In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day, we are highlighting some of our talented team members who are helping blaze the trail for women in STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics). To get a better perspective, we sat down with Silvia Penkova, Team Lead Naval Architect, who supports the In-Service Support work on the Royal Canadian Navy’s Victoria-Class submarines.
Q: How long have you been with Babcock?
I have worked at Babcock for 3.5 years as an engineer, preceded by one year as a co-op student. I first started with the company in January 2012. This allowed me to be part of two submarine refit projects and to work across several technical departments.
Q: Can you describe your role within Babcock?
In my role as Team Lead Naval Architect, I lead the engineering team responsible for completing the repair work to the submarine’s pressure hull and internal structure. This work package will significantly extend the service life of Canada’s fleet of Victoria-Class submarine fleet.
Q: What is your background?
I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. My academic background is in materials engineering; however, my professional work experience is in the marine and defence sectors. I have worked in several technical roles, at Babcock and DND, to support the submarine and surface fleets for the Royal Canadian Navy.
Q: What is your favourite part about your job?
My favourite part of the job is leading a team of professionals who are focused on delivering a complex project. In submarine refits there are no standard issues – each problem is unique and requires a custom solution. This means that coordination and team work are essential to achieving our deliverables. Working alongside people who share my passion for this work is both inspiring and motivating.
Q: What motivates you?
Seeing my team succeed through challenges – this is when I see people go beyond their comfort zone and I can help them to accomplish something hard. This shows them that they are capable, builds up their self-confidence and gives them the tools to excel in the future.
Q: What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
“Make yourself indispensable” – this advice was given to me by a mentor shortly before I started my first engineering co-op. I have grown to see the value of these words and appreciate their importance. As an engineer, identifying an area you own and can specialize in is essential in establishing your technical competency, reputation and also demonstrating your value to an organization.
Q: What do you think some of the main challenges are for women in STEM?
I think that these challenges are individual to each woman in STEM, but one common one is that women are not encouraged to enter the profession at an early age. I think that once more women see the diversity of career paths in STEM, many more women will think of this as an option and end up entering this type of profession.
Q: What would your advice be for a woman looking to pursue a career in STEM?
Try it! STEM has traditionally been an area with low female representation, and this perception has often discouraged women from considering it as an option. STEM, especially engineering, offers a very diverse career path – you can do anything from technical, to finance, to business operations. Very few other degrees offer so many options.
To learn more about engineering career opportunities at Babcock, visit our Careers page!