Celebrating International Women’s Day

March 8, 2020 – Today is International Women’s Day and we are celebrating it at Babcock Canada by highlighting some of the incredible women working with us.

We sat down with Michelle Armstrong, a Senior Weapons Engineer at Babcock and an outstanding ambassador for the women in our industry, to talk about her experiences as a woman in engineering, and what International Women’s Day means to her.

Q: How long have you been with Babcock?

MA: I have been employed with Babcock for almost 9.5 years, dating back to October 2010.

Q: Can you describe your role within Babcock?

MA: I have filled several roles and provided support to numerous departments within Babcock over the years, including Engineering, Configuration, Quality Assurance and Business Development. In my current role as a Senior Weapons Engineer, I am a Technical Lead for three mid-scale engineering projects and a Line Manager for a small team of employees. Myself and team members all work out of the Halifax Dockyard, where we provide both core and emergent support for the Submerged Signal Ejector and Weapon Handling and Discharge Systems to the Department of National Defence (DND) Design Authority and Fleet Maintenance Facilities (FMFs), under the Victoria In Service Support Contract (VISSC).

Q: What is your academic and professional background?

MA: I graduated from Dalhousie University in June 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering. While my academic background is in environmental engineering, my professional work experience is in the marine and defence sectors, primarily focused on the Submerged Signal Ejector and Weapon Handling and Discharge Systems on the Victoria Class Submarines.

Q: What is your favourite part about your job?

MA: There is never a dull day or shortage of work. Every day comes with its challenges and hurdles to jump, but when you face them with an open mind and a smile on your face, you will be surprised how much more you can accomplish.

Q: What motivates you?

MA: For as long as I can remember, I have always been motivated by competition. Where there is no competition with others, I create competition with myself by setting goals, standards or expectations. I have a strong internal drive to achieve, produce and keep moving forward. Failure is not a period, but a comma; it is an opportunity to learn, regroup and try again.

Q: What is the best career advice you have ever been given?

MA: I have received a lot of great career advice over the years, but the one piece of advice that has stuck with me is, “nothing worth having or doing comes easy”. This is a message that my parents instilled in my siblings and I at a young age, and I will never forget. This is not necessarily career advice, but life advice, as it applies to every aspect of life. For me, it is a constant reminder that life does not owe you anything; you are the author, editor and reader of your own “choose your own adventure” book. If you want to accomplish something, you need to put the effort and work required into achieving it. Only then, once you have earned your accomplishment, will you truly appreciate its worth.

Q: What do you see as some of the challenges facing women in engineering?

MA: Research has shown that gender dynamics appear to generate extra opportunities for males to work on difficult problems, whereas women are assigned routine tasks or managerial duties. The resulting impact can be quite significant on morale, motivation and career development. This is something women starting their career in engineering need to be aware of, so they can recognize when they are a victim, and have the courage to voice their concerns and address the problem effectively.

Q: How do you think our industry can better encourage and support women?

MA: It is no secret that the marine and defence industries are heavily male dominated. The minority barrier can be daunting to many women, and a considerable percentage of those that are able to withstand this barrier end up leaving the industry at some point, but why? Industry needs to take a deeper look into the roots behind these issues. Once we gain a better understanding why these issues exist, we can develop solutions and implement effective changes, to increase and sustain women working in these industries.

Q: On International Women’s Day, what is one piece of advice you would give to young women just starting out in their careers in engineering?

MA: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make mistakes, and admit when you don’t have the answers. This is how you learn, grow and earn trust and respect. Be confident in yourself and your abilities: if you have a love for the technical aspects of the field, the minor barrier of being a minority should not stop you.

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

MA: It is a day to celebrate the achievements and milestones women have accomplished around the globe in the mission to protect and promote women’s rights, while recognizing that there is still significant work to be done to create a gender equal world. If nothing else, this day raises awareness of gender bias, the benefits of a gender-equal society and the consequences of gender inequality.