BENG, Civil Engineering, 2018, University of Victoria
Assistant Project Manager, Special Projects, Turner Construction
During a family trip to Australia and a tour of the Sydney Opera House, the seeds of a pursuing an Engineering degree were planted in a young girl. Annika Downton realized that she could have a part in building the environment that she lived in and this thought further cemented the dream of working in civil engineering.
Annika currently works as an Assistant Project Manager in the Special Projects Division at Turner Construction in Vancouver. In this role she works on smaller existing projects that are often technically challenging to make improvements and bring up to code.
As part of her undergraduate Engineering degree at UVic, Annika had to complete four co-op work terms. Her first work term was in Germany working with a family-owned and operated construction company. It was a challenging first work term because she had to learn the construction lingo which was very different than in Canada. Construction materials were also different with a focus on using concrete or CME blocks instead of wood.
Annika completed her next co-op work term with PCL in Richmond working on special projects and gained experience in the administrative side of construction. After returning to UVic for another academic term, she returned to PCL but this time in the Yukon working on a $150 million, ground-up project. This job proved to be Annika's favourite co-op work term. As a city girl, she always thought that she wouldn't enjoy living in a smaller community but she absolutely loved the experience of working in Whitehorse.
The PCL job was challenging and the engineers made her feel like she was part of the team. She was working with students from other universities and was able to connect with other UVic students working in Whitehorse that summer. Outside of work, the students got together for hiking and camping trips and had a fantastic summer.
Back on campus, Annika participated in a Mock Interview Clinic and was interviewed by RJC. She kept in contact with the interviewers and when it was time to complete her final work term, they created a position for her in the Victoria office. The office environment at RJC was fun and Annika was given a lot of responsibility conducting site reviews and consulting on small projects.
During her work terms, she received great mentoring from the Engineers that she worked with. Her supervisor in Germany cautioned her not to rush through things and to this day, she has a sticky note on her computer that says, "Don't rush". There is pressure in construction to provide answers right away, but taking a few minutes to think will result in a better solution.
At RJC, Annika found a strong female mentor who gave her career advice on how to navigate an engineering career and balance the demands of motherhood. So often, female Engineers refuse promotions or leave their profession when they have children. The advice was to focus on your career as an individual and find balance in meeting the demands of work and home by reducing the number of hours that you work.
In addition to managing a heavy course load and work terms, Annika developed her leadership skills by helping to form a student group called Leadership Through Diversity (LTD). LTD initially was formed to provide a safe place and support for female students in a male dominated field, but it evolved to include other underrepresented groups in order to encourage equality and inclusivity in the Faculty of Engineering. Annika eventually became Co-Lead of LTD and learned how to empower other members by letting them gain leadership experience through organizing events.
It was a natural evolution that after graduating Annika would want to continue developing her network of women mentors in the construction industry. Annika has recently joined the Board of Directors at Canadian Construction Women (CCW) as Membership Director. She is passionate about encouraging female students who are interested in working in construction to take advantage of CCW's free student membership. Student members are able to participate in bursaries, member breakfasts, social events, have access to the job board and receive discounted rates for events.
Annika knows firsthand the importance of building a professional network and the value of mentorship. She has paid this forward by returning to UVic to participate in a Women in Construction panel to share her experiences with current female Civil Engineering students. We asked Annika is she had any advice for students seeking their first work term. "Be the biggest team player that you can. If you show that you are a team player and are reliable, you will be remembered. Treat each task with importance and execute it as best as you can."