Meet Melanie Pastorious, a graduate of the University of Waterloo's Chemical Engineering class of 1999. For over two decades, she has been a trailblazer in the male-dominated beer industry, achieving many career successes. Melanie attributes part of her career success to the University of Waterloo's co-op program, which exposed her to diverse engineering jobs in various industries, helping her discover her passion.

She had three co-op terms in the food sector, which she found interesting and led to a vocation in the beer industry working for Sleeman Breweries.

During her undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering, Pastorius was part of a graduating class where only about 30 percent of the students were women. Despite this, she felt grateful for the positive experience she had at Waterloo, where professors and male classmates treated her as an equal. In fact, she describes her graduating class as more of a family than classmates.

Pastorius continued to be a pioneer for women. Although the companies she worked for were very supportive, she found she was often the only woman in the room in her role within the beer industry. She is currently Quality Assurance Manager at Sleeman Breweries and has seen great growth in the number of female leaders at the company over the last 20 years.

“Entering the work world is really when I realized just how male-dominated the engineering world was,” said Pastorius. “In my first full-time job, I was on a team of 10 engineers, and I was the only female. In fact, I was the first female engineer my boss had hired!”

Pastorius believes in supporting and empowering women, maintaining a strong relationship with the University of Waterloo by collaborating with Women in Engineering and mentoring students. As a result of these connections, Pastorius and Sleeman Breweries became industry partners for a Capstone Design Project in 2023.

The project aimed to model a carbon capture system in the brewing industry, reducing CO2 emissions and was one of this year’s Capstone winners. Emily Smyth, a team member, met Pastorius at a Women in Engineering event and reached out to her for support on their Capstone project.

For Pastorius, her experience in the Chemical Engineering undergraduate program altered the trajectory of her life. She thoroughly enjoyed her time at the University of Waterloo, taking every opportunity to be involved in numerous activities including joining EngSoc. Many of the skills she acquired in organizing events for EngSoc were useful throughout her career.  For her community was the most important aspect of her university experience.

“As for the impact on my life, my time at Waterloo made me who I am today.  This program and experience taught me so much more than just math and science. Waterloo Engineering gave me the skills, confidence, resilience, and courage to achieve my biggest dreams,” says Pastorius.

Her advice for future students is to dream big, work hard and find a supportive community.