Sarah J. Shortreed, BESc'89
Chief Information Officer, Bruce Power
Former Vice President, BlackBerry Ltd.
Ms. Shortreed received the Lauchland Engineering Alumni Medal in 2009.
Q & A
What makes you proud to be Canadian?
We are a country of innovators, and much more than the sum of our natural resources, but it is certainly easy to remember what it means to be Canadian when you are hanging out at a lake. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to lots of places in the world at all ages and stages of my life so far. Whether it was backpacking as a teenager in Europe with the Canadian flag pin on my bag, or staying 5-star for work travel in the Asia Pacific region, I always identified myself as a Canadian first and foremost. With our kids, we’ve travelled outside Canada, but also taken them out to campgrounds and canoe trips to experience Canada, and I hope it’s the peace and solitude of the lakes and rivers that they remember.
Why do you value your Engineering degree?
My memories of the first job interviews as a student were filled with Imposter Syndrome (that is, feeling out of place despite your qualifications) and loosely overlaid with the few skills I’d learned in high school drama class to look confident. The feeling of “what do I know, who will take me seriously, how do you get started" was only much later followed by “but you know how to solve problems, how to think about what makes the world work”. It’s the second part of that thought process that I credit to this day as the legacy of my Engineering degree. I’m interested in how things are made, what set of steps in a business move a product or service out the door, and the fundamentals of how technology is changing the world. I strongly believe that it’s my Engineering degree that got me thinking this way.
What do you predict for the future of women in engineering in Canada?
I have a vision of equal participation by all diverse elements of Canada’s population in all careers. I’ve been participating in grass roots committees and formal boards to promote the economic independence of women through careers in technology for over 25 years. Unfortunately, the numbers continue to lag the potential of engineering, the trades, and other technology careers. As the nature of roles in the workplace evolves, and we create new opportunities, there are a lot of entrants to the technology space, that do not have specific technology training. We can in the short term, use this as a vehicle to bring more women into roles at all levels of technical companies. That said, the argument for a first degree to be technically focused is very strong in the age of “the internet of everything”. I would ask everyone reading this to stop asking “why would I go to engineering/technical program X”, and start asking “why not go to ….”. The only way for us to achieve the vision is to challenge the status quo, and the perceived barriers to entry.