Catherine Roome

President & Lead Executive Officer
Technical Safety BC
Catherine Roome dans un hélicoptère

Catherine Roome is the President & Lead Executive Officer for Technical Safety BC.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Cowichan Valley, British Columbia

I now live in: North Vancouver, British Columbia

I completed my training/education at: I went to the University of Victoria and received an electrical engineering degree.

What I do at work

I lead the organization. That means every day I have to do two things: have the courage to make decisions, and also be very open.  I develop strategies to inspire employees to innovate and be creative. I also work hard to help the teams around me be stronger individuals and continue to grow their confidence and skills.

As an engineer, my career has changed from ‘managing myself’, to ‘managing others’, and now to ‘managing an enterprise”. When I was a junior engineer, I used my technical knowledge to deliver projects. For example, working in northern Pakistan, I had a key role in connecting climate instruments in the field to a communications network. These instruments were used for predicting water inflow into hydroelectric dams.

Early on in my career I was just beginning to use people skills, as every project means you work with others to understand how to solve a problem. As I began working as a project engineer, my people skills became even more important. As a project engineer, I became a “manager of others”. This meant I was responsible for a larger portfolio of technical projects. It also mean that now I had to figure out who on my team would work on them. It also mean having to decide how to best support team members with the encouragement, resources and planning that would make everyone successful.

As a project engineer, I also had to learn how to look farther out in terms of timeline, and to consider how my whole team’s actions impacted others. Eventually I became a leader of an enterprise. This meant I was responsible for multiple teams, some of whom were technical, but also finance teams, communications teams, and planning teams. I also had many different, sometimes competing areas of accountability - including operating different energy generating stations, and being responsible for hundreds of people. That meant I still had to understand the technical issues, but now almost all my skills were focused on developing amazing, talented people and giving them the support and space they needed to be successful.

With a wider influence though, what I had to do was become an even better communicator. I learned how important it was that I show others what was important, not just say it. In other words, my decisions needed to signal the values that were important, as I could no longer see every individual’s work. The farther away a leader is from the work, the more open and transparent they must be – to show their humanity and listen even more intently to what is required.

I feel lucky to have a STEM degree. It has taught me how to solve a problem, how to break it down into its parts, and to focus on what is most important. I have also learned that everything is a system – a project is part of a technical system in order for the whole thing to work. A team in an organization is part of a system of organizing work. Now I use my engineering creativity to design new ways of inspiring people.

My career path is

I played many sports in high school – track, basketball, field hockey, softball, and racquetball. There is something about learning about defeat, and still getting up the next day and carrying on, that showed me what resilience looked like. I was 5’3.5” (1.6 m) and captain of the basketball team so I got pushed around under the boards a lot. Eventually you figure out how to use your size to your advantage instead of always wishing to be taller. That ended up being a lesson that I applied later in life – to figure out your particular advantage and go all in!

Going to university after high school was a goal, but I didn’t know what sort of degree I was interested in, so I tried to keep my options open. I took courses in lots of different areas, from math & physics, to shop, to French, to law. This was useful to me because sometimes it’s easier to determine what you don’t want to focus on, rather than what you do. There is value in gaining experience in an area and then going “nope”. Learn more about my career path by reading my LinkedIn profile.

I am motivated by

I find incredible joy in encouraging the unique brilliance that exists in every person I work with or meet.

I continue to learn new things! I find that the wider I look at different, diverse subject areas, the more I bring back a fresh, new perspective to my work and challenge to my thinking. Lately some of those choices to learn and get out of my comfort zone have included a variety of activities. For example, from how to renovate my old Airstream trailer, to watching the Royal Ballet’s virtual production of The Cellist, to following webinars on social justice issues of inequality in healthcare and the economy.

What made my career right for me was I figured out my personal values, and then tested big, career changing decisions against them. If I honoured my values, I knew I was on the right track.

How I affect people’s lives

Technical Safety BC has a mandate to ensure public safety. We focus on the point where a person encounters a piece of technology. This could be you on a ski lift, or you pushing the button in the elevator, or you turning on a light switch in your home. A chain of events has to happen to make sure technology is safe to use. We help set the equipment standards and establish the training requirements of people who design, build or operate that equipment. We also investigate if something goes wrong and conduct research on improvements to safe design.

We build in human factors so that we think about the behaviours of people around equipment and technology. We provide ongoing information and formal education on risk so that expectations of society can be met. We live in an amazing country with lots of opportunity. Part of that is the backbone of technology that enables us to live, play and work safely, and to get the benefit of new and innovative technologies to build our future.

Outside of work I

I enjoy being with my family, doing beach vacations, reading, and working in my garden. I also enjoy watching movies – particularly sci-fi and indie films, and eating great meals.

My advice to others

The world needs your talent!

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Literature and English language arts
  • Math
  • Physical Education/Health
  • Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Liked reading
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do

Related Topics

Partners

Advancing Women in Engineering and Technology

Let's Talk Science would like to thank the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) for connecting us with the individual profiled above.

Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) is leading the Advancing Women in Engineering and Technology Project, a Sector Labour Market Partnership project, funded through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement. The project’s goal is to increase the participation of women in the engineering, geoscience, technology and technician occupations through the implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies to recruit, retain and support career development of women to lead a system level cultural shift within these professions.

ASTTBC Technology ProfessionalsFunding provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada-British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement

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