Breaking down boundaries for women in trades

Candace Grycan knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the trades like her father. She also understood the route to get there would be along the road less travelled by women.

What she didn’t realize is that she would become a role model for future generations of young girls wanting a career typically dominated by men.

“When I first applied for school I had no idea what power engineering was,” says Candace. “I thought I could give it a go with the possibility of loving it and if not, I would try something else. It just so happens that I really love what I do.”

Candace was one of just four women in a class of 40 at Portage College in Lac La Biche, Alberta. She completed her fourth class power engineering and started her career at Syncrude in 2007 as a field process operator in Hydrotreating.

Candace understood when she started that she would be one of few women in the role.

In 2017, she became the first female in Syncrude history to receive certification as a panel operator in the Hydrotreating area. Candace’s journey to become a panel operator, much like her experience to become a power engineer, did not come without its tests and challenges.

“One of the most difficult parts of the training is with the Hydrotreating unit simulator where the panel trainee starts up and shuts down the units, troubleshoots different process areas and mitigates emergency scenarios,” says Lyall MacDonald, Senior Operations Technician. “

Candace showed an excellent understanding, willingness to learn and determination to succeed throughout the entire process. There were many hours of on-the-job training, written skills testing and simulation training before Candace earned the stamp of approval.

lyall macdonald

“This role definitely took me outside of my comfort zone. I was the only woman on the job but I knew I was capable, qualified and ready,” says Candace.

Her efforts helped not only open up doors for her own career but also for other female tradespeople as well as those in nontraditional careers at Syncrude.

“Without the team I work with, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she says. “They’ve helped me every step of the way.”

Today, a typical day for Candace consists of monitoring and adjusting to optimize the efficiency of the operating units she is working on to keep them safe, reliable and profitable.

“I’m very proud to be in my role and I really love what I do.”

Candace’s tale helps to inspire others and change the face of industry by building a better future for women in trades.

“My advice to others working in male-dominated lines is simple: don’t give up, work hard and learn everything you possibly can. If there is something you want to do – don’t be afraid to try.”

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