Nell Du, CTO & Co-founder, Zennea Technologies

From Engineer to Co-founder, We Chat with Nell Du This #IWED19

June 23, 2019

According Engineers Canada, women make up half of Canada's population yet only For this International Women in Engineering Day, we spoke with Nell Du, CTO & Co-founder of Zennea Technologies—an SFU startup combatting chronic snoring with a portable, sleep wearable device. 

Why did you get into engineering?
Physics has always been my passion since junior high school because it is just so logical and the answers to the questions are so black and white (which I figured later when I dived a bit more into physics that that is not always the case). But I loved it back then and that momentum carried on throughout my high school years. Even though I am not particularly good at math, I can always figure out physics problems. I was torn between getting into computer science or mechatronics when I was asked to pick out an major and then I thought it'd be much more fun getting your hands dirty with soldering flux than sitting in front of a computer 24/7 (wouldn't it?). I chose mechatronics other than other engineering concentrations simply because I would like to know all different aspects of engineering so that I can concentrate more on the area that I like the most after tried them all. I have been doing engineering ever since.

What do you like about it?
The part that I like about it the most is also the part that I dislike about it the most, which is precision. Everything needs to be perfectly right in order for the whole system to be up and running. However, when you have more parts to a system for example, electronics, motors, mechanical, system control, embedded, image recognition and etc perfecting everything so that they can come around with each other is years and years worth of work. It drives you nuts when there is just this teeny tiny mis-alignment that failed the whole system. But when you get everything right, the satisfaction is incomparable. It's like playing with lego where you gotta find the pieces that fit with each other to make the perfect shape in your head.

Do you have any advice for women interested in entering engineering?
Don't let the idea of "oh I'm not good at math, I'll never compete the guys in my class, engineering is too hard and etc" be the biggest blocker in your path to engineering. Because those aren't excuses and 99% of the time they aren't the truth either. If you find yourself having those thoughts, in fact, you are blocking yourself from getting into engineering. The best way of learning something you are passionate about and to excel in them is by doing what Nike says - Just do it. And not only just do it but pour your heart into it, persevere and you will get to the other side of the mountain without even noticing it. Only after you have done it you will know easy that actually is and all it takes is your motivation to learn everything and practice what you have learned over and over again. Be humble, keep your head down and always learn from others.