How I Made It

Lindsay Karpetz, Project Director

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Lindsay has? Here's how she did it

How I Made It community builders: Lindsey Karpetz stands in front of a white wall wearing a navy dress
Lindsay Karpetz; 
Toronto; @lkarpetz

Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I help deliver large infrastructure projects, such as hospitals and transit, at Infrastructure Ontario.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I went to the University of Waterloo for molecular biology and biotechnology.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I was a high school dropout and my first real job was working in construction as a site assistant. Seven years later I finished a bachelor’s degree and was accepted as a project management intern with the Ontario Internship Program. My years working in construction between getting my education got me the experience to get into project management.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

I met someone who saw potential and decided he wanted to hire me. He wasn’t very senior at the time and had to fight with HR because I was young and didn’t have an engineering degree. But he landed me the job. I landed the four promotions that followed.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

I think I have that moment in each new role I take on. I still feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing sometimes but, overall, everything works itself out.

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

I was hit by a car while crossing the street in 2012. Several surgeries, leaves of absence and doctor’s visits later, I returned in 2015. I’d lost my confidence. I had been diagnosed with a traumatic brain Injury. I did a very gradual return to work into a slower job. Once I was ready to go full-time again I applied to the director job—I got it and haven’t looked back.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

Don’t hold yourself back. Other people will do that for you.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Don’t take a big job when you’re about to have a baby.”

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

Many. Not being taken seriously has had the most staying power. I frequently experience people looking surprised when they realize I’m in charge. To challenge their bias in a humorous way I may ask, “Do you think I’m smarter than I look?” followed shortly by “Don’t answer that, it’s a trick question.” It’s my way of breaking the ice but still making my point.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle/day job for extra cash? If so, what is it?

I make a good income, but it is low in relation to my male colleagues and the industry. I still want to continue pursuing leadership opportunities, though, even if it means I will be a junior person at the table.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

That we require constant feedback. I enjoy working autonomously and I know others who do as well. I have eight millennials as direct reports so giving them all constant, individualized, meaningful feedback is impossible.

Photographer, Nathan Cyprys; stylist, Corey Ng, P1M; hair, Cia Mandarello, P1M; makeup: Vanessa Jarman, P1M; jumpsuit, Uniqlo; cuff, Aldo.

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