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Alumni Spotlight: Get To Know Annabella von Frankenberg

In our last edition of Alumni Spotlight, get to know Annabella von Frankenberg, a TMU Electrical Engineering graduate from 2018. Annabella currently works as a Project Engineer at Alstom Transportation and as a Junior Project Manager at OYA Solar. Here’s what she had to say about the highlights of her undergraduate experience and how they have led her to success in the field.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I graduated from TMU in 2018. I studied Electrical Engineering. I currently wearing two hats! I work for Alstom Transportation as a Project Engineer. I’m currently working on a vehicle project. What that means is we have existing diesel vehicles that we’re retrofitting with Siemens driverless technology device called CBTC. So by the end of the project, we won’t necessarily require operators on board the vehicles, their vehicles can drive themselves. 

As for my second job, I’m a Junior Project Manager at OYA Solar in Toronto, where we build solar farms. Currently, we’re building about 85 megawatts of solar farms in North America and we have about five ongoing projects on which I’m a Junior Project Manager.

What was your time at TMU like? And what were some of your fondest memories when you think back?

I think my fondest memories definitely would be all the times I worked with the First Year Engineering Office or Women in Engineering, or when I was a Nesby. I had a lot of fun, volunteering, meeting people running for five different elections and only winning two or three. So in that process, I got to meet so many amazing people. I got to learn more about the university than I did in my first four years of school. And it was definitely one of the most fun times staying up late to bake cookies and cupcakes for an election to sway kids to vote for us. Really didn’t work, but we did it anyway!

What were some of the different groups and activities you were involved in?

I became a First-Year Ambassador lead, and then I was also president of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Have any of your university experiences helped you with the work that you do today?

I think being a First-Year Ambassador, I learned to work with and talk to a very diverse group of individuals. So because of that, I’m comfortable in any setting. And it’s the same with running for multiple positions. I’m comfortable putting myself out there trying even though I don’t have a shot at winning. 

How do you think TMU Engineering set you up for success?

I think TMU is very hands-on in the way the courses are structured. You have a lot of labs and a lot of tutorials that force you to actually practise the theory that you’re learning so fast. For example, the coding labs that we had forced you to actually practice the coding series from classes, so I definitely learned how to put theory into practice.

What advice would you give to current students?

I would say enjoy it. Really, because you don’t have time!  Enjoy the process. The reason why I say that is you can go through the monotony of just attending the classes and get average marks, but that doesn’t really help you as an individual. What does help you is gaining the experience and the knowledge of those courses. 

I think the last thing would be to pick courses that you would actually enjoy. I remember picking a course that my friends were joining and I didn’t want to be alone in another class because I wouldn’t have any friends there––I don’t know why I did it. It was such a waste of time. I should never have done it. I should have done more power focus courses that I wanted to do. To this day, I regret not taking power courses at university because they would have helped me with my job. I would have been a better electrical engineer had I taken power courses.

What advice would you give to like graduating seniors, people that are just starting on their job hunt or people that are trying to secure jobs? 

Your network is your greatest resource, be it your LinkedIn friends or your actual peers. It’s not just about you going to school, or you being in a job. It’s also about the lifelong connections that you create. The people around you are your greatest tool when searching for a job. Don’t forget about your peers. Don’t forget about your mentors. Don’t forget about your LinkedIn connections. When searching for a job, I’ve actually gotten more jobs through my connections than I have from applying to jobs.

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