Nadine Miller has just been promoted to a senior management position at SNC-Lavalin, one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction companies. A geotechnical engineer, she doesn’t see many other women alongside her in leadership roles—but she’s doing something about that.
“We have very few role models: only 9 percent of professional engineers across Canada are female,” she says. “I think that’s unacceptable for 2013.”
“Young girls are set on their education path by grade 7,” Miller says. “So we need to capture the interest in these females from a very early age … we need to work with the educators and come up with a solution.”
Miller has worked at SNC-Lavalin since earning a civil engineering degree from MIT. Earlier she earned a bachelor’s degree in mineral engineering from the University of Toronto.
In her time at SNC-Lavalin, she has worked as a senior geotechnical engineer and business development coördinator in the Sustainable Mine Development division. In this role, she helped design facilities that dispose of the environmental by-products from mining, such as “tailings,” the crushed rocks left behind after an area has been mined.
Extracting any commodity used in the company’s electronics creates such by-products, says Miller, and “people like me help protect the environment by designing facilities for this by-product.” In her new position, as business development manager, she works with clients worldwide to plan new projects.
Miller has been actively engaged in her profession. She’s the former president of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE), which organizes Go ENG Girl, an initiative that brings girls in grades 7 through 10 to local universities to learn about engineering. She recently chaired the Ontario Women in Engineering Advisory Committee. And she believes that mentorship is critical for engineers of all ages: “I’m a career advisor, so I am very open to students contacting me who are interested in jobs either at SNC-Lavalin or in mining,” she says. “If I’m contacted, I always talk with the student or even fellow alumni who are just looking for positions.”
Networking is important, but so is taking initiative, she says. Miller got her first position at SNC-Lavalin with a cold call. “I called them up, and said ‘Hi, I’m Nadine Miller, and I have a job offer from your competitor,’ which I did!” she explains. “I was in the office within two hours, and I had my job offer the next day … I found that having the MIT degree opens a lot of doors.”
Miller has kept in touch with her friends from MIT through social media, and she has also held onto her favorite object from her college years: a yo-yo.
“I have so many fond memories of living in Ashdown, going to Building 1, and walking the Infinite Corridor,” she says. “I used to walk the campus yo-yoing all over the place. So much so that when I graduated, my parents gave me a silver yo-yo from Tiffany’s!”