Donna Marie Lekey

Energetic Donna Marie Lekey is Worthy of All Her Accolades

When we sat down with Engineer-in-Training Donna Marie Lekey for a conversation on her career so far, the first thing she mentioned was imposter syndrome, feeling unworthy of our article on her. However, it quickly became evident to us that nothing could be further from the truth.  

When we reviewed our notes after our conversation with Donna Marie, and reflected on our meeting with her, descriptions of her such as “tenacious”, “humble”, and “strong,” came to mind.

The Beginning:

Donna Marie knows exactly what drew her to engineering but she calls the path to get there, “quite the journey.”

Her high school in Saskatoon was in a new neighborhood and taking the bus every morning to school, Donna Marie saw a community under development. She found herself fascinated by the gradual changes she was witnessing every day.  Once empty fields were growing into a community with infrastructure, roads, businesses, and homes. She says that looking out the school bus window at the changes all around her, “I knew I wanted to do that before I even knew what that was.”

A school career fair in Grade 11 would change her life by introducing her to Civil Engineering for the first time.

 Challenges Ahead:

Cultural norms and family expectations put up roadblocks for Donna Marie. When she told her dad she wanted to be a Civil Engineer his response was, “I don’t know any female engineers,” and instead encouraged her to adhere to their Filipino community traditions and pursue a career in teaching, nursing, or homemaking.     

There were other challenges too. As a result of her career choice, Donna Marie was to support herself throughout university, working part-time while simultaneously studying. She felt isolated in her male-dominated classes, and she struggled academically in her first year of university.  Donna Marie speaks about this time in her life as being incredibly challenging, feeling like she carried the weight of gender and cultural representation on her shoulders, and not knowing if she could do it.

However, her dad didn’t realize that his doubt would be like recurring fuel on Donna Marie’s fire.  She says, “I could make it. I knew I needed to pursue this,” so she adapted and persevered. Now, successfully graduated with her Civil Engineering degree and two years into her professional career, Donna Marie smiles every time she overhears her dad bragging about her to others. She is the first female engineer that he knows!     

Successfully Growing Her Career:

Today, Donna Marie is a Civil Engineer-in-Training in AECOM’s Water Division in Saskatoon. She credits her university co-op internship with introducing her to multi-disciplinary work, which lead her to consulting. The requirement in consulting to have strong communication skills and the involvement in the entire lifecycle of a project showed Donna Marie that consulting engineering was the right fit for her.

She says, “I thought consulting was just calculations and designs. I didn’t expect consultants to be involved in a project right from the proposal phase to construction inspection; from paper to real life.” She continues to be inspired by multi-disciplinary projects and the implementation of solutions for clients.

What makes a good consulting engineer? Donna Marie attributes her success so far to her strong soft skills and a willingness to learn.  She realized early on that communication and teamwork are key. From talking to technical experts to project managers, consulting engineering is all about collaboration; the safety talks, budget discussions, client meetings, and more.

With that understanding, Donna Marie also brings a willingness to learn; to understand the business side of consulting, to value time management and deadlines, to adapt to different roles in the field vs. office, and to gain additional training wherever possible for the continual enhancement of her technical skills.


Community Minded:

When we asked Donna Marie what she is most proud of, she didn’t speak on her many individual accomplishments (such as her university capstone project in which she presented to a national panel from the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and won 2nd place, or the large media following around her work on a contaminated site in Regina because of how the project improved the neighborhood). Instead, she tells us about how she re-established the Social Club in the office, building a sense of community amongst colleagues.

Donna Marie is a member of ACEC-SK’s Future Leaders Group (FLG) and recently played a role in planning the sold-out FLG Conference in Saskatoon in February 2024.

Donna Marie’s next goal, as a member of the ACEC-SK FLG, is to continue to promote opportunities for young professionals to learn from others.  She has plans for various Future Leaders networking events, intends to grow the Future Leaders executive team, and wants to establish a platform for fellow young professionals to gain exposure to a wider variety of projects, disciplines, and companies through ACEC-SK.  She says she is eager to be a resource to others.

On A Personal Note:

Donna Marie balances her work and volunteer commitments and practices self-care by running.  She is a long-distance runner, with the goal of doing a half-marathon by 2025.  She also describes her home as a “jungle” and finds stress-relief in caring for plants. She has a particular interest in buying plants that are wilting and bringing them back to life. She is also celebrating her recent marriage that occurred earlier this spring!

The school kid who saw the neighborhood around her develop while riding the bus still lives inside of Donna Marie and always will. She describes her motivation today as, “Living what I was just witnessing years ago when I was riding the bus.”

Donna Marie’s final statements to us on her career so far were, “Take no opportunity to stagnate. Every project is different. There is no ceiling in consulting engineering.”

We have a feeling there is also no ceiling to what Donna

Marie Lekey will achieve next.