“Young girls deserve more exposure to career possibilities in science and tech”
To promote gender equality, Syntronic is publishing a series of interviews with prominent female leaders in our team. Today, our Vice President of Engineering in Canada, Cynthia Labelle, shares her story. Cynthia is passionate about people leadership and product development. For over 20 years, Cynthia has been drawing on what energizes her in various technical and leadership roles in Telecommunications, Security and SaaS sectors. She is also the brain behind an internship program at Syntronic Canada that encourages academically high-performing girls to pursue careers in science and tech.
Behind every successful career story lies years of hard work. The story of Cynthia Labelle, Vice President of Engineering at Syntronic R&D Canada, is an inspiring example of that fact. Cynthia discovered her passion for technology early in life, when her parents brought home a broken computer that caught her attention. “’I remember playing with it and asking the question ‘how do I make it work?’”, she recalls.
Since that day, Cynthia has approached life with an engineering mindset. She has an academic and professional background in both computer science and people management. A team member describes her as “an amazing mentor in my career development and a step towards being a better human being”. It is an inspiring career story – but the first chapters were not easy to write.
A pioneer in technology
When Cynthia first joined the world of work in the early 1990s, the technology and engineering field was heavily dominated by men. “As women in tech, we were a minority. We came in at a time when technology really started to take off in society. To be honest, we were not always subjected to equal treatment. It happened that we didn’t get access to the most challenging projects, or that we were expected to perform tasks traditionally associated with being a woman, such as writing the meeting minutes every time,” she remembers.
Moreover, the working culture had the type of all male vibe that was common in environments in which men were overrepresented. “In the first years of my career, I tried my best to fit into an all-male environment that didn’t feel adapted to me. Then, I stopped trying so hard and decided to pursue my passion for technology on my own terms,” Cynthia says.
The journey towards acceptance meant that Cynthia could explore a side of her personal potential that she had forced herself to supress up until then: her second passion in life, which is people. “In the past, soft skills, such as having an interest in people management and emotional intelligence, were not valued in the technology industry,” she remembers. “Personally, I have always had a passion for both, so it was challenging that a part of who I am and what I have to offer was not considered valuable. It felt as if I had to remain in a box that didn’t fit me. When the business culture opened up and became more diverse and more cognisant of the fact that success requires a variety of different skills, including soft skills, my two worlds finally came together. I didn’t have to choose between my passion for technology and my passion for people – both were an asset,” Cynthia says.
Syntronic’s unique vibe
Cynthia’s career in management began when she was hand-picked for an emerging leadership program with a tier one telecommunications company headquartered in Ottawa. Since then, she has experienced different roles that allowed her to develop her leadership skills and continue to be technically challenged at the same time. Her career with Syntronic started in 2016, when she was interviewed for a position as a software engineering manager. “I didn’t know what to expect when I first entered the office, but that first encounter with Syntronic was so fascinating that my interview lasted for 3,5 hours. I had never – and still haven’t – come across a company that is so completely aligned with my own values”, Cynthia says. “Syntronic’s environment is as far from the all-male, ‘old boys’ vibe as you can get. We have no social hierarchies, we work in high performing teams, and we encourage each other to develop professionally while maintaining a good work-life harmony,” she adds.
Syntronic’s engineering program for female students
Since 2019, Cynthia is Syntronic’s Vice President of Engineering in Canada. Her role involves encouraging our managers to create the best conditions for building high-performing teams. She also wants to give back to society and to the industry by continuing to challenge harmful stereotypes, for instance those related to gender roles. “Studies show that young girls do not get enough exposure to, or information about, all the possible careers that they can pursue in science and technology,” she says.
The realization resulted in an initiative at Syntronic Canada started by Cynthia: a summer program for academically high-performing female students. Every year a few promising female students spend the summer at Syntronic Canada to learn more about engineering and new technology.
So far, the results have been extremely promising. “One of our students, who said that she barely knew what an engineer did before she joined the program, is now finishing her freshman year at university studying engineering,” Cynthia says. “I’m convinced that if more girls and young women get increased exposure to the world of science and technology, through projects such as the one we have put in place at Syntronic, the industry will be more diverse, equal, and ultimately more successful in the future.”
Cynthia believes that gender hierarchies still exist in society, but that they can and must be challenged. “Women continue to break through the glass ceiling every day. Every shared experience, every shared story, brings us closer to breaking down gender barriers. We need to keep encouraging and inspiring each other to find our voices,” she concludes.