Kate Sunabacka says when she arrived at NSCC’s Technology Showcase with Women Unlimited in 2017, her life finally fell into focus.
“I needed a total change professionally and personally,” says Kate, who had a solid background in retail management before coming to NSCC. “I was burnt out and wanted something more.”
As a mature student, Kate says she was looking for a program that could bring together her experience in trades, her creativity, curiosity and desire to work directly with people. For a time, she wasn’t sure it existed, but remained hopeful that Women Unlimited could help her find out.
“Their mission and vision really spoke to me,” says Kate. “It’s about skill building and empowerment. They allowed me to test drive a bunch of NSCC programs to see what one was the best fit. It’s cliché, but they said I’d get goosebumps when I found the right program.”
“They were right,” says Kate. “I met a wonderful woman during the Technology Showcase — Jalana Morton. She was a Women Unlimited graduate too, and she was displaying her project for the Industrial Engineering Technology program. I asked so many questions. I realized that the program aligned with how my brain works and processes information — always improving, digging deeper and finding out more.”
Kate says that as an African Nova Scotian woman, she was also encouraged to see another woman of colour representing the program.
“Women of colour and women in general are so heavily underrepresented in trades and tech. Here was someone who I identified with, telling me about a program that was all the things that I’d been looking for. It brought together how I think innately — who I am and what I love in one program.”
Not only did she find success academically in the program — ultimately being named one of Ivany Campus’s 2019 valedictorians — Kate also discovered unique learning opportunities with NSCC International.
An international mission
“Industrial Engineering Technology is business meets engineering,” says Kate. “It focuses on process optimization, reducing wastes and identifying inefficiencies in areas from people and logistics to transportation and manufacturing. You can use the skills in any industry.”
In 2018 and 2019, Kate lent her skills to NSCC International-led education projects in Vietnam and Peru. In Vietnam, Kate and her teammates partnered with students from Tra Vinh University to promote entrepreneurship in the Mekong Delta region. In Peru, Anne McDonah, an NSCC instructor, led Kate and a team of students on a mission to assist local women entrepreneurs in starting and growing their small businesses.
As the only Industrial Engineering Technology student on the mission in Peru, Kate says she was very busy. “I helped with everything from getting them to think about inventory management — so you don't lose on sales — to allocating profits and reinvesting funds back into the business to keep the flow of materials consistent.”
She adds, “A lot of them weren't paying themselves. It blew their mind that they could and inspired even more ideas about developing their businesses.”
The Peruvian mission was particularly memorable for Kate as she was encouraged by Anne to take on a leadership role. “Some of the women were hesitant to present their products to us — almost like they weren’t good enough — but having another woman there to facilitate the learning really lifted them up. Seeing women lead together in this way was so empowering.”
Because of her strong desire to help the women succeed and enjoy the educational experience, Kate feels she learned just as much during the mission as the entrepreneurs.
“It was an incredibly grounding and humbling experience that’s changed me as a person. I am so blessed.”