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This is Agriculture: Local woman advancing in male-dominated field


Difficult math questions? No problem. Skill testing physics exams? A breeze. Being one of the only females in her entire program? She's got it.

From left are Zac Francis, Carling Gratto and William MacKenzie. Gratto, from Masstown, is one of the few female students in her industrial engineering class at a local post-secondary institution.

For Carling Gratto, being one of the only females in her industrial engineering program doesn't set her back. If anything, it's what drives her to become even more successful.

A fifth year student at Dalhousie University, Carling grew up in the small, rural community of Masstown. She completed two years of the engineering diploma program at the Dalhousie University's Agricultural Campus (formerly NSAC). Upon graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture in May 2012, she transferred to the engineering co-op program at Dalhousie University in Halifax. A three-year program with three co-op terms and Carling graduated in May with a bachelor of industrial engineering.

Industrial engineering is the design and development of complex systems that play a key role in society. From systems like manufacturers, airlines and hospitals to telecommunications and online retailers, industrial engineers oversee complex systems of people, technology and information. For Carling, becoming an industrial engineer wasn't always easy. Along with her countless hours of studying, Carling had to search for employment to complete her co-op program. Her passion and dedication along with a lot of time management played a key role in her academic and professional success.

"The hardest part about getting where I am today has definitely been time management," Carling said. "Engineering is a really intense program and on top of going to class and studying, you have to apply for jobs and go to interviews. It's really important to be dedicated and to manage your time wisely."

Along with juggling a busy schedule, Carling is one of the few females in her program, which has made for a challenging yet rewarding journey.

"There are approximately 50 students in my class and I would say around eight are female." Carling said. "Engineering has typically been, and still is today, a male dominated field. Although the number of female engineers is slowly rising, about 13 per cent of engineers are female."

Carling didn't always know she wanted to be an industrial engineer. Growing up she considered and explored a few different career options. Having a father who is an industrial engineer heavily influenced her decision. She soon realized that she wanted to follow in his footsteps.

"As I got older my dad started introducing me more and more to what he does," Carling says. "I loved learning about his projects and he would take me around to different job sites. Eventually, I just knew that I wanted to do that too."

As a female in a typically male dominated field, Carling has worked hard to get where she is today. No two days of her journey have ever been the same. Carling chose to enter the co-op program to pursue her industrial engineering degree. The co-op program requires students to complete three work terms. Each work term is four months long, providing students one year's worth of experience upon graduation. She worked at Capital Health in Halifax for her first placement and then at LED Roadway Lighting in Amherst for her second co-op placement. Carling's final co-op term was at Proctor and Gamble in Belleville, Ont.

"At Proctor and Gamble, I worked on different work process improvement projects," Carling describes. "A typical day involved observing different processes within the manufacturing facility, researching and studying ways to improve them, and putting these ideas into action."

Through the co-op program, Carling has gained valuable experience that she will take with her throughout the rest of her career. Each day poses a new challenge to be overcome and Carling tackles every challenge she faces.

"Engineering is so diverse," Carling explains. "Even as a student, I've experienced a number of different engineering roles, through working with my dad, working at the AC and through Dalhousie's co-op program. Each day I do something a bit, or even completely different than the day before. It makes things interesting and I'm always finding new ways to solve problems."

Carling said one of the most rewarding aspects of her career is seeing her ideas put into action. As her journey as an industrial engineer continues, Carling hopes to keep working in the area of manufacturing. She enjoys the challenge and the reward that accompany hard work. She plans to continue gaining new experiences and expanding her knowledge that will help her reach a new level with her career. Overall, it's safe to say that Carling Gratto has no regrets.

Emma Geldart is a recent graduate of the public relations program at MSVU and a former marketing and communications assistant at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture.

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