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From mines in Mongolia to nitrate plants in Niagara, Melissa Ostrowercha’s experience is as varied as it is significant. With a career in civil engineering spanning two decades, she has the insight and intellect to satisfy a hard-to-fill gap in the industry for well-rounded project managers.

 

“It’s tough to find people who can work with designers, contractors, and clients, while keeping everyone happy and the project moving,” said Melissa. “You have to have the technical knowledge to talk to designers and the ability to relay that information in plain English to a client.” But great project management skills don’t develop overnight. “The best PMs are able to shift focus quickly, prioritize, and be flexible,” she explained. “I could have never done this 20 years ago.”

 

In fact, in her early years Melissa had every intention of becoming a computer engineer. While she loved math and computers, after her first year of study she decided to focus on a discipline that was more in touch with everyday life. Enter civil engineering. “Civil engineering is a great discipline for people like me who enjoy a variety of tasks,” Melissa explained. “You can be designing a site plan for a residential tower one day, and then a big sewer system the next. It is a discipline every project relies on, no matter the size or scope.”

 

Creative thinking is key to becoming a top-notch civil engineering professional. “There’s a multitude of solutions to every problem, you just have to find the right one for your project,” Melissa said. Beyond creative thinking, maintaining relationships is crucial to a healthy career in engineering. “You will cross paths with the people you meet on a project again next year, five years from now, ten years from now, as colleagues, competitors, or bosses,” she advised. “Civil is a small industry. Always put your best foot forward.”

 

As WalterFedy’s service areas and offerings continue to grow, project managers like Melissa are actively searching for top talent to join their teams. “WalterFedy is a people-friendly place to work,” said Melissa. “It is a family environment with strong teams, which is something I’ve never experienced before. Everyone wants you to succeed, and if you have a challenge, they are always available to offer support.”

 

If you are interested in joining Melissa’s team, visit our careers page for an up-to-date listing of current opportunities.

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The job interview is undoubtedly one of the most challenging legs of the career hunt journey, and rightly so. It is an opportunity that, if done right, can change the course of your life. If the stakes weren’t already high, you have the added challenge of proving your prowess to a group of strangers, often in an hour or less. So, what can a candidate do to rise to the challenge? Natalya Smith, Human Resource Generalist at WalterFedy, offered some helpful tips to put you on the path to success.  

 

Do your research 

The first tip is a simple one: take the time to learn more about the company and familiarize yourself with the role. “A wow moment for me is when I can tell someone has put in a lot of work into preparing for the interview. It comes through in their delivery,” Natalya explained. “Give the process the time it needs. Its when you can show you know a bit about the history, values, and products or projects.” Not only will this research help you demonstrate your interest in the company, it also helps the interviewer supplement your knowledge. “I also want to hear what people are saying about us so I can fill in any gaps and clarify role expectations.” 

 

Sell yourself—"Coles Notes” version 

Do you remember the days of Coles Notes, the printed student study guides that summarized key themes for book reports? While everything is online these days, the analogy still stands. “When I say Coles Notes, I mean a brief summary,” said Natalya. “What are the top three things needed in this role? Sell yourself by showing what experience you have that supports those responsibilities.” The best time to give this pitch is at the beginning of the interview, or when you are wrapping up the conversation. While talking about your best attributes can be uncomfortable, it is crucial to a great interview. One of the biggest challenges is knowing just how much to offer. “Be succinct," she encouraged.  

 

Use the SAR approach to answer questions 

Have you ever found yourself talking in circles when trying to answer an interview question? You aren’t alone. Natalya suggests practicing the SAR approach—situation, action, result. “Tell us what happened, what you did, and the result. If you can give me these three things, it covers everything we want to know.” This format helps keep your answer clear and organized. An added bonus: it works for just about every question.  

 

Ask questions 

As the interview comes to a close, it is likely you will have a chance to ask questions. Take advantage of this opportunity! Your questions do not need to be profound – they can be as simple as asking your interviewers what they love about the company. “The reason you want to ask questions is because the answers you get might help solidify your interest,” said Natalya. “We are interviewing you from an organization perspective, but you are also interviewing us. We want you to leave the interview feeling informed about the role, the team, the environment, and the company.” 

 

When the day of your interview finally comes and the pressure is mounting, pause, breathe, and remember this: your interview panel wants you to succeed as much as you do! “I know outside of this high-pressure environment you are an amazing person,” said Natalya, “Everyone has something great to offer and that’s what I want to see. Be natural. Be you.” 

