On this week’s #poweredbypeople series, Oliver Wiart, P.Eng., shares his experience as a senior electrical engineer and the circumstances that led him towards pursuing this career. His background spans industrial manufacturing, designing amusement rides, and renewable energy infrastructure for remote communities.
What is your background and role within the industry?
I grew up in Victoria, BC, before moving to the UBC campus in Vancouver to pursue my undergrad. From there, I found my passion in power systems which led me on the journey to become a senior electrical engineer for Hedgehog.
What does a senior electrical engineer do that appeals to you?
I like running my own projects. Always being more autonomous in the role that I’m in, not that I don’t rely on other engineers for things like design reviews, but having the face-to-face time with clients and people is always interesting and unique.
Why did you focus on this career?
I remember being in first year classes and not knowing fully what I wanted to get into and electrical engineering happened to be my least favourite university course. After some career guidance and friends telling me to stick with it because after the first year I would dive into control and power, I decided to stick with it.
Eventually, I found an interesting course about coordination and protection by BC Hydro which was really hands-on. After completing it, I realized electrical engineering was actually my favourite discipline and opened up the door for me to further pursue it.
What has been your favourite project?
I like projects that have a direct impact on people’s lives. The most enthusiastic I’ve been for a project was a solar array for a remote Indigenous community. It felt rewarding to provide a simple necessity that we often take for granted living in the city.
Most challenging aspect of your role?
Balancing multiple projects as a senior electrical engineer. Imagine having four projects on the go which all have different needs to be satisfied by the first week of January. It’s about managing deliverables for every project in a timely manner.
Any advice for those wanting to become a senior-level engineer?
It’s tougher now with COVID-19 restrictions but don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and ask for a (virtual) cup of coffee with someone in the industry. You never know what opportunities will arise – that’s how I started my career.
What has been most effective in advancing your career?
Working on something that wasn’t of interest to me. For instance, production wasn’t in my line of vision for going to school but putting my time and energy into things that I didn’t want to do rounded out my skill set and allowed me to be better prepared for a senior-level position.
Favourite place travelled?
Each place I’ve been to is special for their own reasons. Iceland was interesting to see their wilderness and terrain while Montreal was fun to visit a Canadian city with a different “feel” to it. Of course, travelling around the Island is always special to me too.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami. As I enjoy running for exercise I often use this quote for motivation.
Do you have areas of interest within your field?
I’d love the chance to work on a large public infrastructure project like the Skytrain. Something that many people use and rely on but do not fully understand the complexity of the system.
Next week, we sit down with Erin Martin-Serrano, our director of business development, to discuss her role in growing an engineering business from a strategic level.
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