Pam Chilton profile image

Pam Chilton

Job title and employer:

Owner and Principal Designer, Zimba Design

 

What does your job title mean?

I am the owner of my firm which means I started the company and built it out of nothing. I am educated as Building Technologist with and Architectural major and then went back to school to study interior design to augment what I already had. I worked for Municipal Government for many years, first as a Plan Checker and then as a Building Inspector. I left the public sector to form my design firm, Zimba Design. Now I work as a Building Designer which means I design houses, from the ground up and the outside in, as well as small commercial spaces.


Background information:

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Born in North Vancouver, BC. Grew up in Squamish, BC

Where do you live now?

North Vancouver, BC

Where did you complete your training or education?

I studied General Sciences at Capilano College and Simon Fraser University but did not complete a degree. I completed a Diploma of Building Technology with an Architectural major and then a Certificate in Interior Design, both at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

 


What you do at work?

As the principal designer at Zimba Design, I design houses, from the ground up and the outside in. I also do design work for small commercial spaces. Since projects range in size and scope of work, my activities can vary from day to day.  A task can be as simple as writing a report (this uses English, Communications, Reasoning, Language Arts, and Typing skills). At other times, the task can be more complex such as designing an entire house (this uses Math, Problem Solving, Art, Drafting, Communications, Computer skills). I’ve never found a use for chemistry in my job (phew!) but physics comes up every once in a while.

I learned to manually draft and hand draw in school. Using computers to do this came later. Knowing these basics made everything else make sense. For designing, specialized equipment used to mean a drafting table with a T-square. Now a computer with my drafting program is all that I need. I still keep a drawing notebook handy for hand sketching ideas and taking notes on site.

As the owner of the company, I make all the decisions. Occasionally, I have opportunities to get together with peers and we can bounce ideas off one another. Having a sounding board can assist with making decisions.


How does what you do affect people’s lives?

My job is creativity coming to life. I like to think we make our clients’ lives easier. The goal of any of our projects is to make the client’s living spaces more functional for their everyday living and not stress them out in the process. We design and manage the project so the client can go about their everyday lives without being affected by the construction of their project.

 


What motivates you in your career?

I worked in Municipal Government as Building Inspector for 14 years before forming my design firm. Being a Building Inspector was a very technical job with no use for my creativity. I love being my own boss, having the freedom to create, and meeting so many great clients. I love the creative side of my job! There’s nothing more satisfying than thinking something up in your head, and then seeing it built in real life.

One of our projects, The Urban Longhouse, was awarded the BC Wood Design Award in the category of Western Red Cedar. It was a thrilling achievement. I was also awarded the ASTTBC Professional Leadership Award for Women in Technology.


How did you get to where you are today?

When I left high school, I really was not sure what I was going to do. I felt a pressure to go to post-secondary education, so I started a science degree. In hindsight, I think I should have taken a gap year to travel and mature. That is what I would recommend now. I thought I wanted to go to architecture school but first, I needed a “degree in something” so off I went to college and university.

During my first summer after college, I applied to several architecture firms to see if I could get my foot in the door and test if I actually liked that type of work. I landed a few interviews and finally a job as a “girl Friday” (basically, I was the errand girl). It was such a fun summer, and I never looked back!

Unfortunately, I was not really interested in the courses I was studying in order to get my “bachelor of something” degree. After a couple years of university, I found the BC Institute of Technology and the Building Technology program. It was totally up my alley in that the class sizes were small (not so overwhelming for a small-town girl!) and directed. You were given a list of classes to take and at the end, if you applied yourself, you earned a diploma and then sent forth into the world.

As the first female building inspector on the North Shore, I came across many men who did not feel I should be part of the building industry. It took time to prove myself. However, once they realized I knew what I was talking about, it was smooth sailing. I loved being out on site and interacting with the contractors.  Check out my LinkedIn profile for more information.

 


What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

When not working, I enjoy floating on my paddleboard, as well as putt putting around the province with my family in our 1981 VW van named Filmore. I am a Girl Guide leader and sit as the Vice Chair on the City of North Vancouver Board of Variance.

 


What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?

Ask questions; be curious; be yourself!

 


As a female professional, how can you influence the advancement of women in engineering and technology?

As a Girl Guide leader, I find opportunities to bring STEM programs to the girls whenever possible and I have gone into Elementary school classes to speak to the children about architecture.


 

When I was in high school, I enjoyed…

Art

Foods and Nutrition

Georgraphy

Industrial Arts / Shop Programs

Literature and English language arts

Math

Drafting

 

When I was in high school, I was someone who…

Brought people together

Always wanted to be outside

Organized activities for my friends

Played on a sports team

Liked being given free range to explore my ideas

Liked reading

Felt at home in the outside, natural environment

Was really creative

Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do

Learned best “by doing”

Liked to design or build things

Engaged in activities such as fishing, berry picking and hunting


 

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.

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