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  • Writer's pictureEmily Shepherdson

Lady Boss #3: Cassondra Fonseca

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

Cassondra has a BASc in Electrical Engineering from Queen's University. Determined to use her electrical engineering skills, she started her career at Hydro One in Protection Design and recently made the transition to the Project Engineering group. Cassondra has always lead an active lifestyle. She grew up dancing competitively and playing team sports including soccer, basketball, and hockey. Cassondra has maintained her love of sport by playing co-ed soccer, volleyball, and football and when time allows she still gets out for a round of golf or a quick ski day down some Ontario slopes!

What has been your biggest professional accomplishment?

My biggest professional accomplishment is completing a protection design package for (almost) an entire transmission station.

What life accomplishment are you most proud of?

Camp Engies! Although a variety of amazing women-in-engineering programs currently exist, I started Camp Engies to pique girls’ interest in engineering at an earlier age within a unique, focused atmosphere.

The camp, hosted at the Tamarack Adventure Centre, included a weekend packed with exciting, engineering-focused fun activities designed and run by women from the Ontarian engineering community. The camp shows how many of the fun activities we associate with camps and outdoors are based in engineering and science. The camp left the girls feeling excited, empowered and with a better understanding of how engineering is evident all around us!

Volunteering has always left me with a sense of pride and happiness, but when it is your own charitable initiative, it is THAT much more fulfilling. Our generation struggles with a feeling that something is missing. Camp Engies, undeniably, filled this void for me.

In general - our generation has a desire for success, strong sense of ambition, and the need to move up the corporate ladder at hyper speed. I believe that this requires me to demonstrate leadership and innovation at work and outside of work. This drive has helped me achieve everything in life thus far. #YOLO

What makes you feel most proud to be in STEM?

I am extremely proud to represent women who graduated from engineering and still working in an engineering role. Most women tend to move on from technical/engineering roles by 30.

Provide an example of when you made a mistake and used it to better yourself.

My biggest failure was almost failing a first year physics midterm and underachieving in first year engineering in general. I was utterly shocked and devastated. I had never received marks that low in my life. I could’ve cried and quit engineering. Instead, I persevered. I was confident that I understood the material, and was determined to CRUSH my courses in the following years. Not only did I select one of the harder streams of engineering, but I graduated with Dean’s Honours!

Provide an example of when you doubted yourself and your abilities but were able to push through and succeed.

I was not sure that I would succeed in my chosen field of Electrical Engineering. It was deemed a "difficult" stream and extrapolating from first year, I feared the worst. Unbeknownst to me, I would later graduate in the top 10% of Engineering as a whole!

Have you ever felt that being a woman in a technical field has held you back in your career?

Absolutely not! Having that solid foundation in a technical field allows you to prove to others that you’re sound and knowledgeable in your work. Sometimes in site visits, you are the sole woman in a group of twenty. It is hard to say how much bias is due to being a young engineer versus a female engineer. Regardless, after the initial biases (gender, age, etc…) subside, you have a chance to prove yourself and your capabilities throughout a project!

I think that by building a strong technical foundation as a woman at your workplace can only benefit you as you move up the ranks!

Who is your role model?

My father. He is the hardest worker I know, bar none. He is continuously recognized by his CEO, employees, and coworkers as a brilliant and dedicated worker.  He inspired me to become the well-respected Engineer that I am today. 

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice based on what you know now, what would it be? and when?

ASK MORE QUESTIONS! In elementary school I was an extremely shy student in the classroom which continued through university. I rarely asked questions and felt panicked when asked a question (even if I knew the answer). I definitely could’ve used classroom confidence.

I would go back to grade six! I am currently volunteering as an Engineer-in-Residence (EIR) for Professional Engineers of Ontario and see how confident these grade six girls are. They are not afraid to ask questions, speak their mind, preform a skit about engineering in front of the class, and prove that they were just as smart as, if not smarter than, the boys! They are going to make phenomenal women engineers!

How did you perceive STEM careers in high school compared to what you know now?

The acronym STEM did not exist in my day! As a teenager, I only knew of doctor's, pharmacist's, and nurses as potential "STEM" careers. I was not aware of the wide array of jobs and endless possibilities that STEM had to offer. 

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I did not have any "career" in mind! I just wanted to be happy!

Now, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A happy and successful woman in engineering!

What are some of your future career aspirations?

Taking on a leadership role in management within the next few years. I love leading engineering teams, planning, and acting as a role model. I have a strong social conscience as demonstrated through my volunteer work, a strong commitment to my profession as well as health of mind and body. I would relish the opportunity to build a team around these principles.

What are some of your future personal goals?

Ensure that Camp Engies continues for years to come and increase the percentage of women in engineering! I dream that one day, us women will not be a novelty in technical fields. The typical reaction will not be “YOU’RE an engineer?!?!” but rather a normalcy in our society.

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