Modelling a career choice

Like her parents in many ways, Meghie Smids is prepared to carve out her own path

While the career of Meghie Smids, daughter of Marie Marcy-Smids and Henry Smids, a security consultant, is obviously still in its early days, it’s not hard at all to see continued success for this young female engineer.

In high school but now a chemical engineer at NOVA Chemicals, Meghie found herself enthralled with science and math, perhaps not a typical situation but one that set her on a path that society needs more and more if it is to meet the anticipated demand for the jobs of tomorrow.

Equipped with those interests, Meghie might have chosen medical school as a career path had it not been for a mechanical engineer uncle working in one of the plants.

Plus there was the thought of the dozen years or so post-secondary education that would be ahead of her should she pursue medicine.

What Meghie did next was to explore the world of engineering, a first step being to pursue a rare coop opportunity with a local engineering firm as part of a high school initiative offered through Lambton College.

The experience there helped settle the question of an academic goal, that being engineering.

Even further, she had one specific school in mind.

“I’d applied to bunch of schools in Ontario, but even then, my goal was to go to McGill University in Montreal.”

Never mind that she’d never been to Montreal.

“My parents told me, there was no way they were going to take me there for a visit. I needed to apply and be accepted.”

As Meghie explains: “I knew my grades were good, but the question was whether they were ‘McGill good’ or not.”

They were and Meghie was off—to pursue what at first was a degree in electrical engineering.

A shift after the first year into chemical engineering was the result of a keen interest in organic chemistry.

While it turns out that there actually isn’t as much organic chemistry in the program as Meghie might first have thought, she did complete her degree, bolstered by the dream of returning to Sarnia, where there are numerous firms seeking out graduates with that particular discipline.

NOVA Chemicals was one of those and she was hired by the firm some three years ago.

Just now having made her first of what will likely be several job rotations, Meghie admits she’s a little nervous but nevertheless excited to be moving to the firm’s St. Clair River plant (her first placement was the Corunna site where she was involved in scoping out various capital projects).

Even now, Meghie says she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a career in engineering to any young woman sifting through various professional options.

“Engineering is certainly a foundation for a lot of different jobs in a lot of different industries,” she says. “And while there are challenges, especially in a profession that’s been dominated by men, I hope to be a role model for even more young women who decide to choose this career.”

She says she’s also grateful to have already identified role models who are helping her navigate the complexities of this new world.

Plus she’s meeting people who continue to very supportive in her career, many of them close to her age.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to get out of their comfort zone,” says Meghie. “I think having more female engineers is important and being able to have people say ‘hey she’s doing that. I think I can too.’”

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