Seventeen years ago, aspiring engineer Farheen Akbar left her native Bangladesh – where few opportunities existed for the determined young woman – for Montreal in order to pursue her dream.
Despite not speaking French and only knowing functional English, Farheen earned a degree in electric engineering from Concordia University, completed co-op internship program and finished two work terms at Ericsson Canada where she was hired as an integration and verification engineer.
Farheen and her husband, who is also an engineer, left Montreal to be a part of the Alberta’s booming energy industry in 2008, a move she has never regretted.
Farheen landed a project engineer job with Enerflex Ltd. where she worked for two years before moving on to Tarpon Energy Services Ltd. She became involved in the construction of modular E-houses for oil and gas facilities.
“It was an excellent hands-on opportunity overseeing projects being built in the mod yard,” she recalls.
Other positions followed with other engineering, procurement and other construction firms before landing what she describes as her dream job with Calgary-based Gas Liquids Engineering.
Farheen said she enjoys not only “wearing several hats” but being involved in all phases of a project.
Many of the company’s recent contracts involve clean tech projects that she is particularly passionate about such as biofuels plants.
Her most recent project involved working with the control and automation team for commissioning and start-up of a sour gas plant in the Grande Prairie area.
“That project allowed me to see whole design package coming to life,” she said. “I experienced the integration among process, mechanical, instrumentation, electrical and control systems. And that point on I was able to optimize and tune up process as needed and could really see the differences my work can make. That is very rewarding.”
The was completed at the peak of the COVID pandemic.
“In this time of social and economic crisis, having a team that is driven and resilient made a big difference. We were able to complete it on schedule despite numerous complexities. I had an amazing mentor to guide me throughout this journey,” she said.
Farheen said she was attracted to the industry because of the possibility for innovation. The mother of two says she would not have been able to achieve the success she has without the help of numerous mentors at university and at her workplaces.
She said she believes Canada’s large number of talented engineers and industry professionals will play a key role in the industry’s recovery.
As an immigrant who overcame the language and other challenges, she said it’s in her make-up to be flexible.
“Change is inevitable and how we brave through the changes is a key to success,” said Farheen. “I’ve faced many challenges and I had to be flexible and adaptable. I see the energy sector facing a similar challenge. Once we know the compelling vision, I have no doubt the energy sector will prove to be extraordinarily flexible, adaptable and able to pivot from a place of ‘creatively building future’ but not from ‘reacting to challenges.”
Farheen said she is committed to helping women overcome obstacles and succeed.
“Coming from a patriarchal society, it’s important to me,” she said.
She volunteers with several organizations including the SDG hub at the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation and the Calgary Public Library. Currently Farheen sits on the Women in Entrepreneurship Day organization advisory board. She is a former co-chair of the Women in Leadership Foundation.
As for the future of the energy industry, Farheen sees “it will be more defined by innovation and creativity than traditional approaches.
She is proud of her role as an engineer and sees herself continuing to thrive in her job.
“I don’t envision a specific role or job. I am an individual that likes and wants to drive fruitful change. Whatever position I am in I will be concentrating on finding real time solutions by bringing brilliant minds together to drive solutions,” she said.