#WomeninSTEM · inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Laura Salisbury

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Last fall, I finished up a Master of Science in Geography (with a specialization in Geomatics) at Carleton University, and I now work for the federal government in Ottawa. I grew up believing that the City of Ottawa and “desk jobs” in general are boring, but I couldn’t disagree more! My job as a geomatics officer is technically challenging, fast-paced, and rewarding. I have also completely fallen in love with Ottawa. What a beautiful and fun city to live in, especially as a 20-something.

What # would define your life journey?

Favorite website / app:
I think all ladies should know about the app Clue — a period tracker. So much great data to be tracked, collected, and analyzed. It helps me to make sense of my feelings, and helps me to get in sync with my body.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
My high school science teacher got his pHD in biochemistry, but after a few years of being a postdoc, he realized he hated research. Since he loved teaching, he took a high school science teacher position and you can just tell he adores his job. But teaching high school when you have a doctoral degree looks a little funny to some people (you know what they say — haters are gonna hate).

On my first day of grade 11 chemistry (which completely inspired and led me to more science courses, a B.Sc in environmental science, and a career in geomatics), this teacher gave us all a printout of the following quotation:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

This really spoke to me. Here was living proof of someone who had found what made him “come alive.” And he followed that feeling, despite of all the flak he likely had to put up with.

It seems like a lot of people keep doing what they think they should be doing. It could be their major at school because that is what their parents want, or because they think it’s too late to switch. It could be their career they hold onto because they worked so hard at school to actually get there in the first place. Or it could be the hobbies or activities they find themselves doing, all because it is always what they’ve done. If you find yourself in this sort of trap — get out of it, and go do what makes you come alive. The world needs people who have come alive.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Anything fun and fast (it’s a problem!)

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
My Master’s degree was very challenging for me. If you let it (which is very easy to do), writing a thesis is a very isolating experience. At many points, I thought I wouldn’t make it through. But I got out of the “dark valley” by asking for help, splitting up my large problems into many tiny ones, and taking it one day at a time.

Ideal Job:
I love learning, creating, and telling stories that need to be told. All wrapped together, my dream job would be to use science and technology to create and tell stories, which will then help people to solve problems. An example of this is creating climate change visualizations using GIS.

I’m working towards that but unfortunately in my field (geomatics), you are often forced to work contract-to-contract, which may lead you to positions that aren’t 100% related to your dream job. The trick is to see between the lines, and take the contracts that will benefit you in the long run. For instance my last contract was creating visualization products for the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility (http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/geomatics/satellite-imagery-air-photos/satellite-facilities/ISSF/10953). My new contract is creating 3D terrain models for military simulation training purposes. Vastly different, yet each contract is helping me to piece together differing threads of experience in the tapestry of my career, and it just wouldn’t look the same without them.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Do what makes you happy, work hard, and the rest will follow.


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