Breaking The Rules

Some rules need to be broken. In this episode, speakers shared how they’re breaking old rules and building new dynamics to shape a more inclusive and welcoming profession.


Air Date: March 25, 2020

Season:  2020

Episode:  3

Speakers: Laura Aiken (Bechtel), Pavlina Akritas (Arup), Vanessa Raponi (Spin Master)

Some rules need to be broken. Speakers in this session first shared how they’re breaking old rules and building new dynamics to shape a more inclusive and welcoming profession, then joined us for a live Q&A session.

About the speakers

Laura Aiken, Turnover Manager, Pennsylvania Chemicals Project

Originally from the UK, Laura Aiken joined Bechtel in 2011 after graduating from the University of Bath with a Masters of Chemical Engineering, and has worked across design engineering, construction, commissioning and startup, on gas processing, liquefied natural gas, and petrochemicals projects in the UK, USA, and Australia. As the Turnover Manager on the Pennsylvania Chemicals Project, Laura and her team drive work processes and automation to ensure complete, quality, and timely handover of construction and commissioning scope to Bechtel’s customer. Laura has held several Business Resource Group leadership positions, most recently the Global Chair of Women@Bechtel, and currently acts as a board advisor. She is passionate about empowering women and girls with the tools they need to navigate the challenges often faced in STEM fields. Alongside her work for Bechtel, Laura leads yoga and leadership retreats for women designed to empower them to thrive in work and in life. Laura is a registered Professional Engineer in Texas, a Chartered Chemical Engineer (CEng), and is a Professional Member of the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and a Chartered member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Pavlina Akritas, Associate Lighting Designer

Pavlina has over 12 years’ experience working in multi-disciplinary teams on a range of international projects. Her specialism is in the design of daylight and electric lighting systems in museums and gallery spaces. Completed projects in Pavlina’s portfolio include the London Aquatic Centre for the 2012 Olympics, the Investcorp Building, St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, the Galleries of the Islamic World at the British Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. She’s won numerous awards for her work and in June 2017 she was named as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering Under 35 by the Telegraph and in May 2018 one of the 40 Under 40 Young Lighting Designers globally. More recently, she was selected by the Financial Times and Inclusive Boards as one of the 100 Most Influential Women Leaders in Engineering UK and Europe 2019. She is one of the protagonist of ‘This Is Engineering’ campaign which seeks to rebrand engineering for people aged 13-18.

Vanessa Raponi, Product Development EIT at Spin Master
Founder of EngiQueers Canada

Vanessa Raponi is a Product Development EIT on the Remote Control team at Spin Master – an international toy company founded in Toronto. Essentially, she brings complex toy design ideas to life. She graduated from McMaster University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Engineering and Management, which gave a unique business perspective to her technical accreditation. As a queer woman of colour, Vanessa has been a passionate advocate for intersectional diversity in STEM for many years, notably founding the national not-for-profit organization EngiQueers Canada. EQ now services 30 university LGBTQ+ engineering organizations in 9 provinces, and is run by students from coast-to-coast.

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