I was born/grew up in: Elmira, Ontario
I now live in: Elmira, Ontario
I completed my training/education at: I have a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo
What I do at work
My company is an engineering company that specializes in social ventures and sustainable development. We work with businesses to help them solve their problems and be more productive. By solving their problems, we help them become more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
As the company’s President, I do a lot of big picture thinking and planning. I am responsible for the management of the company. I mentor others who are working on safe water projects. I participate in different speaking engagements where I explain what we do and how it makes a difference.
My career path is
I did not know anything about engineering until I was in grade 11. I liked math and science but I didn’t know what I could do with these subjects. I liked volunteering and helping people so I thought about getting into counselling when I was in school. I decided on a technology-based career because I thought it would be more secure. Then I could do volunteering and counselling on the side.
Engineering interested me because you have to apply what you know about math and science. To me, this meant that it would be more interesting because I would always be doing something new. I liked chemistry so I decided on chemical engineering. This program gave me options to switch to other areas if it turned out that I did not like it.
While I was doing the bachelors program, I did several co-op placements. I worked in a mine setting and in a pulp and paper mill. I also worked for a consulting firm. I really liked the consulting firm because there was a lot of variety in the type of work we did. When I graduated, I got a job with a conventional multinational engineering company. While I liked the work, I did not like the fact that working there interfered with being able to do volunteer work. When I took time off to do volunteer work, I was placed in a smaller office when I returned. In another case, my compensation was cut by 15 percent. It was like being penalized for volunteering.
As a result, I decided to start my own company. This gave me flexibility to do volunteer work and to take on interesting projects. I’ve been in business now for about 20 years and I have 16 employees. We are a certified B Corporation and I use my business to accomplish social benefits. We take on projects that will make a positive impact on the world. We use a portion of the revenue I earn, by working on projects in North America, to fund work we do in Africa and South America. I engage in work that helps build capacity in the country. I don’t compete with the local businesses. As a result, when I leave the people there are able to carry on. I’m happy with the decisions I have made. You can learn more about my career path on my LinkedIn profile and our TEDx talk.
I am motivated by
I love the challenge of doing something new! My career provides me with constant challenges and I love it! Our company’s tag line is that we are “engineering change”. Engineering is the easy part; making lasting change is difficult. I like the fact that, when we take on a project, we bring the other company on side. For example, rather than just cleaning up their wastewater, we help them develop the ability to do it themselves. It means we make less money in the long run but it is better for them and better for society and the environment. Right now, we are developing a blue roof technology. This is a way of storing water to prevent flooding due to climate change and to provide water during dry periods.
How I affect people’s lives
About a year after I graduated, I had a bit of a personal crisis. I started thinking about the “big picture”. Why are we here? Is what I’m doing valuable? Should I quit engineering? I decided to stay with engineering but my motivation changed. I decided to use my engineering skills to make a positive impact on the world. In my company, we choose to work on projects that have positive social and environmental impact. I’m able to expand my personal impact through my employees. Employees are encouraged to engage in volunteer activity. They have 20 hours each year of paid time to do this and as much time off without pay as they like. This lets them do good works without having a negative effect on their personal lives.
Outside of work I
I have four kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years old so they occupy a lot of my free time. Recently I just completed an online “Creative Engineering” course with two of my children. This took place over one month and it was great! In the outdoors, I enjoy both canoeing and sailing.
My advice to others
If you like to apply what you know to a new situation, then engineering might be for you! You also will develop the knowledge and skills that will allow you to make changes in the world. You need good interpersonal skills in engineering. Take advantage of opportunities to develop these skills by working on committees, volunteering, playing on teams, etc.