Kathy Sheng had always been fascinated by cities, buildings and how people interacted with their built environment. Initially she wasn't sure whether she'd get into Civil Engineering, Urban Planning or Architecture but her extracurriculars, Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP), and academic experiences helped shape her path. Today Kathy is studying Civil Engineering and is set on building more sustainable, system-efficient cities. She is currently on internship at Enbridge with a role in Risk Management. Learn more about how Kathy’s journey unfolded in this Q&A.

What inspired you to pick Civil Engineering as your discipline?

I’ve always enjoyed math and science and I like that engineering is a combination of both with added components of design and creativity. I chose civil because I thought it could open the most doors for me and allow me to pursue my interests in structures and sustainable cities.

Which design teams or student groups have you been involved in at Queen’s, and what would you say has been the most exciting part?

I started getting involved in extracurriculars in second year and they’ve been a huge reason as to why I’ve enjoyed my experience so much at Queen’s. During my 4 years, I have been involved in orientation week as a FREC, the Queen’s Bridge Building team, and I was part of Queen’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and EngSoc’s Communications team as a graphic designer. Last year, I took part in planning the Queen’s Women in Applied Science & Engineering (QWASE) conference, which was held virtually for its first year, and this year I am one of the conference’s co-chairs. The most exciting part about getting involved at Queen’s is meeting new people from different years and disciplines and feeling that sense of community. Especially during my internship, getting involved was a great way to still feel connected to the Queen’s community since I definitely missed being on campus and seeing friends every day.

From your experience, how is being part of design team and extracurricular activities beneficial for an engineering student's career journey?

I think that joining design teams and extracurriculars has helped me develop interpersonal skills like teamwork, leadership, and communication. In my opinion, these are skills are just as important, if not even more important than technical skills when entering the workplace.

What inspired you to pursue a QUIP internship?

Other than my summer jobs, I’ve never had any work experience at an engineering company, and I thought a QUIP internship would offer me a ton of valuable skills and great experiences that would prepare me for finding a job post-grad. I was also unsure of whether I wanted a technical engineering job or something more on the business/consulting side, so I thought that getting a year of work experience would help me figure out what kind of roles I might like to pursue after graduation.

Kathy Sheng, QUIP intern
Kathy Sheng

What resources helped you to prepare for internship?

The QUIP workshops offered some good tips that helped me prepare my resume and get ready for my interview. I also made use of some of the resources that Queen’s Career Services offered, like booking an appointment to talk to a Career Advisor and getting them to review my resume with me. Reaching out to upper years I knew who had done internship and seeing what their experiences were like also helped me prepare for my internship.

How did you go about looking for internship opportunities and how did you decide on Enbridge?

Prior to applying for internships, I attended some info sessions from different companies that came to campus, which gave me an idea of where I might like to work. I used the QUIP job board to find most of the jobs I applied for, but I also used job-listing websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to find other internships I was interested in. I decided on Enbridge because I knew I wanted to work at a larger company in the private sector. I had already worked for my municipality in a summer job and wanted to diversify my work experiences. I thought that in a larger company, I would have more opportunities to explore different roles and be exposed to a larger variety of things. My interview for Enbridge went really well; it felt more like a conversation than a formal job interview and I could really see myself fitting in with the team, so it was easy to accept the job when offered.

Were there any design projects or Civil Engineering class experiences that you feel contributed to your successful internship at Enbridge?

I think that all the APSC courses in my engineering program helped me throughout my internship. They taught me how to communicate better, work within a team, and stayed organized, which are skills that I use everyday during my internship. These classes taught me tactics on idea generation, project planning, mitigating conflict, delivering clear and concise engineering reports and presentations, and best practices for organizing team documents. These skills have been extremely helpful in the workplace.

Can you share an example of a cool project you worked on during your internship?

I’m currently working in the Risk Management team in Enbridge’s Gas Distribution & Storage (GDS) business unit, and we have a document called the Risk Register. It is a repository of over 400 GDS risks that our team manages. As you can imagine, it’s a huge file with a lot of data that’s difficult for stakeholders to sort through. One of our team’s ongoing goals is being aware of risk and the risk management process across the business, which includes increasing stakeholder awareness. We wanted to find a way for our different stakeholders to see all the risks that were relevant to them in a clear and organized way. I helped to plan and develop an interactive report in Microsoft Power BI (a data visualization tool), where stakeholders could use drop-down menus to select specific groupings of risks that they wanted to see. All the applicable risks would then be displayed on a table, in a graph and on a heat map (which is how we should see the severity of risks, kind of like an evaluation matrix). We colour coded the report, tried to make it as intuitive and easy to navigate as possible, and made it accessible online so anyone could use it. While developing the report, I presented draft versions in meetings with Asset Managers and put together a survey to gather their input. I really enjoyed this project because I was able to take on a leadership role, work with other teams, and see how the outcome met our team’s goals.

You're a Civil Engineering student who thrived in a Chemical Engineering environment; what advice would you give to students who may have concerns about considering an internship in a field outside their discipline?

Initially when I joined the Risk team, I was surrounded only by Chemical Engineers but since then we’ve onboarded new team members with vastly diverse backgrounds, and from all different disciplines. I think a lot of jobs at engineering companies can be interdisciplinary and I have seen many crossovers between Civil and Chemical engineering during my internship. What helped me learn about the energy sector was not being afraid to ask questions even if they seemed simple. If I didn’t understand something, I would set up a meeting with someone who had expertise on the subject. I found that everyone was so open to helping me out and sharing resources with me. Enbridge offers a lot of ELearning courses, workshops, and Lunch & Learn sessions to enhance staff learning, so I tried to attend as many of those as possible. I also asked my supervisor if I could sit in on meetings just to observe and learn which helped a ton too.

In what way did your QUIP experience help prepare you for your final undergraduate year and future career?

With my QUIP experience, I now feel more confident in my communication skills, and I feel better equipped to interview for jobs post-grad. It’s given me a better idea of the type of roles that I like and dislike, helped me build my professional network, and has provided me with new skills and experiences that I can now use at school and in future jobs. I think my time management and organizational skills have improved from my internship experience; I learned the importance of prioritizing tasks, tracking progress, and setting targets when in comes to team projects. I also learned that for work tasks, it’s crucial to allocate enough time for review, editing and quality checking, which is a good practice that I will now implement for school projects. Getting to know my co-workers and talking to them about their careers has also made me a lot more excited and much less nervous about graduating and becoming an engineer