Name: Deborah de Lange

Program: Electrical Engineering

University(s) / College(s) Attended: University of Toronto and Queen’s University

Education / Degree(s): BASc (Electrical Engineering), CMA/CPA, MBA for Science and Technology, PhD in strategic management

Current Job Title: Associate Professor

Current Employer: Ryerson University

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Fun Facts About Me

Share one fun fact about yourself:
I love techie films and TV shows that imagine visions of the future together with progressive values or “good versus evil” themes, such as the Star wars movies, Star Trek, and The Jetsons. We can have fun this way thinking about serious issues related to ethics, our responsibilities as engineers, and potential consequences of our engineering work. Engineering without forethought and ethics cannot be a good thing. Arts and entertainment is often ahead of its time.

The most inspiring engineer I know is ....... Because ........ ?:
I like a couple of famous techie people: 1) Elon Musk because he has pushed forward on a clean future, no matter the huge barriers set up by the fossil fuel and auto industries, and 2) Yoshua Bengio (I realize that he may be classified as a computer scientist, but electrical engineers often get into AI too). He is a notable Canadian professor, one of the most famous in the world for his work on AI to address climate change. Another scientist/professor I would like to recognize as a Canadian icon is Dr. David Suzuki, for his work on the environment and climate change.

Profile Questions

Why did you choose to study engineering?:
I liked math and science in high school so I looked at a physics program and realized that electrical engineering offered similar topics. At the University of Toronto, electrical engineering is quite theoretical. With an engineering degree, I would become part of a profession in demand. My father had passed away so, I needed to find a job after university to support myself, pay back loans for university tuition, etc. so the engineering degree made sense.

How do you apply your engineering degree to your current career?:
I am a professor with a focus on sustainable development re: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on environmental protection and climate change mitigation through clean technologies and the related businesses, primarily in renewable energy and electrification of transportation. My electrical engineering degree is integral to my career.

What do you love most about your career?:
My career as a university professor gives me a tremendous amount of independence. In many ways, I am like an entrepreneur with a salary, in the sense that I can independently choose my projects and manage my own time. I will not get rich like an entrepreneur (unless I choose to develop technology for a business), but my output can be more valuable for society because it is shared knowledge creation. I also like that I can be completely honest in respect of academic freedom and thus, I am a trusted expert working in the best interests of society.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to pursue a career in engineering?:
Someone interested in engineering needs to love math and science. Try to get some prior experience in a scientific/engineering field, if possible. Women in engineering will face many societal barriers in Canada and elsewhere. Given the undeniable reality for women in engineering in Canada today, it is better to warn women to be prepared so they can make informed choices. I grew up with the greatest dad so, I never imagined these barriers until I was confronted with them. I wish career counselors in high school and university had advised me honestly, in advance of making my decision. Our institutions i.e., educational and workplaces, need to change and women need help coping with unfriendly workplaces, but the support systems, if they exist, are inadequate. Moreover, culprits usually go unchallenged because people in the systems do not want to confront the bullies. Thus, our institutions place the responsibility for change and/or coping on the victims. A recent example is news about how women have been treated at Google https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/02/google-walkout-me-too-strike. I have not heard anything about our Canadian governments, at any level, dealing with Google on this issue or other situations like this in technology companies or otherwise.

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