Job title and employer:
Civil Inspector, BC Hydro
What does your job title mean?
Responsible for ensuring underground distribution system is built to applicable standards
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
Oakbank, Manitoba, Canada
Where do you live now?
Squamish, BC, Canada
Where did you complete your training or education?
I completed Civil Engineering Technology Diploma and Project Management Certificate from Red River College, Winnipeg MB. Currently enrolled in Technology Management Bachelor’s Degree program at BCIT and Commercial and Contract Management Program through IACCM. Without the fundamental training as a technologist I wouldn’t have the solid technical foundation to understand building practices, identification procedures and a foundation in geotechnical and concrete materials
What you do at work?
I work independently and plan my own day based on the technical, archeological or heritage aspects of each project I have. I can have anywhere between 5 and 20 projects happening at the same time. Some inspections can be done using photos, so a site visit is not always required. Builders do not always follow plans as they should. We review their work to make sure that what has been installed will still meet the building codes. If not, they are required to take it apart and do it again. Safety and reliability are always first and foremost. Sometimes a conversation with Engineering personnel is required. Interaction with colleagues, is by phone, email, or text. If I didn’t have a strong foundation in my field, I wouldn’t be able to apply the appropriate reasoning, risk analysis, and day to day troubleshooting. I also fill out daily reports. I log any deficient items that may need to be addressed.
How does what you do affect people’s lives?
I help to ensure the safety and reliability of underground electrical infrastructure. My job is to make sure that all underground electrical parts of a project are safe for those who work on it and members of the public who will unknowingly walk, drive or ride their bikes on or past it everyday. I do this by ensuring it is built to meet or exceed the standards that have been set. For example, if a transformer isn’t grounded properly, there is a higher risk of electrocution. If the ducts aren’t smooth, they could damage the cable as its pulled through and cause a fault, which causes the power to go out. If its not buried deep enough, and someone digs into it, they could get an electric shock or worse. I am a representative of the Owner’s Engineer; I help make sure we are in compliance wit the rules of BC Hydro and EGBC.
What motivates you in your career?
I get excited when the excavator bucket is in the ground for the first time on a big project and seeing the progress daily. I really enjoy being on site and interacting with different people from across Canada. I get more excited when I come up against an unknown and need to figure out a way to get through it. I enjoy lasting and making my own way in a traditionally male dominated industry. I think the best compliment I have gotten is from a crew member telling me that I have helped make their boss better by slowing them down and asking the right questions to make them think about how they are setting up their worksite, equipment, and how they are planning for the next day to be more efficient and organized.
How did you get to where you are today?
I really didn’t have the confidence in high school that I do now. I didn’t get great grades, so I didn’t really think I would get very far at the time. I didn’t take school seriously. After high school, I started working as a flagger for a concrete crew on a 26km highway improvement project. Halfway through the summer, I convinced the Foreman to put me on a crew. I was given the crap jobs none of the guys wanted to do. I guess they thought it would eventually force me to quit. So I was determined to do it faster and better than they did. I stuck around for a couple years and loved it. I am still in contact with that foreman. I try to model myself after him because, even when things were going poorly, he was always calm, collected, and respectful towards everyone. His nickname for me is “Smiley”.
Eventually, I decided that I was smart enough to get the education I needed to work in this industry. So when I was 25 when I went back to school. I am terrible at math; it was/ is hard for me. I failed courses in college, but this is what I wanted so I worked for it; quitting was not an option.
My uncle was an engineer. I had a conversation with him about the challenges women face working in the industry, (I was already aware of that having worked on concrete crews) and going back to school. I know he had his doubts since he knew my struggle with math. He also knew my determination and drive to succeed was far greater. The industry has changed a great deal in the last 12 years since I started. It is a lot more inclusive and inviting place for women to work and be respected for the knowledge and perspective we bring to the table.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I never expected for this job to take me to Squamish BC. Best decision I have made yet!
What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
I enjoy walking the river trails with my Rhodesian Ridgeback, Henry, reading, cooking, building little tables from wood and epoxy, lounging on the deck with my boyfriend and a cold drink on a hot day. We are fitness focused as well, and having a home gym, we don’t have any excuses.
What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?
If you want something bad enough, you will not stop until you achieve it.
As a female professional, how can you influence the advancement of women in engineering and technology?
Continue to act as a professional, and treat others as professionals. We all got to this point through hard work and determination.
When I was in high school, I enjoyed…
Business & Economics
Foods and Nutrition
Industrial Arts / Shop Programs
Literature and English language arts
Physical Education / Health
When I was in high school, I was someone who…
Brought people together
Enjoyed doing things on my own
Always wanted to be outside
Liked helping people
Enjoyed working with my hands
Wanted to be in charge
Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
Felt at home in the outside, natural environment
Never wanted to be in the classroom
Didn’t really care about grades
Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
Learned best “by doing”
Liked to design or build things
Grew up with horses (that was a big focus of my youth)
ASTTBC thanks Let’s Talk Science for their partnership in developing this career profile. Let’s Talk Science – a leading partner in Canadian education – is a national charitable organization committed to inspiring and empowering Canadian youth to develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in an ever-changing world. To accomplish this, Let’s Talk Science offers a comprehensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based programs to support youth, educators, and volunteers across Canada. For more information about Let’s Talk Science, visit letstalkscience.ca.