From co-op to a career in manufacturing – Liliana McIntosh’s journey

Liliana McIntosh, the Mechanical Engineering Research Technician with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), always knew she wanted to work in mechanics and manufacturing, and it runs in her blood.

Both her father and brother are Millwrights, so pursuing a career in manufacturing was a natural fit for her. She grew up in Niagara, living a mere 20 minutes away from Welland in West Lincoln, and to top it all off, her brother took the Mechanical Engineering program for two years at Niagara College, so she was very familiar with the Welland campus.

With all those things in place, during high school, she wanted to participate in a co-op to learn more about the manufacturing industry, having already received her Red Seal certification, which is a program that sets nationally recognized standards for designated trades like electricians. Her high school co-op teacher presented students with various options in STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math), and WAMIC resonated with Liliana’s career aspirations. She was accepted as part of the first cohort of high school students who could complete their co-op with WAMIC.

Little did she know that her high school co-op would start her on a career pathway with WAMIC. As a Niagara College (NC) student, she worked part-time and completed co-op placements at WAMIC. Upon graduating from the Mechanical Engineering Technology Co-op program at NC in May 2022, she transitioned into the role of a Research Associate. When that position was wrapping up in May 2023, she applied for and earned a part-time Research Technician role.

“This journey (with WAMIC) has provided invaluable insights into my professional interests, including product design, report work, and industrial design,” she said. “The positive experiences I have had working for WAMIC motivated me to continue contributing my skills and expertise in this environment,” she said.

In her current role as a Mechanical Engineering Research Technician, she provides support wherever needed. This includes actively participating in ongoing projects, delivering technical services, and assisting students in their endeavors. She also writes any technical documents needed on equipment policies or safety procedures for the lab.

Right now, she’s working on three projects spanning the athletic, medical, and manufacturing fields. “I am also involved in diverse technical service assignments that come through WAMIC, but the initial design phase of a new product is what truly excites me,” notes Liliana. “I thoroughly enjoy the process of sketching prototype concepts and subsequently transforming them into reality using CAD software such as Inventor,” she said.

“Working with WAMIC offers a wealth of learning opportunities. It’s essential to embrace and leverage the available technologies and the team is consistently friendly, and colleagues actively support your growth and development along your professional journey.”

– Liliana McIntosh, Mechanical Engineering Research Technician, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

In five or 10 years, Liliana envisions herself continuing to make meaningful contributions within the research and innovation field, further refining her expertise.

Outside of work hours, you will find Liliana taking care of a slew of different animals at the barn her and her dad built, including alpacas, ducks, swans, cats and a recent addition, Melon – the jumping spider! Not surprisingly, she also enjoys various creative hobbies such as sculpting, gaming, embroidery, painting, and using her 3D printer.

As she has grown in her career at WAMIC, Liliana finds mentoring current students to be a real high point: “I always encourage students to ask questions. Nobody will shoot you down for asking to learn something new, in fact, I think it shows initiative, and I appreciate when a student comes up to us and asks how to use a machine because we will teach them,” said Liliana.

To any prospective hire or student who is interested in working with WAMIC, Liliana would tell you, just do it!  “Working with WAMIC offers a wealth of learning opportunities. It’s essential to embrace and leverage the available technologies and the team is consistently friendly, and colleagues actively support your growth and development along your professional journey,” she said.

Of course, being a woman in STEM, she encourages any women or girls to chase their dreams and consider a career in this field. “STEM offers a multitude of opportunities for growth, creativity, and making a positive impact,” said Liliana.

When it comes down to it, Liliana is humble and grateful to everyone she has worked alongside with at WAMIC for the opportunities and experiences gained through her work at WAMIC.

“It has been a rewarding journey, allowing me to explore my interests, develop new skills, and contribute to innovative projects. I am excited about the future at WAMIC and eager to continue making a difference in the research and innovation field,” said Liliana.

Visit the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre website, or if you have a project idea to share, contact David DiPietro, Manager, Business Development, at [email protected].