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A career in sustainability can take many forms. Some work in environmental law or advocacy, and others focus on research and development for new technologies. For resident sustainability expert Marlen Aleman, her niche is Asset and Facilities Management (AFM).  

 

Marlen has spent many years serving as a sustainability consultant, helping thousands of square feet of real estate across Ontario earn varying degrees of sustainability certification. A LEED Green Associate and certified Facilities Management Professional, Marlen combines her knowledge of building operations and building best practices to help clients achieve their sustainability goals. 

 

“Everything we do in AFM has to do with sustainability,” said Marlen. “We are helping to maximize building performance and lifecycle, so rather than decommissioning a building and start a new construction, we help our clients in the planning to keep their assets in good condition and up to standards. We can also help with operational strategies that impact energy consumption, but also the productivity and wellbeing of the occupants. It’s creating a sustainable environment and I am very proud of that.” 

 

Marlen and her team work closely with clients to help them map out plans to increase their sustainable practices and earn recognition for the strides they have made. Often times, this takes the form of guiding partners through programs like Buildings Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), which has a comprehensive rating system that helps owners of existing buildings achieve certification and recognition for their practices on an operational level. This means taking a critical look at energy, water, air, comfort, health and wellness, custodial practices, purchasing, waste, site, and stakeholder engagement. 

 

“The early integration of sustainability considerations is key for the success of any project. Our work helps our clients make informed decisions that have a positive impact in their bottom line, the environment and the well being of building occupants,” said Marlen. 

 

Whether you have an established building, or are exploring a new build, there are numerous programs available to help stimulate greener practices and design in business, including LEED, WELL, BOMA, and NetZero. While more and more businesses are striving to create positive change in their buildings and work culture, many are still working up the courage to take the next step.  

 

“One of the biggest misconceptions about sustainability is that it is expensive,” said Marlen. In fact, it is more accessible than you might think. “Some very important green strategies and activities cost very little,” she explained. The best place to start is with the people in your organization, and this approach is virtually free. With the implementation of awareness programs, tenants can start making changes to their habits that greatly reduce their environmental impact. “Green building systems are most effective if building occupants know how they work. That’s where every sustainability approach should begin.” 

 

Outside of her role as an Asset Management Specialist, Marlen actively participates in conversations on green living. She is a key member of WalterFedy’s Sustainable Advisory Committee, which was developed to facilitate ongoing change within the organization to reduce environmental impact. She also volunteers with Women in Renewable Energy and provides mentorship to young professionals looking to jumpstart their career in green industry.  Her motivation is simple: “The planet is the only home we have. I want my son to grow up in a healthy environment and enjoy nature. Sustainability is a way of living. It isn’t just a standalone project. It is a wide cultural change that needs to happen and can happen.” 

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Combing through job boards, searching for valuable connections in your existing network, and fine tuning your social profiles can make hunting for a new job feel like a grind. But after hours of slugging away, you’re bound to see a role so perfect you can already picture yourself at your new desk drinking coffee with a collection of grade-A industry pros. When the thrill of the discovery settles, and the daydream fog lifts, reality sets in. To nab an interview, you’re going to need a standout resume.

 

Natalya Smith is a Human Resources Generalist at WalterFedy and spearheads the bulk of our recruitment efforts. Every week she reviews hundreds of resumes, looking for the next great addition to our team. What makes an application stand out from the stacks? Natalya offered us some insight into five things you can do to help bring your CV to the top of the pile. 

 

  1. Pay close attention to the organization and editing of your resume 
    Resumes that stand out are clearly organized with consistent spacing and text styles. Overcrowded text can be challenging to read, while too much white space can leave your application looking sparse. When a page is clearly organized, it’s easier to spot the keywords relevant to the position (make sure you add them!). Before you submit anything to a hiring manager, be sure to give your document a thorough edit for typos and clarity; for some hiring managers, glaring mistakes may take you out of the running. 

  2. Show us why your experience is relevant 
    We want to see you have the skills and experience needed to excel in this role. Tailor your resume to complement the expectations of the position. We can tell when you’ve put in the effort to draw parallels and it goes a long way. If you are trying to break into the field, show us experience that is relatable and take the time to explain why.  

  3. Education and training are important 
    Whether you are a new grad or an experienced applicant, we are interested to learn about your academic qualifications and personal commitment to continuous improvement. Don’t be afraid to point to a couple of courses that are relevant or distinguish you as a strong leader. This section is particularly useful for applicants coming right out of school who may not have industry experience.

