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OPG’s Jothi Bavan giving back to help other young engineers

OPG’s Jothi Bavan knows first-hand the hardships of being the newcomer and building a career from very little.

Born in Sri Lanka, Bavan and her family fled the country’s civil war to Canada when she was 17 after being sponsored by her oldest brother, who arrived earlier as a refugee.

A profile photo of OPG employee Jothi Bavan
OPG's Jothi Bavan is giving back to young engineers through a bursary set up in her late mother's name at the University of Waterloo.

Unable to speak English, she had to learn the language quickly while taking combined Grade 10 and 11 courses to play catch up with her peers.

Despite the challenges, Bavan excelled academically, particularly in math and science, and would go on to earn a $1,000 award as the top graduating student in her high school’s ESL program which was personally funded by her ESL teacher. She also received a $1,000 bursary from the University of Waterloo, where she studied Chemical Engineering.

“As a new immigrant from a very low-income family, the generous award and bursary meant a lot to me – I was able to buy some necessities for my university life,” she said.

With this helpful financial assistance, and the relentless moral support of her family, especially from her late mother, Bavan completed her degree.

As part of her co-op program while in university, she worked in various industries such as petroleum, petrochemical, and nuclear power with OPG. Being fascinated with nuclear technology and having enjoyed working at OPG, Bavan chose to start her career with the company upon graduation as part of OPG’s new grad program.

Since then, she has spent the majority of her 17-year OPG career at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, where she has taken on a variety of roles, including Section Manager for Design Engineering, Procurement Engineering, Performance Engineering, Outage Control Centre Manager, and Plant Design Manager.

The licensed professional engineer has also earned a Master’s of Engineering in Nuclear Engineering from McMaster University, obtained the Design Authority Qualification for the Darlington station, and has completed the CANDU nuclear reactor’s Advanced Operations Overview for Managers program at Ontario Tech University.

Today, she is a Senior Manager in Supply Chain for the Darlington station, as well as Senior Manager for the Darlington Refurbishment Supply Chain.

In her dual roles, she provides support for key work programs for the station and refurbishment, ensuring workers have the right tools and parts needed to complete key work programs and outage milestones on schedule.

It can be a stressful job, she said, knowing she and her team are the last point in making sure the work is being executed and all parts are ready.

“There may be a point where we won’t be able to get a part, for instance a specific valve. And so the team will have to look ahead and help come up with an alternate solution,” she said. “Our job is to provide that type of insight early on to set the team up for success.”

Having established her career, and thankful for the help she received as a student, Bavan is now giving back to support other young female engineers through a bursary at her alma mater in the name of her mother who died in January 2020. The Kanagampikai Suntharampillai Entrance Bursary for undergraduate Chemical Engineering students, valued at $2,000, will help first-year students, particularly women, who demonstrate a financial need.

“I set a goal for myself when I received help that I would return these gestures to someone like myself one day,” she said. “Financial burden should never be a hindrance to a woman in achieving her dreams.”

It was especially important that her late mother be recognized through the bursary, Bavan said, recalling the many sacrifices she made, especially after Bavan’s father passed away when she was only 12.

“Even as she carried a great burden, my mom was always there for me, supporting me and my studies,” she said. “This was a good way to remember her.”

In addition to the bursary, Bavan works to inspire young women considering careers in engineering and STEM through speaking engagements at various forums. She credits her father for helping to instill some of the strong values she holds to this day, and particularly remembers a story she was told as a young girl.

“The story was about a little girl whose father passed away and the mom had left her in an orphanage,” Bavan recalled. “The girl was undeterred and remained focused on her education. She completed her school with the help of the orphanage and became a successful career woman. That story has stuck with me. I didn’t need any other motivation, I wanted to be that person – independent and self-reliant.”