Women & Technology Nancy Fowler leader in her field

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Staying grounded

Like most teenagers, Nancy Fowler had no idea what kind of career she wanted. So one day, her father, an Instructor at New Brunswick Community College, took her on a tour of the college. It was there she fell in love.
“As soon as we entered the electronics lab I knew it was for me,” she says. “This huge space was filled with circuit boards, scopes and gauges and – toys! I’d been helping my dad repair old TVs and other appliances for years. It was something I really enjoyed and was good at. And I’d always excelled at science and math so it was the perfect choice.”

This was in the mid 1970s, when engineering and technology was not considered a “traditional” career choice for women. So it was no surprise that Nancy found herself the only female in her electronic technologist college class.

“The guys didn’t accept me at first – until they realized I was good at what I did!”

Thirty years later, she’s still good at what she does. Currently holding the position of Director, Program Management Office, Resource Solutions, for TELUS, Nancy has enjoyed an extensive and successful career and has held many management positions in engineering and network planning with such organizations as Bell Canada, BCTEL, Telecom Canada, and NBTel. Her role in Resource Solutions is new to TELUS. Nancy and her team have developed a model for outsourced solutions and she is currently managing a partner who is delivering Broadband Build.

“I’ve never regretted following my instincts and pursuing what was once considered an unconventional path for a woman,” she says. “I’m easily bored but telecommunications is never boring. As soon as I mastered one job, another opportunity presented itself. I’ve continued to learn throughout my career.”

Learning and taking on new challenges is why Nancy decided on becoming an electronic technologist. She explains that technologists apply theoretical and practical methods to plan, design, install, manage and maintain engineered products, processes, systems and services.

“There are many opportunities and challenges as a technologist,” she says. Most technologists prefer being hands-on with a project and we can, if we wish, continue our studies toward an engineering degree.

Nancy took another path. Over the course of her career she’s taken management and admin courses from the University of Ottawa and completed the TELUS Leaders of the Future Program, the TELUS High Performance Leadership Program at UBC and the Executive Leadership Program in Telecommunications from the UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

As if a demanding career weren’t enough, Nancy also sits on the Board of Directors for the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) and currently holds the position of Vice President of ASTTBC. Past ASTTBC positions include Secretary Treasurer and Council Director.

ASTTBC is responsible to establish and maintain competency standards and ensures, through certification, that BC’s technologists and technicians maintain a high standard of performance and professionalism. With more than 8,500 members and technical specialists working throughout the province, ASTTBC takes a leadership role in developing technology career pathways and promoting technology careers of tomorrow. ASTTBC is a constituent member of the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists with a combined voice of 45,000 technology professionals nationally.

“That sounds like a lot of people – and it is – but the reality is that there’s a desperate shortage of science and technology professionals in Canada,” she says. “As an industry we must do everything we can to attract more people to the engineering field. That means encouraging and mentoring young people – and especially young women – to pursue careers in science and technology. It means helping new Canadians with engineering backgrounds get accredited in Canada. And it means supporting older adults who wish to re-enter the workforce or change careers.”

She practices what she believes. Nancy is a mentor at TELUS and a past mentor with the Vancouver Board of Trade Leaders of Tomorrow Program. She also speaks at conferences, schools and colleges to encourage more women to consider careers in science and technology.

Nancy Fowler is also living proof that women can have a successful career and a successful personal life. Married for 20 years to Bruce, the couple has an 18-year-old son, Hazen.

But time at home doesn’t mean relaxing in an armchair. Despite her busy schedule, Nancy finds time to follow her second passion – renovation, something she and her husband plan to turn into a second, part-time career.

“I do everything,” she says. “Wiring, dry wall, plumbing, you name it. It’s something we both really enjoy. In about five years when our son has graduated from university, we hope to launch our own renovation business and work for half the year then travel for the other half.”

At a time when most busy executives are looking forward to slowing down and taking things a little easier, this youthful 50-year-old is only just hitting her stride. Throughout her career, she’s blazed a trail for other women in the technology sector. Now she’s intends to do it all over again in the renovation and contracting field.

“For me it’s always been about learning, growing – and having fun! If these three conditions are being met you can’t help but succeed in what you choose to do.”

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