Employees like Chris Powell are a hiring manager’s dream. After graduating from Conestoga College’s Civil Engineering program, Chris took the first job he ever formally interviewed for — an Inspector/Designer position at WalterFedy — and made it the foundation of a successful career. Now Team Leader of Civil Field Review and an Associate of the Firm, his career is a true “from the ground up” story. If there’s one thing the decade-long tenure has taught Chris, it is the value of time.
In a society accustomed to instant gratification, time is a hot commodity, and managing it is a fine art. “In this industry, your ability to manage commitments, as well juggling personal and professional life is how you succeed,” says Chris. “Time is the most valuable thing in the world. We can make more money, we can hire more people, but we can’t create more time. To waste time is a very different thing than wasting money.”
Backed by over a decade of industry experience, Chris shared some of his insight around managing, investing and respecting time.
Taking the time to do things right
A good reputation can take years to earn, but only one misstep to falter. For that reason, Chris is committed to doing a job right and doing it well. Sometimes that means taking a bit of extra time. “I want to make sure everything is done right. If we are worried it isn’t, we go back and fix the issue, so we don’t sacrifice our integrity with the client.”
Part of doing a job well is making sure the right people are managing the right pieces. “One saying that always sticks with me is Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” says Chris. It can be tempting to step in and take control, but it’s important to assess whether you are being a help or a hindrance. “Especially in management, you have to understand when it is your time to act and when to play a supporting role.”
Investing time in people
Career development can be a struggle, especially if you are uncertain about your path. Having an ally and mentor in the workplace can help ease some of that pressure. As a leader, Chris firmly believes in developing meaningful, lasting relationships with everyone on his team. “Whether they work at WalterFedy today, or left years ago, they are still welcome at my table,” he explains.
“Being a leader is not just listening, but trying to motivate, support, and build people up. I am here to help people through challenges whether they are personal or professional,” he says. “What continues to make me feel successful is giving other people opportunities to succeed.”
Chris’ commitment to investing time in others extends beyond his immediate team. Strong relationships with Owners and Contractors lead to stronger projects, and building those relationships takes time and care.
“If we can all agree to be fair and equitable to each other, we will have great projects every single time,” said Chris. To do this, you need to have great communication. “I believe in open communication and honesty,” Chris explains. “If we’ve made a mistake, I will call it a mistake. Transparency is key.”
Balancing your time commitments
The concept of work-life balance is both increasingly sought-after and difficult to achieve.
“You have your professional career, your personal well-being, and your family,” says Chris. “It’s a trifecta.” Each aspect of your life affects the others, he goes on to explain. Finding a balance between these three competing facets is never easy, and it is a skill acquired through time, practice, and sometimes struggle.
“Setting boundaries is an important piece of it,” he offers. This can be anything from having guidelines around when you take phone calls and dedicating time to be distraction-free, to taking advantage of the supports your workplace offers. Field Review sometimes demands long days and weekend work. To prevent burn out, Chris encourages his team to leverage company flex-time to balance out the work week and take vacations when they’re needed.
“I try to always say yes to time-off requests,” he explains. “As a team, we make it work. There’s a lot of trust, respect and support. You know you can step away for vacation, and the team will take good care of things until you come back.”
Sharing your time with the community
Being generous with your time is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and the community. Not only does it help the community prosper, but it can also instill a sense of purpose and belonging. “I take a lot of joy out of working with people, building people, and supporting people,” Chris says. As someone who enjoys mentoring others, Conestoga College’s program advisory committee and job shadow programs were a great fit. Last year, Chris helped facilitate 30 job shadow opportunities with industry experts, helping students explore the paths open to them upon graduation. For him, volunteerism is a way to build the skills and confidence of our next generation of workers and set them up for success.
If you’d like to explore a position with the Field Review team, be sure to visit our careers page or express your interest to email@example.com.