Meet Kanchan Maharaj

“I have traveled over 30 countries,” says Kanchan.

“I have traveled over 30 countries,” says Kanchan.

Kanchan Maharaj earned her Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Waterloo. She currently works as a Project Manager in Cycling Infrastructure at the City of Toronto, Transportation Services. In her spare time, she likes to do photography, volunteering, motorcycle riding, and traveling.

When did your love of STEM begin?

Probably, as with most engineers - with Lego. Lego then progressed into an interest in architecture and designing houses and floor plans in my spare time in grade school. I loved drafting and learning how things were put together. I used to visualize 2D designs in 3D.  In the 80's, there was a PBS show called "Structures” or “Why Things Don't Fall Down" which totally fascinated me.  I wanted to know how things worked, and why. I wondered how to pull things apart and put them back together, and what the tools did. I used to pull my bike apart for fun, much to my parent's amusement. All of this led to an interest in science and math, strong academics and eventually to engineering (and some very strong IKEA construction and reconstruction skills). 

What is the best part about working in the field of STEM?

The fact that I can use science and engineering to to solve problems and help people, try to make make the city safer for cyclists and other vulnerable road users, and have the knowledge and background to be able to explain technical details and infrastructure to people in plain language so everyone can understand why things are built the way they are and how we can do better in the future.  I've worked in almost every field of engineering over the past 25 years.  Engineering, I feel, teaches one how to learn and how to solve problems. My engineering background has also contributed to my interest and side career in photography - learning about lenses, experimenting with cameras and the science behind making photographs.

What advice would you give young women interested in a career in STEM?

Learning about STEM will never be a waste - no matter what career path you choose.  Learning about science, technology and the world around you are universally applicable to so many careers and to life, in general. STEM can be a very challenging career path - and some sectors are more progressive than others.  But everything is getting better - and increasing diversity can only speed up the progress. But I've come to realize that the hardest things in life are the things most worth doing and most rewarding.

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