Research Developer & Social Media Influencer
Marie-Philippe Gill (@girlknowstech on social media), a software engineering graduate of École de technologie supérieure in Montreal, discusses her experience as an engineering student and gives her advice to future students.
What inspired you to study engineering?
When I was very young, in primary school, I started playing at neopets.com. Through this online game where we had to take care of cute imaginary animals, I started learning how to code in HTML and CSS to make my user profile pretty with graphics designed on Microsoft Paint. As the years went by, I learned how to create static HTML websites. Once I was in high school, I took IT classes every year and had an amazing teacher. He helped me to believe in myself and also to believe that even though it was a male-dominated world and I was a shy 16-year-old girl, I could make it in IT. After my three-year technical computer science diploma at CEGEP, I felt I was not done learning, and I enrolled in software engineering at ÉTS (École de technologie supérieure) in Montreal.
What advice do you have for students looking to enter the field?
My number one piece of advice is to not hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Math and physics don’t come naturally to me, so I had to ask my professors many questions and go to many office hours, but that was the key to my success.
Additionally, many are scared of going into software engineering because they don’t know all the programming languages. It’s an intimidating field, but don’t be scared. University exists to teach you all these things!
I have a whole blog post about this.
How do you think engineers can promote diversity and inclusion in their field?
Everyone can make a difference by being attentive to their coworkers and listening to what everyone has to say.
Small actions can be very helpful, for example making sure everyone has the chance to express their opinion during a meeting. If they haven’t, we can gently ask someone if they have any input to add to the discussion.
At the enterprise level, the Order of Engineers of Quebec created a great guide for employers with actionable steps on how to make sure to offer an inclusive workplace. It reminds us that an analysis of the current situation needs to be done on diversity (how many women and minorities), inclusion (actions that make women and other under-represented groups feel supported and respected), and equity (fair treatment considering everyone’s reality) inside the organization. Open the dialogue to everyone who wants to participate, get comments on how everyone feels, and get to know the challenges faced by the minorities in your organization. Then, use data to support your analysis and establish clear objectives and an action plan to reach those targets.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that engineers are facing right now?
I believe the biggest challenge that we’re facing right now is climate change and finding ways that we can reduce our consumption and do our part to save the planet.
How do you envision the future of engineering and what changes do you think are necessary to prepare the next generation of engineers?
That’s a good question! I’m not one to make predictions about the future, but I would say every small change in health is very impressive to me. I had surgery for scoliosis 10 years ago, and there are so many changes to the surgery and technology that are helping doctors and patients to this day. I wish I had that technology back then! On the environmental side, I’m eager to see how tech can help us make changes to lessen our environmental impact as individuals and as a society. In other words, I’m excited to see how AI and tech can improve our daily lives.