Program manager’s expertise embodied by versatility

Amal Driouich

It doesn’t say it on any of her degrees or professional credentials, but Amal Driouich is a versatile engineer.

In title, she’s technically an industrial engineer who recently earned her Professional Engineer (P.Eng) designation. But to be an industrial engineer, Driouich had to take courses in civil, electrical, chemical, software and mechanical engineering. She also had to study accounting, finance and project management – all to become the whole, versatile engineer package who can optimize or design systems, improve processes, manage resources, projects, and stakeholders to achieve the desired outcomes.

“It’s putting together the pieces of the puzzle to form that big picture. It’s thinking about what is the most efficient way to run a system,” Driouich says. “I don’t mind getting into the details and figuring out how something works. I enjoy challenges.”

Fortunately for her, there’s no shortage of challenges in her role as research program manager with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC). Driouich is the one who oversees the planning and execution of industry projects in advanced manufacturing.

She puts together all those puzzle pieces to bring ideas to life for industry partners who know what they want to achieve but don’t always know the steps to get there.

“I don’t mind getting into the details and figuring out how something works. I enjoy challenges.”

Growing up in Morocco, some of Driouich’s happiest moments came while doing math at school. She had a natural aptitude for figuring out numbers. It wasn’t lost on those who taught her, who encouraged her to become an engineer.

Similar to the people she works with today, Driouich wasn’t sure how to do that, mostly because she didn’t know what an engineer was.

“My math and physics teachers kept encouraging me to pursue an engineering career,” she recalled. “I said, ‘OK, tell me what engineers do?’”

Whatever they said convinced her. She enrolled in industrial engineering in university in Morocco, completing her undergraduate degree before doing her master’s in mechanical engineering with a specialization in industrial engineering at Laval University in Quebec.

As a woman, she was in the minority in those engineering classes in Morocco. Driouich expected that to change in Canada, but she recalled the gender imbalance being even greater. That is why in her spare time, through various volunteer roles – including as chair of the Toronto chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and her involvement with Women in Nuclear’s Golden Horseshoe chapter – she encourages girls to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) subjects – the E, in particular.

“It seems the gender imbalance in engineering is a worldwide issue. I feel really happy when I see a girl who is a software programmer, mechanical engineer or electrical engineer,” Driouich said. “I’ve met a lot of capable women in the field. There’s that aspect that they had to be quiet about their capabilities – they’re not as vocal as men – but there are very capable girls in the field.”

When she’s not in work mode, Driouich unwinds by gardening, meditating, spending time with her husband and three children, and cooking.

Moroccan desserts, including cookies, pastries, and cakes, are one of her specialties. They are distinct in their aromas and ingredients. One crowd favourite, called Kaab El Ghazal, is made of almond paste flavoured with orange blossom water and cinnamon, molded into a thin dough, and then baked until barely golden.

Kind of like her work as an industrial engineer, Driouich also loves creating recipes, bringing ingredients together for something entirely new or improved. Take her pizza. Driouich has clearly optimized the system for making pie to get the desired outcome, like only a versatile engineer would.

“My kids love it,” she says. “They always tell me they love the pizza I prepare more than any other pizza offered in the market.”