From Visioning to Engineering

Ellyn Lu has been with IIA for one year now and is currently in the Engineer in Training Program. You could say that Ellyn is a “left-brain, right-brain” kind of person, because she is both technically and artistically inclined. This makes her a perfect fit for her role as a Sales Engineer within IIA’s Engineering Services Division.

Before joining IIA, Ellyn completed a Mechanical Engineering Degree at the University of Toronto and then landed an internship at Ontario Power Generation, which is the biggest nuclear plant in Canada, and after that decided to try her hand at sales.

Having formal training in Mechanical Engineering, experiential preparation from her internship, and sales experience prepared Ellyn well for her combination role of interacting with and assisting customers and engineering. Ellyn says, “I get to interact with a lot of people and still look at technical diagrams, which exercises both sides of my brain.”

Ellyn is adept at working with clients and learning as much as possible about their projects, and then she is a translator, of sorts. She is able to relay the client’s needs and goals to the engineers and then relay the engineering information back to the customer. Generally, it’s not an easy task to relay engineering terms, planning information and project scope into layman’s terms so that the customers feel confident in knowing and understanding everything about their project from start to finish. Ellyn is definitely an asset in this area.

She enjoys working with and learning from her colleagues and receives great satisfaction from all of her client-facing projects. She thrives on providing high-level engineering solutions to customers and creating a project plan and scope for them, which includes pricing and a complete plan on how to provide an actionable solution to the customer’s challenge, from first meetings to drawings to deliverables. This, in essence, is taking the customer’s vision and converting it to engineering.

Ellyn is so good at marrying these two very different roles, engineering and working closely with customers, because she is able to fully engage both sides of her brain at work and outside of work. Ellyn plays the piano, draws, paints, and even sews. She also loves to sing karaoke. All of these activities assist Ellyn with her personable customer interactions and in helping them understand the engineering aspects of their project.

Ellyn says the best thing about her job is that she has the opportunity to interact with different people everyday, and she gets a lot of exposure to different projects that are going on around the world. She explains, “At school there is only exposure to theory, and now I see these theories in practice.” The hands-on experience is interesting and exciting to her, and she says, “it's a real privilege to be able to interact with the IIA professionals who have such extensive knowledge in this field.”

Ellyn recounts her first project site visit that she conducted on her own, which she remembers as a “really great experience.” The project site was three hours away and, as Ellyn describes, was “in the middle of nowhere.” Being her first solo site visit, she was of course nervous, but recalls, “you learn a lot by having to fend for yourself,” and she is proud that she was on her own and no one was there “holding her hand.” She recounts the positive feeling of “being independent and learning” on her own.

Ellyn now has two of the 4 years’ of experience needed to complete her Engineer in Training Program, and she is pleased to have the support of her colleagues on this journey to accreditation; she is learning a lot from them on both the engineering side and also the sales side.

This program is important as it is the first step to being recognized in the engineering organization within one’s Province in Canada. Completing it puts an engineer on the pathway of becoming a professional engineer, which ultimately means having the ability and responsibility to “stamp drawings,” as it is called in the industry and take responsibility for them. Ellyn explains that “this is a very big step, because the stamp is our responsibility for protecting people’s lives with the due diligence and effort you put into your design.” Once engineers earn the right to stamp drawings, that places the onus on them to become a responsible engineer.

Ellyn’s hard work and focus has paid off, and her professional advice is “to face challenges head on, because if you allow your fear to hold you back, you may never grow as an individual and without challenges you may never get to where you want to be.”


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