Photo Courtesy: Toni Nicole Photography
Deanna Burgart – 2017 Woman of Inspiration Award – Trailblazer
President and CEO, Indigenous Engineering Inclusion Inc. @DeannaBurgart
I started my journey in engineering in 1997 as a single mother with a young son to support. I was attending Bow Valley College where I needed to finish upgrading to obtain my high school diploma. It was there I discovered my love of Chemistry and Calculus. Instructors and mentors encouraged me to keep applying for post-secondary education. I was excited to be accepted into SAIT’s Chemical Engineering Technology program. After I graduated, I worked in several roles in the upstream petroleum industry, always integrating my passion for sustainability into the positions in the areas of regulatory and environmental compliance. I developed a passion for teaching, accepting part-time contract roles at SAIT, and started mentoring young women through Cybermentor.
In 2007 I decided to go back to school to further my education for a unique transfer program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay in the Chemical Engineering program. My husband was incredibly supportive, and we decided to sell our house in Calgary and move the family to Thunder Bay so I could pursue my engineering degree. It was then that I discovered my passion for speaking and sharing my journey to encourage youth to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for the betterment of society. My first talk, entitled “Engineering our Water”, was developed as part of a scholarship requirement for the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation Aboriginal, Women in Engineering award. Part of the application process required me to present “An Engineers Duty to Society” to an audience of Indigenous youth. I won the scholarship in 2008 but, more importantly, I learned that there was value in my story. My journey could help others with theirs.
For the past ten years, I have spoken to hundreds of students from K – 12 about my journey, about the challenges, the lessons, and the power of having mentors. A year and a half ago, I left the energy industry and started my consultancy focused on bridging the gaps between industry and Indigenous communities, assisting in the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action to the business and education communities and Indigenous youth STEM outreach. I hope my efforts will cause a ripple effect that will impact anyone looking to find their purpose, passion and voice. I am grateful to now be working with several post-secondary institutions, government, industry, communities and youth to inspire the understanding that Indigenous perspectives add incredible value to the future of energy and sustainability. I believe that greater Indigenous inclusion in development will result in a more sustainable future with greater respect for the economy, the environment, the communities and culture. I am looking forward to the next ten years in this beautiful new space I have created. In the words of Steve Farber, “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” I am!
What qualities did you believe made an inspiring woman?
I’m inspired by women who are courageous. Women who support other women, speak their truth, follow their passion and lift others. I am inspired by women who are not swayed by naysayers or negativity. Women who get back up after a setback. Women who are resilient and overcome obstacles. Women who are committed to continuous growth, learning, development and improvement but who are also in love with who they are and appreciate how far they have come.
What can we learn from you that can impact other women to succeed personally and professionally?
I would like other women to believe in and love themselves. To be fiercely compassionate with themselves on their journey. Deanna Burgart - 2017 Woman of Inspiration Award Trailblazer Click To Tweet. To listen to their heart, their intuition, their passion and to embrace their purpose. To forgive their humanity, failures, mistakes and fear – and boldly be who they are meant to be. To see themselves through the eyes of their loved ones and know that they are worth it.
How do you overcome challenges? What keeps you motivated?
One of my greatest motivators is my children. I want to be an example to them. I continue to overcome challenges with the help of my friends, family, and mentors. I have many people I have surrounded myself with that believe in me even when I struggle to believe in myself.
At what point did you realize that you had the power to do something meaningful?
After one of my first youth career talks, I was approached by a young woman who confided in me that she had just found out she was expecting. After hearing my story, she was hopeful that she too could make a great life for herself. As a former teen, single mom, my story brought me so much guilt and shame. It was meaningful that inspired a woman not to give up no matter what curve balls life threw at them.
What are your keys to success?
One key is self-care and living in the moment. We live in a society that pushes us to always strive for better, for more. When we are constantly striving, we exist in a place of not being “enough”. I feel it’s important to love and acknowledge where we are and how far we have come every step of the journey. Another key for me is accepting support from others, and offering it in return to pay it forward.
As an Ambassador of Women of Inspiration how will you continue to inspire, lead, and motivate others?
I hope to have the opportunity to continue to share my journey with authenticity, vulnerability and humility as I continue to step out of my comfort zone and follow my dreams.
How has this experience impacted you personally and professionally?
The timing of this award was beyond serendipitous. It came at a time of transformation for me, when I was still on shaky footing as to whether I was doing the right thing. This award provided me with the encouragement that I was on the right path and should continue moving forward. It was a catalyst for me to find my voice in this new direction. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.