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Science STEMforGIRLS Role Models

Mackenzie Collins

Mechanical Engineering Student; VP of Marketing, Robogals MUN


St. John's, NL

Current community of residence:

St. John's, NL

Education (Certificates, Programs, and School Names):
  • Current Mechanical Engineering Student in the Faculty of Engineering at Memorial University, Year 2
What do you love most about your profession? Why did you choose this career?

Though I'm not a professional engineer just yet, I'm incredibly passionate about engineering as a career. I chose engineering (specifically mechanical engineering) because it opens the door to various professions in a plethora of industries. For example, I have already completed work terms in both Oil & Gas as well as the Tech sector - these are both very different industries, but pursuing engineering has provided me with experience in both! As a mechanical engineer, you can pursue jobs in Natural Resources (such as Oil & Gas and Mining), Project Management, Technology and Electronics, Robotics, Machinery Manufacturing, Aerospace, and so much more. There is truly no limit to what you can do! I also love my role as VP of Marketing with MUN Robogals. In this position, I get to collaborate with my peers to deliver exciting coding/robotics/design workshops that inspire girls and gender diverse youth to pursue STEM. I'm extremely passionate about diversifying the engineering industry, and Robogals provides an awesome way of doing that!

When did you realize you wanted to work in STEM or Skilled Trades?

Back in junior high school, when people would ask me what I wanted to do in university, I always shrugged and said "I don't know, probably engineering or something". I've always loved both math and science, and I also loved making things - because of this, I figured engineering would be a good fit for me. However, it wasn't until I attended a Memorial University STEM career day at the beginning of Grade 12 that I decided for sure. That day, I was bussed to MUN early in the morning, and opted to take a tour of the engineering building. I saw the water tank used for underwater robotics and boat design; I saw the rooms full of supercomputers and electrical boards; I saw the mechanical workshops filled with cool machines; I saw the creations made by the Engineering student teams; and immediately, I knew it was where I wanted to be! Three years later, here I am, still absolutely loving it!

Why do we need more women in STEM and Skilled Trades?

Women and gender diverse individuals provide unique perspectives that men alone don't oftentimes consider. When solving engineering problems, it's always beneficial to have a diverse team with various backgrounds so that ideas for potential solutions can be maximized. Evidently, this diversity cannot be achieved with only men in the picture. When the engineering workforce reflects people of all genders, ethnicities, abilities, and so on, solutions to problems will be improved as they will encompass all demographics. Additionally, as more and more women enter professions in STEM and Skilled Trades, the barrier to entry becomes decreased for future generations. It can sometimes be intimidating entering a field where you know you may be in the minority. However, as the number of women in STEM/Skilled Trades increases, this problem will slowly become eradicated. This is why it is so important that more women take the leap into STEM/Skilled Trades. I hope to see a world in which there are just as many women in STEM/Skilled Trades as there are men!

How do you think the school you went to influenced your career?

In school, math, physics and chemistry were my favorite subjects. I loved how real-world concepts could be proven through science and calculations! I was also lucky enough to take a Robotics course in Grade 12, which was always the highlight of my day - in that course, my friends and I built an underwater ROV (which stands for "remotely operated vehicle") from scratch!

What does your typical workday involve? Can you work remotely? (indoors/outdoors, office/plant, travel time, teamwork/solo work)

As an Engineering Co-op Student and Robogals MUN VP of Marketing, my typical "workday" changes depending on whether I am in an academic or work term semester. During academic semesters, I spend most of my time attending classes and labs (whether they be virtual or in-person), studying at the MUN library, and contributing to my extracurricular student teams (such as Robogals MUN Chapter). As a student, there is lots of independent study, but lots of opportunity for groupwork as well, especially if you join student teams! During work term semesters, my typical workdays will vary depending on the role I'm in. Currently, I am a Project Management Co-op Student at Mysa. Mysa provides a very flexible work environment: I work from home most of the time, but I sometimes work in the office, and have even worked remotely from a local coffee shop I love! In Project Management, most of my work revolves around team alignment, project meetings, and discussions with coworkers - it's very collaborative and teamwork-focused! However, in my last work term, I did primarily solo work and was based exclusively in the office. I love being a co-op student because it allows me to gain valuable work experience and exposes me to many kinds of work environments.

Who is your role model? What is it about this person inspires you?

One might think my role model would be a world-famous engineer, or a scientist at NASA, or a CEO of a company. However, my truest role models are my friends who are young women making waves in the engineering field every day. One of my friends works at a company that tracks whales through underwater ROVs; another spends her days designing infrastructure within our local community. I have a friend who designs boats and a friend who designs websites. Despite being female students in a male-dominated field, and despite having to overcome many barriers, my friends are doing so many amazing things. They inspire me daily and motivate me to be the best that I can be!

What do you do for fun? What are some of your hobbies/activities?

Despite my passion for the technical nature of engineering, I typically enjoy more creative activities in my free time. My biggest hobby is reading: curling up with a snack and a good book is my idea of the perfect evening! I primarily read fantasy (but I will truly read anything that sounds interesting) and I prefer to read books by authors of diverse backgrounds. I also love drawing, creating digital art, and journaling.

What advice would you give students who might be considering a career like yours? What advice would you have given your younger self?

Though I've learned many lessons throughout my time as a woman in STEM, two lessons in particular stand out to me. The first lesson is: don't be afraid to fail! In any STEM field, you often learn through trial and error. Though it sounds cliché, making mistakes can usually be a great learning experience! This has been true for me in school, at work and on student teams. I've sometimes done poorly on tests and exams, but in doing so, I learned how to better my study habits for the next assessment. Similarly, I've made errors in calculations at work, but it showed my supervisors that I needed some additional guidance and I wound up gaining more valuable insight from their mentorship. My failures have shaped me into a better student, employee, and person in general! My second piece of advice is: don't let the fact that you are the only woman/gender diverse person in the room stop you from asking questions and speaking up when you have ideas. Though STEM is an awesome career path for people of any background, it is still typically dominated by men. I've been in meetings where I'm not just the only student, but also the only girl - but I never let that intimidate me! No matter what profession you're in, you deserve a seat at the table. Use your voice and make space for yourself in every office, job site or classroom!


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