  4. Call out any special skills
    No, we don’t mean your aptitude in Microsoft Word—these days that’s a given. Show us that you are familiar with the special applications, tools, technologies, and emerging platforms that are sought after in your role. Sometimes we look for these skills first.   

  5. Take some time to write a cover letter 
    Do you ever wonder if people actually read your cover letter? Natalya does. A cover letter is your opportunity to tell your story. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be tailored to the position. We should know within the first few sentences what you are applying for and why you will be a great fit. While a cover letter is not mandatory, it is one additional way to show us you are truly interested in the position. 

 

Bonus tip: We love to see a commitment to our core values 

Quality, Integrity, Client Focus, Community Building, and Environmental Sustainability are important values at WalterFedy and demonstrating how you live out these values will go a long way. For example, because we care about giving back to our community, we would be happy to hear about your volunteer experience. While this is not a deal breaker, it certainly shows us that you share one of the values we hold dear.   

 

If there is one key takeaway, it is this: if the opportunity feels right, take a little extra time. Not only will it help elevate your application, it also goes a long way with hiring managers, who can spot when you have invested your time and care.  

If you are interested in a career at WalterFedy, check out our current opportunities at walterfedy.com/careers/.  

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If Melissa Fishman’s career path could be described in one word, it would likely be atypical. Her journey, like so many others, started in a high school guidance office. Without a clear career goal in mind, she was handed a quiz. After a series of questions designed to determine skills, values, and interests, her future was revealed: chemical and biochemical engineering.

 

With her career calling in sight, Melissa went on to study at Western University where she earned a BE in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. But the industry wasn’t quite ready for grads like her.

 

“I had the intention of doing water treatment or environmental services, but university was ahead of the game in offering programs that didn’t match jobs in the workforce.” So post-graduation, Melissa found herself in a mechanical engineering job designing boilers—and it became clear this was not for her.

 

“To be successful, you need to be able to look beyond what you are doing every day, and when I was an Engineer in Training I did not. I sat in my cubby, did what I needed to do for the day, and went home. I disliked my role because I couldn’t see a future beyond it.”

 

Fast forward four years and Melissa was pressing pause on engineering to start a family in Alberta. Unhindered by the many demands of being a new mom, she was eager to try something new. “I’m an antsy person,” she said. “I wanted to do something on the side, so I started a business with a family member distributing handbags.” With her entrepreneurial spirit and expert organizational skills, her business, meant to be a small side gig, expanded to include franchises in Calgary and Ontario.

 

With her second baby on the way, Melissa and her husband decided to move back to Ontario to be closer to family. At this time, her business had grown beyond what she’d originally expected, so she made the decision to sell the business she’d grown in Alberta, leaving the portion in Ontario with her relative.

 

But things changed again, and in 2010, Melissa and her family moved back to Waterloo Region. By this time, her children had started school and she was ready for her next adventure.  

 

“I started to dab around in volunteering, and ended up becoming Vice President of the Lions Club. Then I started a community association because of a potential construction project in my neighbourhood for a new accessible park for the kids.” It was through her community engagements that she discovered her innate ability to manage people and projects. She spearheaded the Amazing Race St. Jacobs, a 5 km race in partnership with local businesses to raise funds for the accessible park. A highly anticipated event in the St. Jacobs community, the race draws over 50 teams, 35 businesses, and has generated over $18,000 in the past 4 years.

 

Melissa built her first LinkedIn account in 2017 as she toyed with the idea of going back to work. It was only a matter of days before she was contacted by a former colleague, Kevin Henry, who was a former employee at WalterFedy. He suggested she visit the company to see if it would be a good fit. “I hadn’t really considered going back into engineering—I had a couple of other ideas at the time—but I came in and loved the environment.”

 

After 12 years of being an active volunteer, self-made business woman, and mother, the transition back to work was not a small decision. “Home was a huge obstacle, although it’s terrible to look at it that way. It took about a year to find the balance between work and home. It’s a little bit of tug and war.” Not one to step down from a challenge, Melissa flourished in her role, despite her initial misgivings. The skills she developed as a community leader and entrepreneur shine through her work as a project manager and team leader. Together, her team develops lighting solutions for high-profile public institutions and commercial developments like Humber College and 460 Columbia.

 

Her advice for other aspiring project managers is simple: Learn to lead and still be part of a team.

 

“It can be difficult sometimes because you essentially are being bossy when you need to be bossy, and holding deadlines when you have to hold deadlines. But, if you can manage to find a way to create a team where you are integrated enough that they feel you are sitting with them through those deadlines instead of over them, that goes a long way.”

