New advanced manufacturing Project Manager thrives on innovative ideas

If you happen to find her sitting quietly, deep in thought, there’s a good chance Amal Driouich is either mulling over a complex mathematical equation or contemplating a steady stream of creative ideas and inventions. And she’d be savouring every minute of it.

As it happens, it’s her favourite way to spend any free time: A deliberate free flow of thinking that combines conventional reasoning with creative intuition. She describes it as her form of meditation, all with the purpose to drive innovation and bring real change to the world. For someone whose second nature is to solve problems, Amal is in her element in her new role as Research Project Manager for the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College.

“I always have new ideas … I thrive on it,” she says. “I love when reality meets innovation and when I see research resulting in something people can benefit from.”

With expertise in project management, this mechanical and industrial engineer comes to NC with a successful history in leading all phases of diverse technology, engineering, and applied research projects. As a result, she has developed innovative advanced manufacturing solutions within industries in Ontario and across Canada.

Most recently, as Project Manager for Oakville-based Promation, an automation manufacturing company with nuclear, automotive, and industrial divisions, Amal led teams across broad technical fields in researching ideas for the advanced manufacturing industry and the development of 3D metal printing systems to serve the nuclear industry, as well as other markets.

While the nuclear field remains heavily male dominated, Amal says it’s also an industry that encourages female engineers. “I like the way they fight for women,” she says, adding, it’s also the reason why she joined Women in Nuclear Canada (Golden Horseshoe chapter), a non-profit that aims to promote the role of women in nuclear and radiation-related industries by providing mentoring, networking, and personal development initiatives.

After a number of years conducting challenging engineering research in the nuclear industry, it was the applied research framework that drew her away from the private sector and to Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division earlier this spring.

 “I am amazed by the variety and the number of applied innovations already developed within WAMIC, and by the skilled students being trained in new technologies.”

Amal is responsible for the oversight and development of all applied research projects in WAMIC’s labs, specializing in 3D technologies, engineering design, and additive manufacturing, all to help key industries with innovative prototype development or process improvement. She will bring together faculty, staff, students, and industry partners.

“As part of the WAMIC team, I am excited about helping small- and medium-sized companies develop and adopt innovative technologies to create new products and enhance existing processes,” she says. “And I will be delighted to see them grow, expand into new markets, and build their competitiveness both nationally and internationally.”

“I love when reality meets innovation and when I see research resulting in something people can benefit from.”

The beginnings of Amal’s engineering mind date back to her younger years when she would dismantle all of her toys to discover the inner workings. (Interestingly, a mother of three, she finds her middle son doing the same thing with his toys.) Once in school, she stood out amongst her peers in academics, and specifically in mathematics – though she continues to love the arts as well, philosophy and creative writing in particular.

But it was her special relationship to and mastery of mathematics that drew notice from her professors who would ask her to demonstrate to her classmates how she would arrive at a particular solution.

“I always had my own ways to solve the problems,” she explains. “I just followed my intuition and would sit and think and think and think.”

Amal’s formal engineering schooling began in her home country of Morocco, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked as a Project Manager for another university. When she arrived in Canada (Quebec) in 2010, she discovered a new set of engineering regulations and decided to attend Laval University to work as a Research Associate while completing her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus on Project Management and Systems Optimization.

The thing about project management, she says, is that it fits perfectly with her nature. She would much rather leave the minutia to those who focus on such details, in order for her to mediate over the big picture.

“It’s what drives me. I like those complex problems that involve many disciplines. I enjoy working with all of these people,” says Amal, adding that she often is mistaken for being “quiet” in nature, when in fact she loves interacting with others and considers herself extroverted. She’s also fluent in Arabic, French, and English.

Together with getting up to date on the many applied research projects at the advanced manufacturing labs, Amal is in the final stages of receiving both her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification as well as her Professional Engineering (PEng) designation.

In addition to her volunteer duties at the Women in Nuclear organization, Amal is the Chair-Elect for the Toronto chapter of SME – the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, an association of professionals, educators, and students to help manufacturers innovate and develop a skilled workforce.

In her free time, she and her husband and children enjoy camping trips and family-time watching movies, preparing cakes, and playing board games or fun sports.