Stephanie Medeiros — Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, ABB Canada (Part 1)

EIN Medeiros ABB 2 400

Sept 11, 2019

By Blake Marchand

Stephanie Medeiros leads ABB Canada’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure team, as well as transit bus charging in the United States and Canada. She has been with ABB in various positions for 10 years, compiling a diverse skillset that includes work all over the world. 

After receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering from McGill University, Medeiros got her start in the industry by volunteering with the Canadian government as an electrical engineering intern, where she travelled to Peru to help improve their water treatment infrastructure. The experience was an invaluable one for Medeiros, ultimately teaching her a great deal about leadership and giving her perspective on what leadership looks like in another culture.

“As soon as I graduated, I thought it was really important to take some time off and use the skills that I had learned to do something good,” said Medeiros. “I was sent to different cities in Peru to optimize the DC circuit for their electric supply, but with the intent on improving their drinking water supply. The majority of cities in Peru get their water from underground wells. So, they have systems of DC motors and pumps to get that water from underground.”

Medeiros explained that, because the towns were in remote locations they didn’t have access to electrical engineers and those types of skilled workers on a regular basis. As well, their systems were antiquated. “A lot of villages that I went to only had drinking water supply for two hours a day, because their systems weren’t optimized.”

“My task was basically to go to each of these cities, using the skills I learned as an electrical engineer and my knowledge of DC motors, to optimize these circuits. The goal was to increase the water access from two hours a day to 12 hours.”

The work was fulfilling from a humanitarian perspective, but it also provided Stephanie with a great deal of quality experience In terms of technical experience optimizing these systems, but also leadership and management. The fact that she was young and a woman made it challenging to prove herself as an expert in these communities. “Every town that I would go to, the first week or so was challenging,” she explained. “Basically I was supposed to be the expert. There were some tests I would have to do that I couldn’t do myself, so I was given labourers to work with and in every town I had start all over again to prove myself,” she said, adding “some of the towns were more reluctant to listen to me.”

It took patience to convince them to trust her expertise. Despite the challenge it was a positive and enriching experience. “I learned a lot about myself and leadership,” she noted.

“Experiences such as this are really an intensive crash course. Whenever I go to a new country, and especially countries or cultures that aren’t used to seeing women in the workforce, you have no choice but to find creative ways to make it work.”

Following her trip, she got a job with ABB as a project engineer working out of Montreal.

Her work as a project engineer included designing and commissioning components of substations — a particularly interesting role for Stephanie because it was highly technical. It allowed her to build off the work she did in Peru and develop a strong technical foundation doing fieldwork across Canada.

Medeiros would eventually move into a product management role, again out of Montreal. Although the position would take her abroad as well, living and working in other countries was interesting professionally and personally, offering her a greater appreciation for other cultures by experiencing them firsthand.

Her new position included management as well as marketing aspects, so she returned to McGill for a management/marketing diploma. Furthering her education was beneficial because it would qualify her for other management positions within the company.

Today, Medeiros leads ABB’s electric vehicle charging Infrastructure team for Canada, and in the United States she leads electric infrastructure for transit buses.

“The way I see it, what I’m doing at ABB is helping to create a better and more sustainable world for everyone, and at the end of the day this is what drives me.” Because there are always challenges along the way, Stephanie said she is motivated by the bigger picture associated with what she does at ABB Canada. In fact, she considers one of her greater accomplishments to be co-founding an ABB Canada program called the Excelle Group.

The Excelle Group promotes gender diversity at ABB Canada by putting on small and large events involving guest speakers, panel discussions with women across various industries, guided discussions, and networking. Medeiros said ABB Canada’s Human Resources department has many great initiatives to support woman in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and “the Excelle Group is a means to work alongside these HR initiatives and to continue this important discussion.”

As a woman in STEM, Medeiros has experienced the challenges women face in the workplace firsthand. Without a support system of people with shared experiences, it’s easy to lose confidence and become discouraged.

“I felt alone sometimes early in my career,” she said, to a point where she would question her ability. “Those thoughts definitely happen, so I don’t want any woman — or man, because I know this happens to men, as well — to feel they are alone because they’re a minority in their field.”

“Just hearing other people’s stories and connecting with people gives them that extra push.” Having those support systems in place also goes a long way in fostering a productive working environment.

Medeiros noted ABB Canada has many women in leadership roles, including President, Nathalie Pilon. “Nathalie is a great role model for many in a STEM company, and even in other industries,” she said, because there is crossover to the challenges women face. And as Medeiros mentioned, having differing perspectives is a huge asset for innovation.

In Part 2, in which ABB’s Stephanie Medeiros talks about an approaching tipping point for Canada’s EV industry, her involvement in a new standard for overhead bus charging, and more, will be published in an upcoming issue of CEW.

Photo credit: Marc-Andre Pichette, ABB

Blake Marchand is Assistant Editor, Kerrwil Electrical Group

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