Female mechatronic systems engineering grads excel in industry
By Diane Luckow
In 2007, Parisa Khorsand was one of just two women to enroll in what was then a new program at SFU—Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE). The multidisciplinary program combines mechanical, electrical and software engineering with hands-on industrial training to create high-tech engineers who are inventive problem-solvers.
Today, Khorsand is a software engineer at Apple Inc., in Cupertino, CA, where she specializes in creating the software necessary for testing Apple products in the factory.
Over the years, the number of women enrolling in SFU’s MSE program has grown slowly, peaking at just 15 per cent of the class in 2015.
Yet Khorsand says the course isn’t as difficult as some may think.
“It’s only difficult if you’re not passionate about it,” she says. “If you like it and you’re passionate, it’s quite a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it, it’s a really nice program.”
Women who graduate from the program often go on to find interesting, well-paid engineering jobs at large companies such as Tesla and General Motors.
Romina Mahboub, who graduated in 2014, had two job offers within just a few months—from Google and Tesla Motors. While the job at Google offered more, she opted to take a job as a manufacturing engineer at Tesla Motors where, she says, “I wanted to be a part of a global change.”
She’s now an equipment engineer there, working on cooling tubes used in the battery modules for Tesla's electric vehicles. She is responsible for improving equipment design to increase production yield and efficiency.
The MSE program, she says, “trained me to be an engineer, but more importantly, it taught me to be a versatile problem solver and a fast learner, which are vital traits needed in this industry.”
A degree in mechatronics, she adds, “is definitely respected. People know how smart and talented you are. It’s definitely not a typical program, but rather an integration of different engineering disciplines.”
Still, as a female in a male-dominated industry, she’s aware that women have to work together to succeed.
“Whenever a female engineer needs mentorship or help, I offer my assistance,” she says. “We need to stay together, work together and have each other’s backs. That is how we are going to change the ratio.”