 

Reflecting on her career journey, Melissa believes the intentional, linear career path we strive for is a fallacy. “Your path is always changing. It evolves through your first job, and again with your second job. You will zig zag all the way through your career until you discover where you want to go.” This zig zag momentum is nothing to be feared. “That’s how you get the best careers” Melissa explained. “That’s how you find out what actually makes you happy rather than coming out of school and doing what you’ve been told.”

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We are happy to announce we are the recipient of a Diamond Award for Building Engineering in recognition of our work at Conestoga College's Waterloo Campus.

 

In association with Moriyama & Teshima Architects, we provided mechanical, electrical, structural, and civil engineering services for the College’s $43.5 million, 165,000 square foot expansion of their Waterloo Campus. This project included both a renovation to the existing structure and a new building, nearly doubling the existing area of the College. Part of this project’s funding was supported by the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) and was delivered through a fast-tracked process completed over three phases. In order to meet funding requirements, we strategically designed phases in parallel to expedite the design, tendering, and construction processes.

 

The project included several exciting additions that supplemented Conestoga's existing complement of training and student services programs. The Institute for Culinary and Hospitality Management was designed to educate students interested in hospitality and simultaneously positions Waterloo Region as a culinary tourism destination. The newly added access hub provides career advising, language training, testing, and academic advising for students, newcomers to Canada, job seekers, and area employers. The project also included the addition of the Centre for Advanced Learning, which focuses on information and communications technology, digital technologies, and business.

 

In line with the College’s mandate for sustainability, we were directed consider their targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction and sustainability in our design. Given the constraint of a limited capacity increase the existing electrical power on site, we designed a new cooling plant, which was the largest electrical load in the facility, to use a smaller chiller supplemented with ice storage. By pre-cooling with ice during the evenings, we were able to design a system that did not require additional power supply for the new building.

 

We were also involved in the design of a 150 kW solar installation on the new building. It was important to the College that the solar array was visible to the students and the public to showcase their commitment to sustainability. For this reason, the array was installed above the main entrance to the facility facing a major street – University Avenue. While this limited the physical size and angle of the array,  our firm, in conjunction with local solar panel installers, prepared the preliminary layout of the solar array detailing position, angle, and quantity of the solar panels to maximize electrical output.

 

The complexities the project presented were an invigorating challenge for our team, and we are thrilled with the end result. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the academic community to deliver projects that support student success and benefit the greater community.

 

Congratulations to all of the project partners involved in making this development a success.

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This April, we had the privilege of receiving recognition from Sustainable Waterloo Region for our sustainability efforts in 2018. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Award recognizes the organization that has reduced the most GHG emissions relative to their size. 

In 2018, we successfully worked to reduce both our direct and indirect GHGs by 6%. We also re-committed to reduce our GHG emissions by an additional 40% after achieving our initial Silver Pledging Partner reduction goal. In order to meet this new reduction goal by 2027, we've developed a five-year action plan and now have annual implementation projects and reduction forecasts in place.

 We take our commitment to sustainability seriously; it’s one of our core values! The nature of our work affords us the opportunity to have a significant impact on environmental sustainability through both project work and through our own corporate actions. We are grateful to our internal Sustainable Advisory Committee for continuing to push us to improve, and to organizations like Sustainable Waterloo Region for helping us set smart goals for a greener future.

 

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The results are in: WalterFedy has once again been selected as one of Canada’s Top Small and Medium Employers for 2019!

 

Canada’s Top Small and Medium Employers competition evaluates exceptional private-sector commercial organizations with fewer than 500 employees across Canada. Each organization is evaluated based on the following criteria:

 

Physical Workplace;

  • Work Atmosphere and Social;
  • Health, Financial, and Family Benefits;
  • Vacation and Time Off;
  • Employee Communications;
  • Performance Management;
  • Training and Skills Development; and
  • Community Involvement.

 

We’ve seen a lot of growth over the past few years as we’ve worked hard to meet the changing needs of the industry and our clients, while also anticipating where the industry is headed next.

 

Here are some of the reasons why WalterFedy was selected as one of Waterloo Area's Top Employers  of 2019:

 

  • We help employees plan for life after work with retirement planning assistance services, as well as profit-sharing and matching RSP contributions. For those nearing retirement, we also offer phased-in retirement work options.
  • We encourage ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies for courses at outside institutions as well as in-house training initiatives and subsidies for professional accreditation. We also offer co-op work terms and internship programs for students.
  • We seek employee feedback to help direct our Community Initiatives Committee. We encourage employees to volunteer with up to two paid volunteer days annually, and we match hours volunteered with financial donations (up to $200 for every 20 hours contributed).

