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CILA Recipient Interview Series ‒ Spotlight on Sandy Diep

Corporate Headquarters
Jun 3, 2024 | 5+ MINUTE Read

The CILA interview series serves as a platform to showcase the exceptional achievements of the program’s participants. Join us as we gain insights into the transformative journeys of future Canadian leaders that define the CILA program. Each interview offers a glimpse of how, together, we are shaping the future of Canada’s defence industry.

Can you share your experience during your internship at L3Harris? What were some of the highlights and challenges of working in the defence industry?
CILA logo on white background

"Working as a Project Engineering Intern at L3Harris (Hamilton, Ontario location) has been an amazing experience! My job consists of being frontline engineering support for the service team, which keeps me on my toes with fast-paced support requests regarding trouble-shooting, documentation changes, BOM updates, etc. I also assist in the creation and tracking of upgrade plans for customer assets.

Outside of my regular duties, CILA has helped me expand my knowledge and take on projects of interests. This includes being co-lead for a major feature design/development project, supporting the mechanical engineering team and attending events that foster growth and empower women as industry leaders.

During my co-op, I learned  as much as possible and networked. By updating the co-op job postings for accuracy and relevance, I introduced myself to the majority of engineering managers and made sure they recognized my name. I also had several "leadership discussions" with employees, managers and even the VP/GM of the site. These provided a space to ask questions about their professional development journeys, understand the qualities of a good leader and learn ways to foster my career growth.

The position has given me industry experience and insight into what a full-time role would entail. After demonstrating my capabilities in my assigned role, I was appointed as an acting Project Engineer to cover for a full-time employee on vacation. This allowed me to experience a full-time workload, understand the expectations of a certified engineer and solve time-sensitive problems.

This co-op required a lot of fast-paced learning and organization, but the experience has been so fulfilling. It has taught me a lot about the industry and how I can develop myself to thrive."

Before your internship, had you considered working in the defence industry? If so, what motivated you to pursue this opportunity? If not, how has your perception of the industry evolved?

"Like most mechanical engineering students, I considered the defence industry because it sounded cool and would look good on a resume. However, it wasn’t until I started applying for jobs within the industry that I realized how diverse the positions were and how fascinating the technology can be! 

I was motivated to take this opportunity when I realized how much I could gain from the experience. Working at any company can offer valuable knowledge in its own way, but the defence industry has such a wide array of applications. There are many opportunities to learn outside a specific type of engineering or job function. My position is Project Engineering, but working at L3Harris allowed me to step outside of mechanical engineering and project management and dip my feet into electrical engineering, operations engineering, planning, etc. 

The various opportunities to enhance my knowledge made the position that much more appealing. I am acquiring a wealth of knowledge that will make me a well-rounded candidate for job opportunities, expanding the options available to me after graduating!"

How has your company fostered an environment conducive of growth and development for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles? 

"The company has employee resource groups dedicated to empowering women and teaching them how to advance in a male-dominated industry. I have learned from so many successful and inspirational women in STEM who are trailblazers in the defence industry. I make it a point to try to attend events where they offer their advice and expertise.  

The environment here has made me feel incredibly empowered. I expected the engineering department to be mostly men,  but at L3Harris, I see many women dominating their fields. While there is still progress to be made in closing the gap between men and women in higher-level management positions, we are making strides.

Having confident and outspoken women in my close circle has helped me become more confident. One of my mentors, a female Project Engineer, is a strong advocate for women in STEM. She excels in her own role and also supports me, standing up for me when she feels like I am being spoken over or ignored. Her support has boosted my confidence to stand up for myself.”

How have the executive mentorship opportunities in the CILA program impacted your growth? 

"I engaged in several leadership discussions, gaining insight into various perspectives on effective leadership. I also learned about professional challenges faced by others and how they overcame them. This has provided me with a set of qualities to cultivate and strategies for addressing challenges throughout my career journey.

Discussions with individuals from various departments and levels of the organization significantly broadened my comprehension of the company. This has equipped me with insights into the dynamics of the organization and a deeper understanding of their perspectives on operational strategies and elements contributing to the company's success. By embracing these diverse viewpoints, I have tailored my approach to effectively meet the requirements of various departments and levels within the organization.

I am fortunate to have two incredible mentors who provide unwavering support. They have developed a comprehensive plan to ensure that I maximize my co-op experience. This includes arranging leadership discussions, involving me in significant development projects, regularly inquiring about my learning interests and creating an environment where I can freely seek their guidance.”

If you could share one piece of advice with a potential future CILA recipient, what would it be?

"Seize every opportunity to learn and showcase your abilities in the workplace. Working at L3Harris has allowed me to expand my professional network and demonstrate my capabilities to a wide range of individuals. Proving myself in my current role and connecting with various departments has given me a head start in my career. By engaging with different teams, I have showcased my reliability and self-motivation by completing tasks without requiring constant supervision, actively seeking new projects, and finding ways to enhance my work. As someone once told me, expanding your network can be beneficial for your career, but it can also be a drawback. If you fail to demonstrate that you are a hardworking individual who exceeds expectations, you can easily be forgotten. Succeeding in your role while expanding your network is the key to advancing your career. Strive to be memorable and aim for success!"

To learn more about the CILA program, click here.

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