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Employees share their career experiences at the NSBE 47th Annual Conference

April 27, 2021

Ross Shillingford, Brittany Stahl, and Wayne Carter put on an interactive bootcamp for students on how to succeed in their engineering careers

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) supports and promotes the aspirations of students and technical professionals in engineering and technology. NSBE is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States with more than 500 chapters and nearly 22,000 active members. They offer members leadership training, mentoring, career placement services, professional development, and more. In 2020, Stantec committed a $50,000 donation to become a member of the NSBE Board of Corporate Affiliates—the highest level of corporate partnership.

The 2021 NSBE Annual Conference went ahead virtually from April 5-9 and included technical and career development workshops, competitions, networking events, and panel discussions. Stantec jumped at the chance to be part of the conference and held a Developing Professionals Bootcamp where a few of our employees presented and shared their success stories, what to expect when coming out of school, and the key elements of our thriving Developing Professionals Group (DPG) program.

How the choices you make impact your opportunities after graduation

Ross Shillingford, one of the founding members of the Palm Beach, Florida NSBE chapter and transportation design project manager at Stantec, left Barbados to study engineering in Florida. Actively involving himself in student engineering societies and networking made Ross a prime candidate and one of the first to hear about opportunities for engineering students. “I sought out internship opportunities in my senior year, and although I delayed my graduation, I enhanced my marketability through real-world experience and skills,” Ross said. In 1995, he was hired by a small engineering firm as a transportation design engineer which exposed him to a range of subdisciplines within transportation design. “This helped focus my interests and career path,” Ross said, “It also gave a good foundation in the bigger picture of transportation design and how the sub-disciplines are interrelated.”

Ross’ advice to the students in the bootcamp? Be open and seek out a variety of experiences and exposure early in your career—not having a straight career progression is okay but be deliberate and intentional in your choices. Gain real-world experiences through part-time employment and internships to learn important tools like CAD, actively participate within organizations to show your willingness to step up and gain leadership skills and remember that written and verbal communication skills are just as important as technical skills—this will give you the whole package.

Creating value for yourself will help you with career success

Brittany Stahl, a water resource engineer out of our Calgary, Alberta office, was asked what it takes to succeed in professional consulting and how to create value for yourself, the organization, and for your community. Brittany wanted to find a way to explain her answers to the students in a relatable way: through basketball.

In the 1992 Olympics, the US Men’s Basketball team earned the gold medal and was dubbed the Dream Team. “All players have a different role to play and when executed well they delivered some of the most entertaining basketball games and notable wins in Olympic history,” Brittany said. “Collaboration like this is all about the process and delivery—we understand the relevancy of it through our mission, mandate, goals, and delivery models. We can do more, and we can go further, together. But we must all understand our role and the end goal to do so effectively.”

The importance of collaboration with multiple disciplines

Wayne Carter, BIM lead in our Mechanical/Piping Mining group out of Phoenix, Arizona, worked for a company that manufactured spacesuits as his first job out of college. During his section of the bootcamp, he used this experience to discuss how to effectively collaborate across disciplines.

Designing spacesuits is not a one-person, one-discipline job. It’s something that requires effective collaboration across structural, mechanical, electrical, controls, and other engineering disciplines. “It’s important to realize you must work together, communicate effectively, and share information and knowledge, as your portion of the project integrates with other disciplines,” Wayne said, “The same skill sets are used today as a BIM lead for large mining jobs. As design professionals, it’s important to not only learn software programs that cover your discipline but to also learn software that assists you to collaborate with other disciplines.”

Creating lasting impressions comes easy when you enjoy where you work

Overall, the bootcamp was a success. “It was obvious that the people who showed up to the bootcamp really wanted to be there,” Brittany said, “and I think it was clear to them that we wanted to be there, too. When you have the kind of support from Stantec to be part of something like this, it’s easy to show up, be engaged, and ultimately recruit new people as they show interest in being part of our culture here at Stantec.”

To finish off the bootcamp, there was a discussion on our Developing Professional Groups. “I wanted to touch on how the DPGs connect our employees to each other, to leadership, show how much engagement there is across the company, and why it exists,” Brittany said. “I explained that DPG engagement has grown over 200% over the past two years in several regions across Stantec, there is a DPG chapter in every country Stantec is established, and that we have Corporate support including from our CEO. I was able to tie in our different values and themes from the presentation and how it all connects with our DPGs. Developing professionals can get in the driver’s seat of their personal development and rapidly network across the organization when they get involved.”

The bootcamp attendees learned ways to succeed in the engineering world. “We showed them how they can best position themselves to graduate, find a job, and be successful in their career development,” Ross said, “Brittany, Wayne, and I are all in different areas and stages of our careers so the attendees received a variety of different viewpoints by giving them our own individual perspective, our own story, and what we thought would help with their career developments.”

After the conference, quite a few attendees corresponded with Wayne on LinkedIn and one of them had already applied for an internship at Stantec. Wayne helped push her resume along and gave some advice. “I recommended some software programs that were missing from her resume and were directly in line with her career; software that we use here at Stantec,” Wayne said. “She said she was going to take some classes to learn these software programs.”

Next year, we are hopeful the conference will once again take place in person. Virtual bootcamps are a great alternative, but for Ross, Brittany, and Wayne, being able to give attendees a hands-on approach to what they do here at Stantec and explain their stories in person provides a greater connection that is invaluable. 

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