Feature Stories

Life at Baylis: Get to Know Sharon Joel, Senior Project Manager

May 09, 2021

We’re proud to celebrate the ongoing achievements of the remarkable women at Baylis who work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

At Baylis, women make up 52% of all engineering roles across the company. 

Sharon Joel, Senior Project Manager at Baylis, is passionate about sharing her career journey in STEM, including the challenges she has faced in the workplace as a woman, and the challenges that are still relevant to many women’s careers today. 

Read on to learn more about Sharon’s role at Baylis as she shares her career highlights and insights. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your role at Baylis. 

I joined Baylis as a Senior Project Manager. My role involves keeping projects on track within their promised timelines and scope. I’d say it’s about 10% planning and 90% communication. At the rate Baylis is growing, it’s an evolving challenge at all levels!

Q: What is your favourite part about working as a project manager? 

Definitely the communication! I’m a people person. I feel most energized when I know I have a solid team around me. Since I joined Baylis, there have been some high pressure challenges my projects have faced, and every single time, my project teams have pulled us through. I love ensuring that these high performing teams have a clear path forward to complete their tasks. 

Q: What challenges, stereotypes, or barriers have you faced in becoming successful in your field? And how has the landscape changed from when you first joined the workforce to now?

I worked in the oil/gas industry for more than seven years - a historically male dominant industry. As a result, I’ve had to be a vocal advocate for myself and fellow women engineers frequently, and it can be tough going against the grain. Semantics showcase a lot of double standards in the workplace – for example: a man may be called “decisive” where on the other hand, a woman may be labelled as “aggressive” in similar, if not identical, situations.

It often feels as though young female leaders must buy into certain perceptions of women leaders (either too aggressive, or too agreeable), but I’m constantly reminding myself to “choose to challenge” this narrative and I’ve seen over time that my results and perseverance speak for themselves. 

I’ve seen huge changes over the last few years. I definitely hear a lot more conversations in lunchrooms and at co-workers’ desks about being mindful about the language that we use. Conversations happening outside of dedicated panel discussions etc. is a mark of progress in itself. 

Today, it’s so much more natural that people ask, “is this okay to say?” I’ve had these conversations with many of my male colleagues, and they have been diligent about taking the time to educate themselves. 

Of course, we all still need to do the work to continue to challenge our own biases, narratives and understanding. Challenging our narratives – that conversation is where the change really happens.  

Q: Has there been a mentor or supporter who positively impacted/inspired you in your career? What’s something they shared or did that resonated with you through your career?  

Being an Indian woman, I often heard a lot about career options such as doctor, pharmacist or computer engineer. And while I had nothing against those paths, I didn’t know what else was available. It was my grade 10 science teacher, who gave me a WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) pamphlet one day and encouraged me to go to the mentorship conference they offered. 

That introduction into this new world of women in hard sciences really resonated with me and fast forward to a few years later, I attended the University of Toronto for a Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree in Materials Engineering. 

I’m fortunate that my parents have always been very supportive of my career path, and I didn’t overtly experience gender bias at home or at university.

It wasn’t until I stepped into the workplace, as the fourth woman out of a team of 80 engineers, that I started seeing double standards in different places. In previous positions I’ve held, it made a huge difference to have several male co-workers and supervisors who would vouch for me and my abilities and confirm in decision making rooms that “Sharon can do this.” 

I’ve made a point throughout my career to personally give back and mentor young women engineers who are just starting their careers – whether it’s career opportunities, active mentorship or just a conversation over coffee. 

Q: How does the work you do help you feel valued and empowered to be the most successful version of yourself? 

One of the key considerations I had when I applied to Baylis was that I have a two-year old daughter; I wanted to ensure the role I took on was conducive to a healthy work-life balance.  

Being part of Baylis has been a huge shift for me. There are so many women charting their paths in all levels of the organization and it’s incredibly inspirational to someone of my background. It’s not unusual any more to be in decision making meetings where it’s only women. 

I’m realizing that there’s a lot more here that I can do that I haven’t even dreamed of yet. Time and again, I’m reminded that I shouldn’t walk away from a great opportunity when I have a supportive workplace – I’m going to keep going and striving.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone early in their career? 

Go for it! Ask questions, make leaps, push yourself into places that scare you just a little. 

Making the leap from Oil and Gas to the medical device world was not easy by any means – nor was it a comfortable move. It scared me. I was worried about failure – about my experience not being enough for this transition. Now eight months in, I can say that it was the best career decision I ever made. I still get scared, and I still worry! But I know that the teams around me – from my colleagues in the Project Management Office (PMO) to my project teams – are there to support my hard work and commitment.

Interested in pursuing a career at Baylis? We’re hiring! Learn more.

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