TechTalk

Episode 1- What's Working in Engineering, The Stantec Approach

Gavin O'Connor

What is it like working at the world’s #8 international design firms in transportation (ENR 2019)? We chat to Gavin O’Connor, Stantec New Zealand General Manager, Transportation about his journey, advice for aspiring technical specialists, and the Stantec approach that’s guiding the way we live, move and work.

Describe your journey with Stantec? What drew you to Stantec over other options in the market?

I was interviewed by Stantec whilst still based in the UK. I also interviewed with two other professional services providers for a number of locations across NZ. Ultimately, I decided on accepting the Stantec role due to the picture I was able to build of the people and culture within the business. Moving to the other side of the world was a big decision to make and whilst the role itself was important, more so was the team I would be joining. Very quickly I was able to develop a rapport with the Stantec team and I had confidence the team culture would be strong and I would enjoy working with them. I wasn’t disappointed.

How do you find Stantec as an Employer?

I’ve been with Stantec over ten years now and I’ve been afforded incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth. At every turn the business has been able to offer me new challenges and development with ongoing and transparent conversations about what they can do to support my success. Alongside that support we also have the benefit of working within a great team. From my perspective we’ve managed to create the ‘small company vibe’ within the large company structure. This means that all levels of the business are accessible and you can create a great balance between leading the business and being one of the team.

Tell us about your journey, in terms of technical opportunities and career growth?

I started as an Engineer in 2010 and have experienced rapid growth with progression through Local Team Leadership, Regional Group Leadership and now National General Management. Stantec has supported me through this growth with both internal and external training and development. I’ve also been provided with ‘on the job’ development opportunities to further test and refine my leadership across broader parts of the business – this included a three-month secondment to the Sydney business in 2017 to assist in repositioning and growth. Stantec has been a strong advocate of my development and supported me in developing strong career plans and then providing the backing to implement these.

How do you find the way out of the ‘messy middle’ of a project when things get difficult?

The nature of our work, whether it be engineering or transport planning, means that we’re often dealing with complex issues. In these scenarios there’s often no perfect answer or resolution. The trick to being a great consultant is the ability to step into this challenge and help the team navigate a path through. This means bringing the team together, balancing the outcomes against the risk and ultimately making decisions which may be difficult and may not appease all parties. Senior leaders will do this naturally and without direction, developing engineers will find this skill and should lean on their seniors for guidance and support to get there.

What’s the most exciting thing about working in consulting right now at Stantec?

It’s easy for me to say but I genuinely believe it’s a great place to work. The leadership is stable and has a great blend of experience and energy which is delivering real success to the business. We have grown considerably over the last 5 years and we are in a fortunate situation with a strong backlog of works to allow us to push the envelope further. In the short term I expect to see Stantec doing more of what we’re good at presently whilst Our people and our workloads! We have fantastic teams right across NZ who have embedded a really inclusive culture which has created a fantastic place to work. Alongside this we have an abundance of exciting projects across all stages of the delivery cycle which presents challenge and opportunity to the teams. It’s been really pleasing to see our great people excel in this environment and benefit from the growth and development that’s available here.

Why should people consider Stantec as an employer? What's next?

It’s easy for me to say but I genuinely believe it’s a great place to work. The leadership is stable and has a great blend of experience and energy which is delivering real success to the business. We have grown considerably over the last 5 years and we are in a fortunate situation with a strong backlog of works to allow us to push the envelope further. In the short term I expect to see Stantec doing more of what we’re good at presently whilst expanding what we do to more sectors and disciplines. The business will grow wider across more business lines whilst adding more capability to our current teams. This brings larger and more complex projects which itself offers technical growth and opportunity to our people. For those focused on business leadership you could expect to see greater opportunities to lead larger teams with more influence across NZ. We have a really strong business that creates a fantastic platform for further growth at both a personal and professional level.

What advice would you give to aspiring technical specialists?

Focus on your technical development whilst rounding out your broader consulting skills. Seek a business who will present you the challenging projects you need to grow whilst offering you the development support required to hone your skills.