Alyssa Gladish, SE Design and Consulting Inc.

Why did you choose to go into consulting?

During my co-op experience and graduate studies, I tried it all. First I worked for the government, I found the pace slow, the work limiting and I was always looking for more work to do. I tried research and working as a teaching assistant. I loved teaching, but research was a lonely job, felt so confining in its narrow focus, and lacked the satisfaction of real-world impacts. When I worked in consulting, it was clear why I chose it over the alternatives. The vibrant atmosphere, the variety of projects, the amount of work, working with a team of people, feeling like a valuable part of a team, the motivating deadlines, the real-world implications of the work, seeing a project constructed, the satisfaction of project completion, and the excitement of moving on to the next project.

What’s your favourite thing about working in consulting?

The ability for organic growth. When I started working for my current employer, SE Design and Consulting Inc., the team was focused on municipal engineering, subdivision design and developments. Coming from a background in Environmental Engineering I had some experience with community development, but I wasn’t sure how I would fit into the position. Over the next few years, I worked a variety of projects and I learned the design and project implementation processes. The company took on more work in stormwater management and my skills and environmental background became increasingly relevant and in demand. I have gradually carved my own place in the company and the position my own. The fluidity of the consulting industry uniquely supports for this kind of growth and development.

How does your work affect people’s lives, the environment and the world around us?

My work includes a lot of drainage assessment and improvement, which is implemented through stormwater management or master drainage plans. This has an immense impact on the environment and the communities in which we live and work. Poorly managed stormwater and unaccommodated drainage leads to flooding, property and infrastructure losses, costs to taxpayers and ultimately reduces the quality of life in a community. Comprehensive drainage engineering; preservation of natural waterbodies and watercourses; and integration of drainage and recreational features can greatly enhance a community. I like to think that my work has the potential to alleviate these problems where they already exist and prevent these problems from occurring in new developments.

What skills and personal qualities have been instrumental in the success you have achieved in consulting?

In my consulting experience, most projects rely on clear, concise and regular communication for successful completion. Ever wonder why they are called “consulting firms” not just “designing firms”? Design risks are mitigated by internal factors: competent designers; thorough review processes; and upholding the standard of care. Factors that can't be controlled internally, external risks, require the hard work that comes with consulting. Is the project meeting the needs of the client? Does the project have stakeholder buy-in? Has the project obtained necessary approvals? These factors can only be addressed by strong and consistent communication, nurtured relationships, and confidence; skills and personal qualities that I believe have been instrumental for my success in consulting.

What advice would you give a young person who was considering consulting engineering as a future area of expertise?

  • Get involved with the professional community. I have been involved with my local APEGA branch for almost five years, and it has been a fantastic opportunity to develop leadership skills, network and develop relationships in the community.
  • Consider if graduate studies are required for your field. Call consulting firms and ask them directly if graduate studies are needed or an asset for the job.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions of your colleagues. You will advance your skills, your projects and your career faster by utilizing the strengths of your fellow team members - your greatest resource.
  • Make sure that your position and your firm can offer you the kind of work that will develop you into an Professional Engineer under APEGA's new competency-based assessment process.

 

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