“We had a heart to heart conversation,” Janice recalls “and he asked ‘are you sure this is what you want to do? You know you’re going to probably be sitting in a lab, for 40 to 60 hours a week, doing lab work. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’”
This was a light-bulb moment for Janice, who decided to pivot by applying to Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. “There was only two programs that had spaces left, one was radiology to be a radiologist and one was for civil engineering technology,” she says. “And so I was like, okay, completely different track I’ll choose civil engineering technology, even if it’s just for a year.”
As luck would have it, Janice liked the program, a lot.
With a built-in co-op component to the three-year program, she was placed at a material testing company, where she returned until the completion of her diploma. It was at the insistence of her manager that she decided to continue her education. “He told me ‘Janice you’re better than this, you need to go back and you need to do your degree.’”
Following an additional two years at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Janice graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering.
Unsure of where to go next, she called upon the Dean of Civil Engineering for advice, “I had asked him if he could work anywhere, if he could take a sabbatical and work anywhere, where would his top five places be?” Top among them? Cohos Evamy in Edmonton, now DIALOG.
Following an interview that left her certain Cohos Evamy was the place for her, she was offered a position to join the Edmonton studio, news which garnered an enthusiastic reaction, “I think my roommates were scared. I was jumping up and down, screaming.”
A year into her new job, Janice pursued her Masters in Structural Engineering part-time, all while juggling her full-time job, and the arrival of her first child.
After graduating and becoming a registered engineer, an opportunity presented itself to move into the architecture discipline as a part of the contract administration (CA) team. What was intended to be a temporary placement, turned into the next chapter of her career.
“I had to make the decision to go back to the structural team, or stay in the CA team,” she says. “I decided to stay in the CA team. Partly because I’m passionate about it, and I also felt that the structural team is very, very strong. Not just in the Edmonton studio but in all the studios, and to bring some of the knowledge and everything I had into the architectural team, I thought it was really nice to bridge that gap.”
When asked to reflect on the support and mentorship that has helped her along the way, she recalls her first experience working on a large project at DIALOG, the Kaye Edmonton Clinic. Expecting to remain in the background, she was quickly thrust into a leadership position by Jeff DiBatiista. “Having someone that immediately showed confidence in what I was doing, was very important, and still is.”
Now, some 13 years later, Janice enjoys the privilege of seeing her projects intertwined with her own life. From the delivery of her two children at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, to her current work on the TELUS World of Science expansion that she will one day enjoy with her family, “so many of my projects have impacted my life.”
Beyond her professional interests, Janice sits on the Edmonton Public Arts Committee which develops visions and objectives for the Edmonton Percent for Art program and makes recommendations regarding the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection. She also joined the Edmonton Design Committee which reviews and provides recommendations to applicants and the City of Edmonton regarding development applications and rezoning.
These pursuits help break the mold of what’s expected of an engineer, “I want people to know that engineers are creative, they’re leaders, they’re problem solvers, and thinkers.”
Her advice to women interested in pursuing engineering is to push beyond the challenges that may arise.
“Being a woman in engineering and construction is challenging. It has taught me that everyone lives within certain roles, self imposed or societally imposed, and most people are unlikely to step outside of the boundaries inherent in the roles that are prescribed to them. Reimagining boundaries has defined the person I am today; from a Woman, to a Mother, to an Engineer. Reimagination requires adaptability, honesty, courage and a critical perspective. I would like to share this with others and tell them “SHAKE THE BOX!” Ask questions, push the envelope, make tomorrow’s world better – built or otherwise!”