporting existing female employees to develop and promote into senior roles or hiring women externally to fill senior roles; and encouraging men to take longer (significant) paternity leave, which might include some sort of incentive such as topping up EI for a number of weeks.

VM: Any words of advice for women and girls thinking of going into engineering?

AD: As a woman in engineering, I say you should embrace the fact that you’re a minority in the industry, take advantage of opportunities you may be offered simply because of your gender, and don’t try to blend in. Early on, get involved in local professional societies, volunteer for committees both within your company and externally with those professional societies and with local universities or other industry organizations. This sort of networking not only provides for better career progression, it also adds to the social aspect of day-to-day working, when you recognize and know more and more people in the room at meetings, conferences, etc.

International Women's Day - Maryna Chumak

Destined to become an engineer? Maryna Chumak’s namesake seems to suggest so.  Maryna was exposed to ships at an early age as the city she was born in is known for being an important shipbuilding center and transportation hub. Read her profile below.

Name: Maryna Chumak

Discipline: Naval Architecture

Years worked at Vard Marine: 5

Maryna-Chumak

Vard Marine (VM): Why did you choose to study engineering?

Maryna Chumak (MC): I was born in Mykolaiv in Ukraine, a city very famous in the shipbuilding world during the USSR and even after. Built exactly for the purpose of shipbuilding, there are three big shipyards and many design companies, and as far as I remember, they worked on all types of ships from yachts to warships. For almost all the citizens over there, it was very prestigious to be an engineer, especially in such a field. Perhaps it was my name – Marina, which also means “of the sea” that destined me to become an engineer.

VM: What are your job responsibilities at Vard Marine?

MC: As a naval architect, I do structural calculations and drawings, so the shipyard can model and build the vessel. Most recently, I was involved in the Joint Support Ships (JSS) and the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV) projects which are part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). I led the structural team for the JSS and I was able to expand my skills not only in structure but in outfitting as well for the OOSV. This was done at our office in North Van where we had a spectacular view of the shipyard every day.

VM: What makes you excited to come to work every day?

MC: When you come to work every day and spend eight hours there, you want to be in a positive and supportive environment. You want to actually enjoy your work, feel appreciated for your efforts, and know you can rely on your colleagues when there’s a deadline. I have all of that and more working at Vard Marine. I have open-minded and supportive colleagues and our managers do everything they can to ensure our wellbeing in the office (sometimes, they even make the impossible a reality!). It’s rewarding when I see the end result of my work – a ship in operation built for a mission. This makes me proud to be an engineer – to know that I played a part in something so intricate and that I helped make it happen. I like learning new things and this job allows me to do that while solving challenging, complex problems at the same time.

VM: What are you most proud of career-wise and how does Vard Marine support your career development?

MC: In Ukraine, I started as a junior engineer and ended up being a project manager of different projects in several years. I worked with different customers around the world. When I joined Vard Marine, I started as a lead and did completely different tasks from what I was used to. It required a different skillset and I liked it because it was challenging and interesting at the same time! It has been satisfying to see my career progress and to take a leap with Vard. Now I am a senior naval architect and believe that it is just the beginning for me.

VM: What are some of the challenges women face in male-dominated STEM industries and what do you think needs to change to overcome these challenges?

MC: Even now, some men think that women are weak and should stay at home taking care of the kids and the household only. They don’t agree that a woman can do an engineering job even better than them and at the same time, take care of our families. Our path is much more difficult, but we are strong enough to show that we can do it. The biggest challenge is proving to all of them and to yourself in the first place that you can accomplish anything from small tasks to leading projects.

VM: Any words of advice for women and girls thinking of going into engineering?

MC: Be yourself and do not doubt. Engineers rule the world!