Ursula Susunaga received an Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Niagara College in 2014 and spent a year as Research Assistant with Research & Innovation during her last year of studies. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lakehead University in 2016. She accepted a role that same year with PIA Automation Canada Inc. (Toronto), first in Applications Engineering and currently in Project Engineering and Support
Tell us about where you work:
PIA Automation is a global group of companies that offer complex and efficient solutions in automation. We have facilities in China, Germany, Austria, USA, and Canada. At PIA Canada we develop and manufacture customized assembly, measurement and testing systems for the automotive Industry (mostly in powertrain and e-mobility).
Describe your role and what you like about it:
As Project Engineering and Support, my current job requires me to support project managers on incoming material status, assembly status, customer parts status and running machine test parts. With this new position, I had the opportunity to go as an on-site supervisor for the installation and commissioning of one of our assembly lines in Mexico. I was responsible for solving any issues that presented themselves as we started to run parts through the line and assigning the correct resource to the different tasks that we had to handle day-by-day. Speaking Spanish was a positive advantage as I helped my team communicate with our Mexican customers and vice versa.
How has your Research & Innovation experience helped you prepare for your current role?
R&I introduced me to the world of an integrator, which is responsible for providing a turnkey solution from combining several subsystems to work together as one large system.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
I had the opportunity to work on a project with W.S. Tyler in St. Catharines to automate one of their loom machines. In this project, I had to analyze the process and try to replicate it with an automated system. We simulated the process by adding a robot to the cell. After thorough analysis, it was determined that their output of mesh screens would increase if they invested in automating the stations. It was then when W.S. Tyler decided to go forward and invest half a million dollars on this project.
“Keep up the hard work; it will pay off a little later in life. Don’t give up!”
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
Niagara College seemed a good school to prepare me, not only with hands-on experiences but also with the right knowledge to enter the workforce.
Most memorable experience at NC?
Being able to design, from scratch, a log splitter for my last year’s final project.
A faculty member who influenced you?
Professors Neil Walker and Rick Baldin.
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
Keep up the hard work; it will pay off a little later in life. Don’t give up!
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
I’ve learned that school teaches you about deadlines and hard work. It gives you the bases so you can then solve problems on your own. But, in reality, you don’t stop learning after school; every day is a new day, new project, new problem, and it is up to you to find the resources to make it work.
Proudest achievement since graduating?
After graduating from college, I decided to go to Lakehead University to finish my Mechanical Engineering Degree. Now, I am a registered EIT. I have passed my ethics exam and now I’m just waiting to achieve my required work experience so I can get my P.Eng designation.
What are your interests outside of work?
Outside of work, I like to dance and run by the water (especially in the summer).
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
Believe in yourself. You are enough.