On the docks of Ama’s world, you’re likely to see a bunch of burly, bearded, foul-mouthed men roaming around. It’s a tough place for a young woman to make her living, and yet that’s exactly what Ama does. Today’s Woman of Character, mechanical engineer Amy Stevenson, knows all about working in a “man’s world”.
I met Amy when I moved to Nelson, BC, in 2006, and was surprised to learn she was one of the people behind the massive hydro power plants in our area. You see, Amy was the exact opposite of how I imagined an engineer who worked on big, (and I do mean BIG), hydro projects would look and act. Petite, unassuming, and unfailingly considerate and polite, it’s easy to make that mistake when you first meet Amy. But stick around and you will find a sharp, determined, powerhouse who knows her stuff… and mixes a mean cocktail.
WWC: Thanks so much for joining us on the Warpworld Comms, Amy! I’m sure Ama would approve of having someone who works with water come and talk to us. So, tell us, what are some of the things you’ve done in your life that challenged what society believed women were “supposed” to do?
AMY: Being short, young, and female wasn’t exactly the standard for an engineer, even in the 1990s. As a result, well-meaning (but stupid) guidance counsellors recommended I become a Special-Ed or early childhood teacher. As if! So,engineering it was.
Eventually, it became acceptable to be a “pumps and pearls” engineer, doing office work. But I found it more rewarding, fun, and interesting to be a maintenance engineer in the power plants, and then also to be involved in the construction of power plants. Although that choice made for some “interesting times” and oddball comments, it worked out great and was a far better work environment than the office (much less harassment if you can believe it, but that’s another story!). That career path did, however, expand my verbal repertoire in the wrong direction, if you know what I mean!
WWC: What project or accomplishment are you most proud of?
AMY: The first hydro plant I was closely involved with to build (which was cool), and later was responsible for operations/maintenance, had a weird event a few years into service. Management said it was nothing to worry about, but a couple of the crew and I were concerned. I spent the weekend doing checks and making calls (and had to blow off a Wragge Beach trip with my family). That Monday, I shut the entire plant down (a huge expense), to have divers take a look.Just before I got in total shit from my boss and president, the divers found major damage to the approach channel of the dam. It wasn’t a fun “I told you so”, but that gave us enough advance time to do emergency repairs before the water level came up and created big problems.Seeing that through safely, and knowing that dam/power plant is now safe and that can never happen again, makes me glad.
WWC: Who were your heroes or role models when you were growing up?
AMY: Hmm. In time sequence: Pippi Longstockings, Princess Leia, then real-life Canadian Roberta Bondar- astronaut, engineer, Dr, musician and cool woman! She spoke at my high school graduation and I loved her. (Okay, I wanted Pippi but the grad committee said “no”).
WWC: Were there any times in your life where you felt you were either held back or discouraged from pursuing a goal because you were female?
AMY: Yup, lots. My family has always been great and supportive, but with the outside world I always “start below sea level” because I am small, young, and female . (Okay, I’m not young anymore, so that is helping a bit, but not being physically imposing or impressive has been limiting in my work!)
WWC: Do you have a favourite female character–either in books, television, or movies? What do you like about her?
AMY: Well, back to Pippi Longstockings again! I love her spunk, fun, and can-do attitude.I also like sorceresses, and think Ama from Warpworld is awesome!
WWC: Thanks! We’re quite fond of her, as well. What do you think it means to be a “strong” woman?
AMY: I think it means forging your own path, being comfortable in your own skin and not getting ruffled by the outside world.
…take time to tune out the noise and unplug from pressures to figure out who you are, what you want to be, and what you want to do.
WWC: What words of advice would you offer girls or young women today?
AMY: I think there are tons of opportunities, but lots of pressures too.I’d say take time to tune out the noise and unplug from pressures to figure out who you are, what you want to be, and what you want to do. Then, have the courage and perseverance to go for it! Why not? If not now then when? If not you then who?
WWC: What does the future hold for Amy Marcoux?
AMY: I want to enjoy my work (build another hydroplant), stay healthy, get better at mountain biking and sailing. Learn to canter on a horse (my daughter is now far better with horses), play more violin, and learn to play that djembe drum I’ve had for 14 years now! And then in July I’ll… 😉
WWC: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
AMY: Go Ama! ( And hurry up and get the next gd book out Kristene and Josh!)
WWC: We’re working on it! We promise. 🙂 Thanks so much Amy, and good luck on the new hydro power plant!
Amy Stevenson is only short on the outside. Her plans to become a poet were derailed when she started having too much fun with numbers, and her stint in Engineering University squelched any further poetic aspirations. Born in Calgary, Alberta, she credits her supportive parents with much of her success; her father made it clear that his children were brilliant, wonderful, and could do absolutely anything.
Amy lived in the Kootenays, in British Columbia, for many years – a place she still loves. Recently, she moved to Campbell River, BC, with her husband, two kids, one dog, and one rabbit, and she is enjoying ocean life as much as she enjoyed mountain life.
Amy claims she was too serious too young. After 20 years as a professional Mechanical Engineer, she is now working to recapture some of her lost youth.
There’s one more Woman of Character to come! We’ll also be revealing the cover for Wasteland Renegades soon and our blog tour begins on July 15th. Also…prizes! So check back often or sign up for our non-spammy newsletter.
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