Morrison Hershfield is pleased to announce Amanda Pushka as the winning recipient of our TAC Foundation Scholarship for the 2019/2020 school year. Amanda is currently a student at the University of Manitoba pursuing a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with a special interest in bridges and transportation. She expects to graduate September 2020.
The Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Foundation, a registered charity, was established in 2003 to address the issue of shortages in the number of skilled people available for the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of Canada’s transportation infrastructure. In order to address these gaps, the TAC Foundation created scholarships for students to support their post-secondary education in transportation related studies, as well as paid summer internship positions offering on-the-job training at transportation employers across Canada. Morrison Hershfield proudly sponsors one of these scholarships, and provides internship opportunities as part of TAC’s program.
We caught up with Amanda to learn a little more about her passion for engineering, her hopes for the future and her drive towards improving the gender balance in engineering.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am in the last year of my Master of Science degree at U of M. I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba where I like to keep active by playing sports including boxing, volleyball and hockey (one of the perks to Winnipeg’s cold winter is the long outdoor hockey season!). I’m an avid outdoors person and always seek out new international travel destinations and surf spots. I have been lucky enough to visit places like Australia, Ireland, Indonesia and New Zealand among others.
When did you first become interested in engineering?
I first became interested after volunteering in Guatemala in my final year of high school. Through that experience, I realized how much engineering support is needed in the developing world. My desire to help others with my education was cemented after I volunteered with another engineering project in Honduras during my undergraduate degree.
I love that engineering careers can be so diverse. In my network alone, I know engineers who are developing video analytics to improve road safety, creating protective hockey equipment for the NHL and researching river ice to provide solutions for more effective hydroelectric power generation. It’s very exciting.
What peaked your curiosity with transportation and bridges?
Structural engineering has always been an interest for me. I like that bridges connect communities, improve transportation efficiency and continually push the bounds of modern-day engineering.
You have been working as a Transportation Engineer-In-Training for over 3 years. What is your favourite part about being an engineer?
My favourite part about being an engineer is the satisfaction of solving real world problems. I’ve had the privilege of working on a wide range of bridges, dams, wharves, lift stations and buildings projects including inspections, design and contract administration. As a result, I have been exposed to many different aspects of structural engineering and have learned different ways to approach problem-solving. Every day is a learning experience. Each project is new and challenging, and there is nothing more rewarding than developing effective solutions to the obstacles we are presented with.
The 30 by 30 initiative is something that Morrison Hershfield is very passionate about. Can you tell us a little about your involvement and the importance of this initiative to you personally?
In the final year of my undergraduate engineering degree, I attended an event on the topic hosted by the Technical Women in Consulting Engineering (TWICE) committee. I was interested in learning more and actually met with one of the keynote speakers to chat about her research in the field. After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I got a job in consulting and became a member of the TWICE committee. I still contribute by working to increase the retention of women in the consulting engineering field through outreach, networking and research methods.
Another way that I have been involved in supporting this initiative is through mentorship programs. For two years, I was involved in the Committee for Increasing the Participation of Women In Engineering (CIPWIE) program, which is dedicated to mentoring and building a community of female engineering students, members in training and professional engineers in Manitoba. Most recently, I’ve become a mentor for the Association of Consulting Engineers Canada Manitoba chapter, which connects engineers (and EITs) in consulting with undergraduate students.
Who are your role models and what advice would you give to women pursuing engineering as a career?
Melinda Gates is certainly a role model of mine for her philanthropic efforts in health and global development, her recent focus on gender equality and investing in developing innovative and diverse approaches to expand opportunities for women in the workforce.
My best advice to women studying or wanting to study engineering would be to work hard, have confidence in your abilities and don’t be afraid to ask questions (to professors, to mentors, to bosses or to fellow students). The field is not yet gender-balanced, but don’t be intimidated by this!
What personal achievements are you particularly proud of?
One achievement that I am proud of was when I partnered with an engineering student group called Students for Sustainability. We developed an innovative roof connection detail that allowed roof panels to be replaced from the underside instead of the top, and therefore improved the safety of roof repairs in Central America. The design, development, testing and installation process was challenging, but witnessing the final product on a school in rural Honduras (and hearing community updates about the functionality of the design years later) is a great achievement for me.
Where will we see Amanda in 5 years?
In five years, Amanda will be working in consulting as a bridge inspector/designer. She will be conducting bridge climbing inspections across Canada – even internationally! She will also be continuing her volunteerism in the developing world, and partnering with organizations such as Bridges to Prosperity or Engineering Ministries International.
For more information on TAC Foundation Scholarship and Internship opportunities, please click here.