A Passion for Engineering in the Public Service

Submitted by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Simone Charron has always enjoyed bridging her technical skills in engineering with her passion for social and environmental issues. As a student at Carleton University, she participated in programs like Engineers Without Borders Canada and sought out work opportunities that would fulfill her desire to make a positive impact on the world.

“I liked the idea that a background in engineering could bring value to projects that are outside the traditional engineering box,” said Charron.

Years later, as a Project Officer working at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Charron’s desire for fulfilling work has not wavered. Charron leads work on the sustainability portfolio of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) project under construction in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Established in 2007, CHARS will be a world-class hub for science and technology research in the Arctic, bringing an enhanced level of research and analysis to Canada’s North. Construction of the campus started in 2014 and will be complete in 2017 in time for Canada 150 celebrations.

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is under construction in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Credit: POLAR)

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is under construction in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Credit: POLAR)

Working on the project has been a full circle opportunity for Charron. She first worked on CHARS during her last co-op term as a student, and she credits the project for keeping her in engineering when she had doubts about her career path.

“Working on the CHARS project as a student really opened my eyes to some new possibilities, and encouraged me to keep moving in the field of engineering and environmental sustainability,” said Charron.

When she returned to CHARS three years later, she was impressed with how much the project changed, and she was excited to apply her knowledge and experience in her new position. Charron also found herself in a mentoring role, as she worked closely with Marie-Eve Hodak, a co-op student from the University of Ottawa’s Mechanical Engineering Program.

Marie-Eve Hodak (left) and Simone Charron (right) are part of the next generation of leaders in engineering.

Marie-Eve Hodak (left) and Simone Charron (right) are part of the next generation of leaders in engineering.

“It was amazing to work with Simone. She mentored me, and shared some of her experiences as a woman in STEM. She was someone I could relate to,” said Hodak.

As Hodak enters her third year of university, she appreciates the opportunity she had at INAC to learn about Indigenous communities and Canada’s Arctic, and she looks forward to a future career in the public service.

“To me, engineering is applying science to solve problems for humanity. What better way to do this than working in the public sector?” said Hodak. “CHARS is a meaningful project that will hopefully have a positive impact on Cambridge Bay and all of Canada.”

As for Charron, she is heading to Dalhousie University in the Fall to pursue a Master of Resource and Environmental Management. She hopes to continue working on impactful projects within the field of sustainability.

Simone Charron visited Cambridge Bay, Nunavut during the winter to provide support to the CHARS project.

Simone Charron visited Cambridge Bay, Nunavut during the winter to provide support to the CHARS project.

Charron and Hodak are examples of the strides being made to cultivate the next generation of leaders in engineering, and they encourage engineering students to be themselves as they pursue their careers. Although Hodak was a student on the CHARS project only a short while ago, she is well on her way to her own full-circle moment as a mentor to other engineering students.

“If you love what you are studying, then you should be confident that you belong in the field,” said Hodak. “The truth is that the world needs different types of engineers…if you stand out, it is not a bad thing, and doesn’t mean that you don’t belong – you do.”

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