Leadership at Every Level: Sophie Warwick
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we had a great time interviewing Structural Engineer Sophie Warwick, who is not only leading many of Entuitive’s unique projects but is also a strong leader in and outside of work with her commitment to improving visibility for women in engineering.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Sophie. Can you tell us about your role at Entuitive and how you’ve been pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
Thank you for having me. In September of 2020, I joined Entuitive as a Project Engineer. I’m based out of Vancouver and I’ve been mainly working on projects out of our Vancouver and Calgary offices. My role involves continuous collaboration with stakeholders, clients, and other consultants on projects as well as translating the information shared to our internal design team, and working on designs myself.
When I first started, I worked on a variety of projects to broaden my horizons, but I have since found a passion for the residential world in addition to exploring using new materials in my designs. My previous experience had mainly been working with concrete, but I’ve been pushing beyond my comfort levels by working more with wood frame as well.
Wood frame is a growing market where recent research and code changes have allowed us to explore new and creative designs that were more typical to other materials in the past. Lately, there’s been a push for taller wood-frame buildings, which is exciting as wood framing also contributes to sustainable performance.
Wood framing can be challenging as it can require closer collaboration with the team on some structural details, such as wall framing where the assembly directly impacts the fire rating and the acoustical performance of the building.
What is your approach to collaborating on projects?
I always strive to bring a level of calmness and be solution-oriented with my approach. When in meetings, a stakeholder may have a request that seems challenging at first, but I always like to have the mentality that we can make it work through clear communication and compromise. We’re all on the same team and we want to get to a solution that works best and for the largest number of parties. I’m also a firm believer that if something goes south on a project, we can have a discussion on what went wrong after the project is completed rather than a discussion in the moment. My philosophy is let’s reach a solution together as soon as possible and reflect later if needed.
How have you been applying seismic performance on your current projects?
Working in the lower mainland and Vancouver Island where we have the highest seismic loads in Canada, our conversations with the design team begin with acknowledging how lateral force resisting system geometry will be more stringent than in other areas of Canada. It’s important to discuss any challenges related to code restrictions upfront as they could limit the penetrations in some of the walls, irregularities, or vertical stacking. These initial conversations are critical since they allow everyone to plan around the challenges rather than being surprised down the line.
It’s also important to have a deep understanding of different materials and their unique properties as they relate to high seismic demand. Low-rise wood frame buildings for example perform very well in high seismic regions since they’re more flexible and attract lower relative loads compared to stiffer buildings.
Which projects are you hoping to work more on in the future?
I hope to work on more projects that connect with my core values and serve our community. Residential projects are so interesting to me because they become someone’s home and where people live their lives. I especially hope to work on more affordable housing projects in the future particularly as many Canadian cities are navigating through a housing crisis. Investing in materials that are sustainable and cost-effective are critical in improving affordability.
As an active member of Entuitive’s Gender Balance employee resource group, how have you been supporting women in engineering both at and outside of Entuitive?
Improving visibility for women in engineering is a strong passion of mine. I believe we need more women in senior roles being louder to continue encouraging young women to pursue a career in engineering and to keep more women in the profession.
With Entuitive’s Gender Balance Pillar, we’re working internally to change policies that will impact the recruitment and retention of women and non-binary people. We’re also focused on creating a space that will help us all feel like we can bring our whole self to work daily. People don’t want to feel like they need to fit into a particular box to be successful. These initiatives help make our firm a more inclusive space while aiming to support a larger change within the industry as well.
I believe diversity of thought is incredibly important since it makes us more successful and innovative. If you have people working on a project from different socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, or races, and more, you’re going to find everyone will have a slightly different approach. I believe the best solution is usually a combination of these diverse ideas.
When we invest in inclusion and diversity, everyone can feel empowered to bring their voices forward. A big reason why I came to Entuitive is because I can bring my whole self. I feel successful and valued for who I am. I hope I can help my colleagues and other people feel that way as well.
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Sophie, and for your hard work and commitment to supporting women in engineering.
If you’d like to reach out to Sophie, you can do so here.