Diversity In Leadership: GoGeomatics Interviews CSA Engineer and Project Manager, Miriam Micael
Diversity enhances more than just innovation and creativity.
To show the importance of diversity, GoGeomatics has created a series highlighting diversity leadership in the Canadian Geomatics community. GoGeomatics was able to interview Miriam Micael, Engineer and Project Manager with CSA (Canadian Space Agency), as part of the Diversity in Leadership series.
GoGeomatics: Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
Miriam Micael: I’m born and raised in Ottawa. It’s a great city with a diverse community. I enjoyed growing up in the city. I currently split my time between Montreal and Ottawa, Montreal is for work at the Canadian Space Agency located in Longueuil, QC.
GoGeomatics: Did you always want to be an Engineer? Where did you go to school? How did you become involved in Project Management?
Miriam Micael: I always enjoyed science and more of my interests lie within physics and chemistry. My grade 12 physics teacher introduced us to engineering and its applications, while my grade 11 chemistry teacher actually worked as a chemical engineer for several years before teaching. From there I knew I wanted to be an engineer. The question then was what type? I settled on Aerospace Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa, ON. After graduation I had the opportunity to be a recruitment officer and travel through Ontario presenting on engineering and its various applications. I knew then that I wanted to mix my technical background with interpersonal skills and collaboration, so I settled on exploring project management and pursued a graduate diploma.
GoGeomatics How did you hear of the CSA and what made you apply for a job here?
Miriam Micael: As I was looking for my next opportunity, I stumbled upon the engineering development program at the CSA through the Government of Canada website. The program was interesting to me as it provided you with the opportunity to explore various sectors within the agency and enhance your French at the same time. Also, who doesn’t think space is cool?!
GoGeomatics What does an Engineer who is also a Project Manager do with CSA on a day-to-day basis?
Miriam Micael: As a project manager you are responsible for liaising between the project team, stakeholders, industry and anyone else who may have some involvement within the mission. A typical day in project management is many meetings! As mentioned as a project manager you are always liaising between multiple groups, and that takes a lot of time and effort. In between meetings, you are developing presentations or briefing notes that are presented to a variety of audiences.
GoGeomatics Why is your job important?
Miriam Micael: You are the point of contact for all items, people will come to you to have the answers and you need to ensure that you are up to date on all items mission related. As the project manager you are also one of the responsible leads for the outcome of the project/mission. You must brief senior executives, internal and external stakeholders on the mission and ensure that the objectives are being met.
GoGeomatics: Can you tell us how you approach a project to ensure a successful outcome?
Miriam Micael: Great question! The simple answer is to ensure that you maintain the project management triangle; scope, schedule, and cost. If you can keep all three balanced then you can remain on track, however, that rarely happens and something has to give. In reality you need to assess what is worth the trade-off to ensure you meet your main objectives, in space projects generally it is mission objectives or key performance indicators. Keeping these identifiers intact, will allow you to have a successful mission/project.
GoGeomatics: What missions are you working on now? What are they called and what is their purpose?
Miriam Micael: I am currently working on the WildFireSat mission, which is an upcoming mission to help monitor wildfires all over Canada on a daily basis, with over hundreds of wildfires currently burning in Canada, it is easy to see the importance of such a mission. The CSA is working in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to deliver this mission, we anticipate launch and readiness for fire season 2029. See here for more info: https://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/satellites/wildfiresat/
GoGeomatics What Languages do you speak, and how have those languages helped you in your job?
Miriam Micael: I speak English, French, and Tigrinya (Eritrea). The ability to know more than one language is always an asset as it allows you to interact with people you may not have had the opportunity to before. At work we use both English and French to interact with our colleagues and sometimes for media requests.
GoGeomatics: Canada has become more diverse and inclusive, and the federal government workforce reflects that. What can be done to continue the positive steps for inclusiveness and diversity during hiring of the next generation of scientists and engineers?
Miriam Micael: Diversity is continuous and ever growing, it is never done. You do not fill some quota and claim that the organization is now diverse, you (i.e. organization) needs to be willing to continue to do the work, to grow, evolve and welcome various viewpoints. To encourage and foster growth when it comes to inclusivity and diversity means to eliminate/reduce and acknowledge your personal bias and work against it to ensure you are not penalizing somebody else for just being themselves and not like you. People want to feel heard and not dismissed, they want to feel safe and not on edge, it is the organization’s responsibility to create this environment for them/everyone.
GoGeomatics Can you explain the importance of diversity leadership in organizations like CSA?
Miriam Micael: Diversity in leadership is important, it shows that an organization represents the people it leads. In any industry diversity allows for a variety in thinking and working, this helps the organization grow and encourages good change. Diversity in leadership is also important for recruitment, as an employee or potential employee you want to look at an organization and see that they are not stuck in the same place they were decades ago, you want to see a demonstration of growth and adaptation to the current workforce.
GoGeomatics: What are your goals over the next 5-10 years? What do you want to accomplish?
Miriam Micael: I would like to continue to grow and learn new things to help me transition into a more senior role. Having the opportunity to explore new opportunities/challenges and obtain new experiences. I still want to continue doing outreach and speaking with youth across Canada.
GoGeomatics For students and new grads interested in a career with CSA, how should they approach getting a first full time job or an internship or co-op placement with CSA?
Miriam Micael: if you are a new grad, the engineering development program is a great entry point into the CSA! The pool becomes available every two years, and generally opens in the fall. It is best to keep a lookout on our website. For current students, the CSA posts internships Canada-wide too, so don’t let distance be a discouraging factor, we look at students in a variety of STEM fields, and placements can range from 4 months to 12 months depending on the need.
GoGeomatics wishes to extend a deep, heartfelt thank-you to Miriam Micael for her time and knowledge.