Meet our Co-chairs!
Our marketing/events coordinator, Kathy Sheng, got to chat with our conference co-chairs Delaney Benoit and Gabrielle Samek about their post-grad plans, advice, and the story behind QWASE!
1. For those who don’t know you, could you give a little bit of background on yourselves? (i.e. year, disciplines, what other initiatives have you been involved in the past, passions & interests, etc.)
Gab is in her 5th year of mining engineering and got the inspiration for QWASE after doing her internship at a mining operation in BC last year. Throughout her time at Queen’s she’s been involved in FREC committee and was the co-chair of QGEC last year.
Del is going into her 5th year of civil engineering and is starting her masters at Queen’s in January. Throughout her undergrad, she’s was on FREC committee with Gab in 2018 and that was what started her involvement with Engsoc. Last year, she was the president of the Engineering Society and had an amazing experience, so she was super excited when Gab came to her with the idea of having the QWASE conference.
2. Since both of you are going into your final years at Queen’s, what are you the most excited for post-grad, what will you miss the most, and what is one piece of advice you could give to first years in the faculty?
What she’s excited about the most: doing her masters and PhD with Prof Mulligan in the civil department (in coastal engineering!). She’s done research with him for two summers as well as her undergraduate thesis and she’s excited for all the cool things she’ll be able to delve further into in her post-grad studies.
What she’ll miss the most: the tight knit undergraduate community at Queen’s eng and seeing friends everyday who you’ve started (and will finish) your undergrad journey with.
One piece of advice: Get involved in your undergrad- it doesn't have to be something super intense or time consuming or complicated, just opportunities to meet people with similar interests to you or to develop your skill set.
What she’s excited about the most: She is excited to start the next chapter of her life after graduating, where she will be working in capital markets.
What she’ll miss the most: Along with everything that Del said, she’ll miss Kingston- Queen’s campus, being near the water, and always bumping into friends whenever you’re walking through campus.
One piece of advice: Make connections while you're at Queens- definitely within engineering, but also with people outside of engineering, studying different things with different interests. That could be through joining clubs or going to conferences, it helps you develop a really great network of people and a community. The more that you open yourself up and the more people you meet, the more you’ll gain from it.
3. How did you choose engineering as a career path, and how did you build a personal support system throughout your undergrad?
Why engineering?: It was the combination of math and science as well as the problem-solving skills that you gain from engineering that drew her in. You also gain a lot of tangible skills like in project design- you need to consider cost and community relations, not just the science component.
Building a support system: Gab’s support system was made through meeting people in her section and in her frosh group.
Why engineering?: Not being too aware of all her career options but knowing she liked math and science, initially the plan was to go into medicine. But a thoughtful biology teacher who noticed she never liked dissections or organs, pushed Del to look further into more options in STEM and she landed on engineering. Through high-school courses like woodshop and when she did projects like building a Rube-Goldberg machine in physics, she realized she liked doing hands-on things as well, making eng seem like the perfect choice.
Building a support system: “The people who I met in my involvement experiences are really the people who I've leaned on the most at my time at Queen’s. They’re people who have similar experiences to me, they're like minded to me, they're ambitious and they're the kind of people who I want to have my back and push me to go harder every time.”
Her wonderful profs have also played a huge role in helping her succeed in her undergrad.
Some bonus advice for first years: Emailing profs/ going to office hours isn’t as scary or intimidating as it might seem. Building connections with your profs helps you learn the course material better and opens up a ton of opportunities for you too!
4. What motivated you to start QWASE? Is there a story behind what sparked the idea?
Throughout her internship and being in mining engineering, Gab had noticed the low participation rate from women. Most of her classes had been 20-30% women and during her internship, she found herself in meetings where she was the only woman. And then a combo of two events that occurred within a week was what sparked the idea for QWASE:
1. Her really good friend at Rotman (the business school at UofT) told her about how she organized the Rotman Women in Business Conference- all the speakers there, what they talked about, and how it was such a successful event that people really enjoyed.
2. A couple of days later I happened to read an article in The Cut, an opinion piece about how it can be a struggle to be a woman in a male-dominated field because it’s hard to find inspiration in older women in their careers or identify with more experienced people in their fields.
A combination of those two things was the inspiration behind wanting to create something for women to find inspiration in their undergrads, especially engineering students in their first and second years. Since her and Del became such good friends being on FC together, she couldn’t think of a better co-chair for the conference!
5. What is one goal each of you have for the conference this year?
It would be a huge accomplishment if everyone on our team walked away having learned some new skills, having been inspired by someone at the conference or having felt really accomplished after the fact. If our team this year has a really great experience, I think it will trickle down into the following years and every conference that we do.
The goal is for at least one of our delegates to identify with one of the speakers and say to themselves “that’s exactly what I want to do”, or “that gives me inspiration for what I wanna do with my career” or even on the flip side help them realize that’s not necessarily the path they want to go down.