Get to Know: Some of the Women in Science at Hydro

February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To mark that occasion we spoke with three employees at Hydro to ask what got them interested in science and how they feel about encouraging the next generation.

Top Left: Molly Cypher; Top Right: Patricia Ly; Bottom: Stephanie Molloy

Molly Cypher is an Environmental Advisor with Hydro. Molly grew up in Michigan but worked on various major construction projects in the Energy Sector, in Western Canada before joining Hydro. It was out West that she met her Newfoundlander husband, and they now call St. John’s home with their daughters Eliza and Alice, and their cocker spaniel, Copper. Molly has a Bachelor of Science from Michigan Technological University in Applied Ecology & Environmental Science, as well as her Master of Science degree from the University of Bath (UK) in International Construction Management. Combined, these degrees give Molly a strong understanding of how to minimize negative impacts and optimize positive outcomes when developing energy projects. This directly ties to her role with Hydro as she works to ensure our company is complying with environmental regulations, mitigating and monitoring effects of our operations.

Stephanie Molloy is a Chemical Technologist at our Holyrood Thermal Generating Station. During the last 15 years, Stephanie has worked within the environmental and energy sectors as part of teams that focus on how to best use basic production models to solve organizational and production related challenges in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. Stephanie’s current role with us allows her to directly apply the principles she learned from her Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) from Memorial University, to the work she does every day. As a chemical technologist, Stephanie monitors various water and wastewater parameters to help prevent equipment damage. Abnormalities in water quality can be a precursor of other issues so, through detailed analysis, serious issues can be prevented by reading this data and taking the necessary precautions.

Patricia Ly is a Software Specialist with Hydro. Patricia has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Education (High School). She primarily taught science, math and computers to adults in the Adult Basic Education program with the Career Academy before re-evaluating her career, and pursuing the ABIT program (Applied Business Information Technology) at College of the North Atlantic. For the past 18 years, Patricia has been working with Hydro, developing and supporting software applications that are crucial to our business operations.

Let’s start at the beginning, when did you first get interested in science and how did that influence your education and career path?

Molly: I was one of those kids who struggled with spelling and reading, so sciences and math were the fun subjects. In grade six I wrote an autobiography on how I wanted to be a marine biologist or an environmental scientist (not really knowing what they really do), those positions just really looked cool on TV.

Stephanie: I would say that my love of cooking and baking lead to my interest in chemistry. Chemistry and cooking are so similar – for both, you combine materials, or apply heat, with precision, to achieve your desired result. Comparisons to a kitchen and laboratory are astonishing with lots of rewarding possibilities.

Patricia: I always loved science and math in school. I excelled in these courses and decided to do a Bachelor of Science at Memorial University. When I finished my degree, I felt I wanted to teach science to students in high school so I completed my education degree also. After teaching for a year, I was fortunate to get a job teaching adults science, math and computers in an ABE (Adult Basic Education) course for six years; that’s what sparked my interest in computers and programming. I decided on a career change, completed my ABIT course at CNA, and have now been working in programming for over 23 years!

Do you remember facing any barriers to pursuing science along the way, either growing up or in university? And have you seen a change in attitudes towards women in science over the years?

Molly: I didn’t really experience barriers growing up, besides being underrepresented in the STEM fields. The ratio at my university, when I attended, was 13:1 men to women so it’s sometimes hard to see yourself in these roles if you are a minority. The biggest barriers came in my career working in the construction industry, dealing with biases or harassment. However, I have found as I got older, and changed companies, those issues occurred less and less. It was a combination between building confidence, finding your allies, and the workplace environment and culture changing for the better.

Stephanie: In university, I found pursuing a degree in Chemistry to be rather lonely and isolating as there weren’t many people, or women, in the program. As a result it could be intimidating and difficult to network. Underrepresented groups need role models who also serve as advocates. Women and other underrepresented individuals need more advocates, not just mentorship. Mentors give advice, while advocates use their station to help promote good, underrepresented scientists to achieve greater consideration and more recognition. I have had the pleasure of working with advocates that mentored me along my journey in STEM.

Patricia: I always had great teachers in school who had a love for science, always making it interesting and relating it to the real world. Since my career path was in biology and education, most of the classes were equally women and men. In the past, if a woman chose a male dominated career path, they may have been ridiculed by their male counterparts which would either discourage women from choosing these careers altogether or cause them to quit before they even got a chance to excel. Over the past 40 years, I have seen a significant shift in attitude towards women being encouraged to go into careers that were predominantly male, which is very encouraging.

What advice would you give to a young girl who wants to pursue science as a career?

Molly: Always be you and nothing less. Be proud of the path you are taking, but don’t drag down others to make your way. In order to be successful in the world, you need your allies, your cheerleaders and your mentors. Find them, and when you do, hold on tight as they will get you through your hard times.

Stephanie: Don’t be afraid to be creative. We wouldn’t see the incredible innovations in the world today without creativity. The landscape for new employees and the next generation of scientists is changing vastly. By including others that have a different perspective, it can lead to better ideas, innovations, and ways of working. Diversity is the future.

Patricia: If you are truly interested in a career in a science-related field, don’t let ANYONE stop you! You are in charge of your future and don’t let anyone get in the way. Be strong and stand up for what you believe in.

What is it about working at Hydro that you are most proud of?

Molly: I am so proud to have Jennifer at our helm. Having a leader that actually cares and will support you when asked is amazing! Having the opportunity to have one on one conversations with her and knowing the effort that she puts forward for this organization, as well as many others, makes me proud to work for this organization.

Stephanie: Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed within Hydro and I have made some lifelong friends. It’s hard work, but working together with a great team on incredible projects is very fulfilling. It’s also a great place to learn. I’m surrounded by colleagues with a variety of different backgrounds, education and skill sets which means I’m continuously learning from the great minds and perspectives that surround me in the workplace.

Patricia: The people I have worked with at Hydro over the last 18 years have been AWESOME. Such a wealth of knowledge and they are always there to help. I try to reciprocate this back and am always there to help however I can. Also, the safety culture here at Hydro is above and beyond the norm. This culture has taught me how to be safe in my work life and my home life. Through this, I have taught my son/husband to also live a life where safety always comes first for yourself and others.