Alumna speaks on new role as OSPE President

Western Engineering News | August 24, 2020

Four months into her new leadership role as President and Chair of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE), Western Engineering alumna Réjeanne Aimey, BESc’03, is thriving as she faces the unique challenges that come with these unprecedented times.aimey-360x400.jpg

Aimey is a Mechanical Engineer having previously worked in the automotive and nuclear industries in Ontario. She was recently re-elected to OSPE’s Board of Directors and, during her tenure, has served as Vice-Chair of the Board, Chair of Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Treasurer, Research and Innovation, and Joint Relations Committees with the PEO.

We caught up with Aimey to learn more about her new role with OSPE, hear some highlights of the role thus far, and to discover her words of wisdom for the next generation of leaders entering the engineering field.

Can you discuss your new leadership role as President & Chair of OSPE?

By government directive, OSPE is the advocacy association for the engineering profession in Ontario. We represent the interests of engineering students, interns, engineering graduates, engineers, and retirees. Another way of saying this is that we are the ‘voice’ of the engineering profession.

As President, it’s my job to determine how we will move forward to achieve our objectives. In engineering, how we advocate to the government, industry, and academia determines how we are perceived. 

Leading 12 engineers from a variety of disciplines as Chair of the board is no simple task, and I enjoy the interactions. The best opportunities the position affords is the networking with leaders of other engineering associations, and leaders in industry, the government, and academia. I am proud to be the 20th President of OSPE in the year 2020.

Can you share any highlights thus far into your appointment?

Believe it or not, COVID-19 has been a highlight, as it has created so much disruption.

Due to the ongoing work of our advocacy committees and task forces, we were able to quickly develop a three-phase plan for the Provincial and Federal governments to highlight ways that engineers could most contribute to the economic recovery of our province and country. A list of immediate and short-term actions have already been released to the government, and the long-term actions will follow in the Fall.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders entering the engineering field?

The world already knows that engineers are highly intelligent and that we offer high value based on our understanding of science, technology, engineering, math and data. What we need to understand better is how to create our own value by branding ourselves and developing our leadership and soft skills. This will help us to relate to others who don’t speak the language of technology. I believe that it is our understanding of the non-technical that will allow us to provide better services to our communities and potentially turn some into entrepreneurs.

As engineers, I think we also underestimate the power of networking. Western provides the opportunity to meet others across a variety of fields and while here, students should become more involved in what the entire campus has to offer and not just within engineering. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve crossed paths with Western alumni who were contemporaries, but I never met while here. It’s a good idea to capitalize on that.

What sparked your interest in engineering?

I was always curious and quickly discovered that sometimes every input resulted in an unpredictable output. This was fascinating to me and eventually developed into an interest in science. There was lots around to keep me engaged, and I have parents who are both intellectuals, fostered my interests, and allowed me to explore. The sciences and math came naturally to me as did art, and for some time I thought I would be an architect. In the end, I chose engineering as I felt it was a more practical choice. I should also mention that there are other engineers in the family, including my father.

How has your engineering education benefitted your career success?

It gave me a solid start. After a 16-month internship at DuPont, I was able to gain entry into GM where I stayed for most of my career. An education in engineering provided me a toolkit to solve problems, and a career provided me with problems to solve. It was a win-win. What wasn’t obvious in the beginning is that the same principles applied to engineering design, manufacturing, and programming, can also be used to understand how non-technical life works. It’s a way of thinking and solving problems that isn’t necessarily innate, but once I put the hours in, I discovered that it can be applied to any subject and to life.

Can you share a couple of memories from your time as a student at Western?

Western was my re-introduction to Canada after having lived for many years in 30-degree C temperatures where we have two seasons - rainy and dry. When I first came to Western in the Fall, all I could think of was how cold it was, but then I focused much more on the beauty of the campus as the seasons changed. The engineering course load was heavy, and as I moved around, I discovered a warm path that ran from the engineering building all the way to medical science!

Apart from the amazing friends that I made here who now live across the world, learning how others think provided insight into how to create change.