 

 

WalterFedy was also named one of Waterloo Areas Top Employers earlier this year. Congratulations to the entire team for making WalterFedy a great place to work and grow.

 

Learn more about our culture.

Visit our careers page.

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The wait for a new, consolidated office is finally over for WalterFedy. After 18 months of searching for the perfect space, and several weeks of intensive renovations, our Hamilton team has settled into the tower at 20 Hughson, complete with soaring windows and panoramic views of the city.

 

The move is a direct result of the remarkable reception we have received in the Hamilton-Halton-Niagara area. “Our team has grown at an unprecedented pace,” said Dave Thompson, General Manager of the Hamilton team. “We started with one room in somebody else’s office in fall of 2015. That turned into a smaller office in the Port Authority Building. Then two floors. Then an additional space in the Hamilton Technology Centre.”

 

As our team grew, we recognized we wanted to become part of the core fabric of Hamilton, and support the amazing things happening in the community – the redevelopment, downtown expansions, and the future LRT. Having the entire integrated team together in the heart of the city will help us continue to grow our presence in the area and offer value to the community.

 

Finding an ideal space for a rapidly growing team is no small feat. The acquisition team evaluated several buildings in the core before settling on 20 Hughson.

“Location was crucial in our evaluation matrix,” said Chief Operating Officer Mark Christensen. “We wanted our staff to have access to amenities and transit, and to be in the core of Hamilton. This space is culturally aligned with the sense of community that the company values.”

 

WalterFedy is known for its collaborative approach to projects, and the new office was no exception. The mechanical and electrical engineering elements were driven by the Hamilton team, and AEC Developments, WalterFedy’s sister company, served as the Construction Manager. “A lot of the design principles we used here we use with our clients, like open concept office space, breakout areas, and a combination of small and large meeting rooms,” said Mark.

 

The Hamilton team is looking forward to taking advantage of all the benefits this new space has to offer. “I’m really happy to be together with everyone now,” said Shelby Johnson of our Asset and Facilities Management group. “My work touches on a lot of fields. It’s going to be great to be around every single department and share knowledge together.”

 

While plans for an official open house are still underway, clients are invited to reach out for a tour of the office space in the meantime. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our new home in Hamilton and look forward to strengthening our roots in the community.

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(CINCINNATI, OH and KITCHENER, ONTARIO; November 28, 2018) – Cincinnati-based Hixson Architecture & Engineering and Ontario-based WalterFedy announced today that they are working together to create a new $660 million value-added fresh poultry facility in London, Ontario for Maple Leaf Foods.  Hixson is serving as the lead firm to design and engineer the 640,000 square foot facility, with WalterFedy collaborating to provide architecture and engineering services in Canada. The plant is expected to be one of the most technologically advanced poultry-processing plants in the world, incorporating leading-edge food safety, environmental, and animal welfare processes and technologies.  Construction at the London site is expected to begin in the spring of 2019, with start-up planned for the second quarter of 2021.

According to Michael H. McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, the new, world-class facility “will enable Maple Leaf to meet the steadily growing consumer demand for premium, value-added poultry products, and strengthen Canada's food system." In addition, said McCain, this will be “the largest single-site investment ever made in the Canadian food sector.”

 

Greg Hammond, President and CEO of Hixson, also offered his thoughts on the project. “For 70 years, Hixson has been working with companies throughout North America to design and engineer facilities that can stand the test of time while meeting our clients’ needs for food safety, employee safety, and productivity,” said Hammond. “We are proud to have been selected by Maple Leaf Foods to design this historic project.”

 

“We are excited to be partnering with an organization like Hixson,” said Paul Reitzel, CEO of WalterFedy. “They have a long history of doing excellent work in the food industry. Our firms have the same commitment to values and talented professionals that deliver meaningful and functional projects to our clients.”

 

Read more about this project, including its economic impacts. 

 

ABOUT HIXSON

Hixson is an architecture, engineering and interior design firm specializing in projects for corporate office environments, retail projects and industrial processing facilities. Listed as one of the top firms in North America, Hixson delivers insight and advocacy leading to intelligent project execution through 16 integrated technical disciplines. To learn more, please visit www.hixson-inc.com.

 

ABOUT WALTERFEDY

WalterFedy is a dynamic, integrated design firm of architects, engineers and construction management professionals. With over 65 years of experience, WalterFedy excels at delivering creative solutions and practical built environments that enrich communities.

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