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Inspiring Young Girls in Engineering with Marie-Philippe Gill

Marie-Phillipe Gill
Marie-Phillipe Gill
Photo courtesy of Marie-Phillipe Gill

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.

Why did you decide to study engineering?

I started coding using HTML and CSS on the website Neopets when I was around 13 years old. On this website, we could personalize our user profiles with custom graphics. I started creating my own graphics using tools like Paint and then shared them for all the players on my own static HTML website that I created. Eventually, I started to learn other coding languages.

The biggest factor in choosing a career path in technology was my IT teacher in high school. Since I hated SketchUp, I started making websites and learning JavaScript instead of doing the SketchUp project that the other students were doing. My teacher changed my life because he helped me gain the confidence that I could be a great developer if I wanted to. As I had to learn JavaScript by myself during the class and had to give weekly reports of my learnings, it made me believe that if I could learn JavaScript on my own, then I’d be okay taking computer sciences at CÉGEP.

When I graduated from CÉGEP with a three-year technical diploma in computer sciences, I decided to study software engineering because I wanted to know more theoretical concepts. I love learning, so I wanted to learn even more!

Marie-Phillipe Gill and Coffee
Photo courtesy of Marie-Phillipe Gill

What’s your biggest challenge in the industry?

I’m going to be very honest: for me right now it’s imposter syndrome. I’m graduating with my master’s in machine learning in the next few months, and I struggle every day with being confident in my skills. I trust that I’ll get over this feeling soon, but currently, this is my biggest challenge! 

What’s your advice to future engineering students?

I wrote a whole blog post with tips for future students, but I’d say that many of us have different fears when we’re starting in engineering. For me, I was scared of the maths and physics classes. They weren’t my best subjects in high school — I had a lot of difficulties — so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through engineering. My advice would be to just take one session at a time and to focus on the present. Get help from your professors, ask as many questions as you need, go to office hours, and do whatever you need to succeed. You can also take fewer classes during a semester if that helps. At least in my university, everyone goes at their own pace and we need to respect that. 

Marie-Phillipe Gill and Mic
Photo courtesy of Quintus

Why do you think it’s important for young women to consider a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?

In tech, we create products that benefit the whole population. Therefore, we need teams working on these technologies that are diverse, to represent everyone. A career in STEM can be incredibly rewarding. We can contribute to really important applications that will change the world, whether that’s in health care, the environment, or education. The possibilities are endless!

A career in STEM can be incredibly rewarding.

What do you think the future of engineering entails?

My master’s research is about using smartwatches to predict the severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. I’ve just started getting involved with medical technologies but I think it’s very promising. Advances in this field could help millions of people around the world. I’m very excited to see what kinds of innovations will arise in the future.

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