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Nancy Burnham, B.Eng. '90

(Engineering Physics) | Engineering Human Solutions

Ask Nancy Burnham about engineering, and interestingly, what she ends up talking about are people.

People who benefit from the software she’s designed to help manage a titanium mine in South Africa, people who use her software products in factories around the globe, even people – like her husband – that she met as a McMaster engineering student more than 25 years ago and remain in her life today.

Since earning her B.Eng in Engineering Physics in 1990, Burnham’s career has covered a broad range of ground. From water resources engineering to software development, she’s found many ways to direct her engineering passion toward helping people.

“During my undergrad studies I envisioned doing something with solid state electronics,” recalls Burham. “But near graduation, I became very interested in water quality issues, and pursued a Masters and PhD in Water Resources Engineering.

“Eventually I realized that my favorite part of those studies was creating the software that modelled the various processes I was studying.”

That recognition led her into more than two decades of work in the software engineering field and might help explain her advice to today’s students: “Say yes to new challenges and opportunities when they present themselves. They may lead to amazing adventures.”

Today, Burnham works at Rockwell Automation as a senior project engineer and part of a team responsible for the development of a product called FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices. Using code she writes, the product provides companies with a speedy way to track the health and diagnostics of smart devices.

Seeing it featured at large Rockwell and Microsoft events is one of the highlights of her career, alongside applying with her husband for a patent on a scalable analytics architecture for automation control systems.

“Your career will go by faster than you can imagine,” Burnham said. “Don’t waste any of that time working with people that you don’t respect or get along with.”