It is commonly known that inequalities exist when it comes to women in STEM-related fields. Cindy Chong, a civil engineer from Richmond Hill in the Greater Toronto Area, does not fit this mold.

As a child, Cindy enjoyed constructing structures and seeing how they worked. Her interest was first sparked in elementary school, when for a school project she was required to build a bridge constructed of common household items. She employed the help of her father, who was a civil engineer. What started as a school assignment became much more to Cindy Chong. Cindy’s father challenged her to see how much weight her bridge could bear. Cindy made adjustments until she was satisfied. From that point forward, she vowed to become a civil engineer.

After earning a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2013, Cindy Chong held several different contract positions. Throughout her career, Cindy has mostly helped with residential condo projects in the Greater Toronto Area. Cindy Chong strives to come up with new and innovative ways to construct these projects so that they don’t become stale.

Cindy Chong has been particularly inspired by the subway expansion project through which the subway system was expanded to Vaughan in 2017. She hopes to be involved in the upcoming planned expansion out to Richmond Hill.

Cindy Chong lives in Richmond Hill with her husband and her newborn son. She continues to research civil engineering projects on a daily basis to get inspired and seek out new knowledge.

Where did the idea for Randstad come from?

My father was a civil engineer, so partly I was born into it. My father would come home with different blueprints every day and I was fascinated. When I was in elementary school, I had to do one of those projects where you build a bridge. I asked for my dad’s help and instead of telling me what I should do, he took me to the library and directed me to certain books to try and figure it out that way. When I finished the bridge, I remember my dad put soup cans on it to see how much weight it could take before buckling. I started looking at blueprints differently then and started thinking that someday I’d be the one bringing them home.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Right now, while I’m on maternity leave it varies. I will get up with my son, sometimes after a sleepless night, and drink a coffee with him on my lap and read the newspaper. Usually, when he goes down for a nap, I will use the time to myself to research new engineering projects and trends around the world. It is important to stay updated. Some days I will connect with my team to see where we’re at with everything and certain projects.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always write things down and then even draw sketches to try and visualize ideas in my head before putting them anywhere else. Usually, I will mull ideas over by myself for about a week because what may seem like a good idea one day doesn’t seem like a good idea the next day. Then once I’m happy with my adjustments, I will move it forward to one of my peers for brainstorming sessions. I believe collaboration is key.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m really excited about the concepts of green roofs, basically flat roofs that include plants. They call Toronto the concrete jungle for a reason. The good thing about green roofs is that they solve environmental problems and are also recreational usually. An example is the one on top of The Big Carrot grocery store in Toronto on the Danforth. It has an area that has a garden and a nice event space.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Just the fact that I’m constantly researching new ideas. You have to realize that you don’t have all the answers. It’s always good to see what else is out there because it can help you develop your own ideas into actual concepts.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Honestly, I would tell the young Cindy Chong to put the book down once in a while. My studious nature really put me in this ‘shell,’ and I became really introverted. When I got older, this trait made networking really difficult. I’m still naturally introverted, and I wish I would have put myself out there more when I was younger.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Always eat fresh and natural food over anything processed. If there is any ingredient listed on a food label that you can’t pronounce, you shouldn’t eat it. Anything natural is healthy.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I collaborate and work closely with my team. No person is an island and sometimes you just need that person to bounce ideas off of because sometimes when you explain something out loud it doesn’t sound as good as it did on paper. A lot of times that second person has ideas of their own to contribute to make the idea better and it can turn into something great.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being a member of civil engineering associations has really helped a lot. Meeting other professionals in the field helped me develop my own career and make important connections that will now last up until my retirement.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Once I had an idea that escalated too quickly. I developed the overall concept myself without bouncing it off anyone and took it to a higher level right away. The client ended up being unhappy and we had to scrap everything and start over. That’s why I focus a lot on teamwork now.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An app for architects and engineers that is user-friendly and allows you to easily map out projects. A lot of software out there is so expensive and not easily mobile.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I donated to an organization that encourages young women to be more engaged with STEM-related fields of study. We need to even the scale and I really enjoy helping this cause.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

It seems so basic, but Google Drive really helps to navigate projects. It allows you to work on one file with your co-workers at the same time. We even use the chat feature to stay connected with each other.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I think everyone should read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It has a lot of life lessons about overcoming obstacles.

What is your favorite quote?

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too,” – Paulo Coelho.

Key Learnings:

  • Read the newspaper every day.
  • Always look up new trends in your industry.
  • Join an association to build your network.
  • Collaboration is the key to success.