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Alumni Spotlight: Heather MacKnight
Kevin An-Jager

For anyone who knows Heather, you will know that she is caring, motivated, considerate and creative. Throughout her years at Armbrae, Heather did a great job of balancing working hard, participating in athletics (basketball in particular), enjoying her friends and playing important leadership roles. Some of you may know Heather from the Armbrae graduation ceremony last year in which she and her brother Angus so graciously and meaningfully presented the first ever Ian MacKnight Humanitarian Award in honour of their father. She is a credit to her family and it is a privilege for Armbrae Academy to call her one of our alumni.

Since graduating from Armbrae, she has pursued a degree in Industrial Engineering at Dalhousie University. She's on the verge of completing her degree and so it was a pleasure to recently catch up with Heather and learn a bit more about what she is learning, what motivates her and what her next steps will be.

1. What do you love most about your Industrial Engineering program at Dal?

One of the things I love most about Industrial Engineering at Dal is the breadth of content. Industrial Engineering is the study of optimizing systems and processes, which can really be applied to any industry. For example, one minute I could be studying the flow of the Nova Scotia Health Care system, and the next minute I could be discussing innovations of autonomous vehicles. I love that my learning isn't peg-holed into one specific focus, and that I get to explore so many different topics along the way.

2. What is the most difficult aspect of your undergraduate degree?

I would have to say one difficult aspect is finding balance and creating time management skills. I try to stay as involved in my community as possible, whether in intramural sports, student government, or volunteering. The extra involvement helps to keep me well grounded, however, I have had to work on balancing my extracurriculars with my academics. After six years of university, I finally have it worked out!

3. You mentioned that you want to pursue a career in technology consulting. What is technology consulting and what attracts you to that career?

Technology consulting is also known as innovation advising, which I think is a more accurate description of what I want to do. We are living through an industrial revolution in which technology, data, automation, and analytics applications are advancing at such a high rate, that businesses can not keep up. A technology consultant's job is to be an expert in new technology, and to help businesses find the appropriate technology solution for their needs.

I have always been attracted to the idea of consulting, because like studying IE, I will not be limited to one industry. I can have clients in different sectors, of different sizes and origins. The technology side is a great fit for me because of my engineering background. I have training in coding and software applications that will be very applicable to the line of work. I also love the idea of staying current and being at the forefront of this technological revolution – it is so interesting and exciting to see the advancements as they happen.

4. What inspired you to go into engineering?

I have always been interested in how things work, and how things can be improved. I was fortunate growing up to have many neighbors who are engineers from a variety of disciplines. I listened to their conversations, watched them solve problems and create fun innovations, so I knew at an early age that I wanted to be able to think like this. My grandfather also had a successful career as an electrical engineer, and his pride in his profession and encouragement continues to inspire me and assure me that I am choosing a very rewarding path.

5. Thinking back to your days at Armbrae, are there any experiences or classes that encouraged you to pursue engineering?

Armbrae definitely encouraged me to think critically and logically, which are key skills for an engineer. My science and math teachers throughout senior school were incredible, and developed my passion for these areas of focus. When it was time to decide what I wanted to pursue after high school, I was torn between studying sciences or studying engineering. With the support of Ms. Read, the university guidance counselor, I came to the conclusion that engineering would be the right fit for me!

6. Are there any subjects or classes that you took that have surprised you as to their usefulness in your life?

French, English, History, and Art. Not that I didn't appreciate the courses when I took them, but I was focused on Calculus, Physics and Chemistry in high school as they were the courses I needed to be accepted into my university program. I realize now how important the languages and humanities courses were in shaping me into a well rounded person.

7. Is there a piece of knowledge or wisdom that you learned at Armbrae that you remember or still reflect on?

One overall concept that I learned at Armbrae, not at any specific time, is the value of community. The community that supports the students at Armbrae is unlike any other and it had a profound impact on me. This community gave me not only the tools to succeed academically, but also a love of athletics, leadership, and community involvement. When parents, teachers, and students are all working together towards the same goal, there are powerful outcomes.

8. Is there any advice or encouragement you might give students at Armbrae who are presently considering their next steps?

My advice for an Armbrae student who is considering their next steps is to do their homework. I think it's easy to romanticize a certain career, without considering how it actually aligns with your personal skills and attributes.

I encourage students to reach out to their teachers and ask them questions about the next steps available to them. The teachers at Armbrae are such a wealth of knowledge and are so willing to help, so students who have questions should take advantage of their insights!

Lastly, I encourage students to be confident in their abilities. I think I didn't realize how well I was prepared for postsecondary education, and for life in general, until after I graduated. Students at Armbrae have such a solid foundation, both academically and practically. When students begin their new chapter of their life, whether it is in post secondary education or not, they will definitely hit the ground running, and should be very proud of their education!