Meet Ermira Tasi, TYLin Design Technologist for Water Resources based in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
Actually, while growing up, I did not think I would become an engineer. Before 1990, Albania was a communist country, with an application process to receive a university degree a bit different than in Canada. After completing high school, I had to complete an application listing my preferences for what I wanted to study. A committee analyzed all the applicants and decided where each student was going to study. However, there was no guarantee that you’d receive what you wanted.
I enjoyed math and sciences in school, but because my parents were always saying, “We need a doctor in the family,” that’s what I requested in my application. Instead, I was selected to study civil engineering. Though it might seem strange, this is how my journey as a civil engineer started. And I have really enjoyed my path from school to working in civil engineering, and given the chance, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
What's one thing the engineering industry can do to encourage more women into its ranks?
A lot has changed in the last decade or two. While I remember a time when women were probably 20% maximum of the civil engineering students and workforce, the numbers are now more balanced, and more women are pursuing civil engineering jobs. Women seeing other women working as civil engineers is also encouraging because they see engineering as a viable option. Hiring more women will encourage others to choose the field as well.
What technical skills have helped you advance in your career?
My strength has been in the design of stormwater management ponds and natural channels. Being familiar with Autodesk products has facilitated my ability to provide a start-to-finish design and drawing production process.
What personal traits or characteristics have helped you succeed in this position?
I think persistence, hard work, being curious, and always learning new things have helped me succeed. I also believe that having a skilled team and good teamwork are key to success.
Who have been mentors and advisors in your career?
I am grateful to have had several mentors and colleagues who have helped me along the way. Lana Russell, formerly with TMIG; Steve Hollingworth, TYLin’s Director of Water Resources; and Laura Koyanagi, TYLin Senior Project Manager, are a few.
What are two of the most memorable projects you have worked on?
One memorable project was in Milton, Ontario. Milton Phase 3 involved a subdivision where TYLin was hired to complete the design and construction for a 26-hectare mixed-use block. The project included two stormwater ponds and a natural channel design.
During the design phase, the client of an adjacent property hired us to complete the detailed design of the channel on their lands. While our scope of work was doubled, all work was finalized on time. Then, during the construction phase, the channel design needed to be altered due to site conditions. In just a few days, our team was able to finalize the redesign and provide the contractor with the updated drawings. Working on this project was definitely a challenge due to the changing circumstances, but our team was more than capable of adapting and pulling through.
The Elgin Mills Greenway stormwater pond rehabilitation is another distinctive project that I worked on. Elgin Mills Greenway is a city-owned parcel of green space in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Due to extreme storms and high-flowing water, erosion occurred, and materials were accumulating in the existing downstream channel and stormwater pond, making this system inadequate and the existing trail system unusable.
The project design included a new stormwater pond designed with multiple online cells, a pretreatment oil and grit separator, a natural channel, a new bridge, a boardwalk, and walking trails. Multiple disciplines were involved, including a landscape architect, an ecologist engineer, and a structural engineer.
Despite the construction stage challenges, Elgin Mills Greenway has become a great green space with adequate stormwater infrastructure and many amenities for people using the park. The City of Richmond Hill received an award from the Ontario Public Works Association (OPWA) in the environment category for this new stormwater management system and trail network, which made our team very proud.
What advice would you give to young engineers who are interested in a position such as yours?
If young professionals are interested and passionate about civil engineering, they are halfway there. Building the experience is a process that requires time and determination.