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Celebrating International Women and Girls in Science Day – Meet Kolbie Smith!

At Babcock, we are excited to be celebrating the seventh anniversary of International Women and Girls in Science Day this year! This internationally recognized day promotes full and equal access to, and participation in, science fields for both women and girls.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is a day to celebrate and inspire present and future women in STEM disciplines.

We are recognizing this day by highlighting one of Babcock’s many talented women in STEM, Kolbie Smith, Project Manager for the HMCS Victoria Extended Docking Work Period. We sat down with Kolbie to discuss her career at Babcock and her advice for other woman and girls pursuing a career in STEM fields.

Q: How long have you been with Babcock?

KS: I’ve been with Babcock since May of 2016, which means I am coming up on six years of working with the Babcock team.

Q: Can you describe your role within Babcock?

KS: My current role is the Project Manager for the HMCS Victoria Extended Docking Work Period. Today, that means working with all of our different functional areas to build the plans and processes for the best possible strategy to execute the work package. This year we will transition from planning, into execution, and deliver on the strategy we put in place. My role is to support and enable our project delivery team in co-ordinating all of those functional areas, to execute the work to schedule and cost objectives, while providing a safe and capable submarine back to the Navy.

Q: What is your academic and professional background?

KS: My educational background is in Mining Engineering, which puts me in a unique position to have gone from digging holes to plugging them. In reality, a lot of the principles of Mining Engineering in the workplace translate to good project management. In my time before Babcock, I started work as a Production Engineer, which was focused on developing short-term technical and operational plans to deliver production targets and working with operators to safely execute those plans. I then transitioned into a Senior Planning Engineer, which was focused on delivering the organization’s strategic objectives across the operations, including building schedules and annual operational plans that forecast and deliver products to customers and revenue for the business. In my time with Babcock, I have been learning the marine industry and the unique business of supporting submarines, in both the waterfront project delivery and the project controls side of the business.

Q: What motivated you to do a career in STEM?

KS: One of my favourite facts about STEM, is that math is a universal language. No matter where in the world you are, math, and the physics of its application, remain the same. What is fascinating, is how our culture, values, backgrounds, and experience can change the way we identify and then solve problems. STEM is not just about solving problems, but identifying future problems and endeavouring to solve them before they even arise. I love that STEM can bring together so many different backgrounds and find ways to identify and solve those problems together because we can universally communicate. 

Q: What is your favourite part about your job?

KS: By far, working with so many incredibly intelligent people, and helping them utilize their expertise to accomplish something that is massively complex. Sitting in a room with a group of highly capable humans and guiding the collective towards solutions by supporting them in demonstrating just how capable they are, is highly rewarding. I often find myself to be the least qualified person in the room and I love it!

Q: On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, what is one piece of advice you would give to young women just starting out in their careers in science?

KS: Never, ever discount what you are capable of, and apply for every opportunity that interests you, regardless of how “qualified” you are on paper. You are far more capable and have way more to offer, than a few lines of what a job description can capture, and if you are excited and passionate about the industry or the role that is in front of you, apply first, and figure out how to do it later. Every single expert started as a beginner in that role or field at some point.

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

KS: I’d suggest there are many, particularly for women of colour that I can’t even pretend to comprehend, but one that I see as a broad base issue is the general lack of representation in management across several industries that leads to little discussion or awareness of unique challenges that women face. In my experience, women have had to assimilate into the world of men and pretend like they don’t have families or responsibilities outside of the workplace. I strive to create and live in a world where talking about our kids, our partners, our unique physical and mental health issues, our stressors, and our lives are viewed not as something to be accommodated, but part of what makes us so fantastically capable. We are capable of being so many things, to so many people, and that capacity for empathy, for resilience, for patience, for just getting stuff done, is what makes us unique and valuable. 

Q: What are some ways to overcome these challenges that women in science may be facing?

KS: Hire more women. Hire more women at the highest levels of organizations. Representation matters. Support each other. Be the person who recommends other women for roles you know they are excited about. If you are in a management position, ask yourself if you have created an environment where women feel supported, and free to discuss and express themselves in a way that is true to their whole life, and not just their work life. People who feel supported in their entire lives are the people who thrive at work.

Q:What does International Day of Women and Girls in science mean to you?KS: It is a day to celebrate all of the accomplishments women have made to date, and a day to encourage girls to believe that they don’t have to choose between being a princess or a physicist, that we are allowed to be both, and that is in fact, what makes us so powerfully effective.