We are at the halfway point of #NEGM2017. For today’s interview, we visit the East Coast of Canada …
Andrew Kent is a professional engineer, urban planner and project manager. At Colliers Project Leaders, Andrew delivers expert advice and project management services to municipal, provincial and federal government ministries and departments.
Andrew, what inspired you to become an engineer?
I checked the engineering box when applying to university because I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue. I thought I might like to go to medical school or maybe go into business. I felt that a bachelor’s degree in engineering would serve me well if I wanted a break from school after a four year degree or if I wanted to pursue something completely different. I knew the degree would give me an advantage when applying to grad school and the knowledge I would gain would be applicable to a wide range of fields.
Where did you go to university and what field of engineering did you study?
I went to Dalhousie University in Halifax and initially received a degree in Biological Engineering. By chance, during that degree I had a co-op work term which introduced me to urban planning. I soon realized that the combination of civil engineering and urban planning knowledge would provide a unique set of skills that could be applied anywhere in the world. I returned to Dalhousie to pursue a Masters in Planning and a Masters in Applied Science in Civil Engineering.
What adventures have you had along the way?
I’ve been fortunate to work on projects throughout Canada and overseas. My greatest adventure included a three year stay in Doha, Qatar. In 2011, I was living in Vancouver and was offered a unique opportunity to help redevelop the downtown of Qatar’s capital city. Qatar had just been awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup and was (and still is) undertaking a massive investment in new infrastructure. New developments included a new international airport, a new container port, a complete metro system, new highways, schools, hospitals, universities, stadiums, shopping malls, hotels and more. It was really an incredible time to be there and be part of such rapid development. While living in Doha, I was also able to travel extensively in the region and meet people from every corner of the world. It was a really great experience for me and my family. I should mention though that working on the Arabian Peninsula is not a positive experience for many migrant workers and I believe much can be done to improve their working conditions. While in Doha, I was pleased to help implement Qatar Foundation’s Mandatory Standards for Migrant Workers’ Welfare and I am proud of what our team accomplished.
What work do you do now? What has been your favourite experience?
I am currently a senior project manager for Colliers Project Leaders, Canada’s largest specialist project management consulting firm. I lead building and infrastructure projects for project owners throughout Atlantic Canada. I like to tackle big projects head on, engaging stakeholders and getting the job done. While our projects often represent significant challenges, every day is different and each project is unique. It’s incredibly satisfying when a project is complete and you can point to one and say, “I was part of that. I helped make that happen”.
When you look back, do you see anything from your childhood that may have influenced you to become an engineer (e.g. played with Lego)?
I suppose there are some things. I played Lego, I played in the sandbox building roads and tunnels, I certainly played too much SimCity. But I suppose lots of kids do those things and don’t become engineers. I do remember taking, what must have been, 20 pages of paper taped together to form a giant poster for my grade 1 class show and tell. It illustrated a plan view of New York, as I remembered it, from a family vacation. One other time, a friend and I got a hold of a few boxes of parquet flooring. We broke the pieces apart and built a 3-D miniature town in his garage. Perhaps these were premonitions rather than influences. In truth, my biggest motivator is trying to build a “bridge” between what I see as a disconnect between the aims of civil engineers and urban planners. While both professions aim to improve our communities, in many different ways their philosophies don’t always align. I’ve worked very hard throughout my career to walk the line between the two and build a common understanding of what we want our communities to look like and how they should function.
What is so great about being an engineer?
I think the best part of being an engineer is ever changing opportunities and the ability to do many different things. Engineering isn’t a great career choice for someone who doesn’t want to continually learn and undertake new challenges. I like the fact that every day can be different and you need to rely on past experience and continually gain new skills. You often get to solve real world problems and at the end of the day experience each unique solution in a tangible way.
Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your story.
There are still NEGM events to enjoy this month, so go check them out! And please keep sharing these stories with your friends and family. Let’s give many young Canadians the opportunity to learn that engineering is a fun and exciting career.