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Insights How is collaboration central to what James does at SNC-Lavalin?

As part of our #PeopleDriveResults campaign, this week we have caught up with James Ward, Structural Engineer for the Mining & Metallurgy group, based in Toronto, Canada. 

Image of James smiling

Tell us a little bit about your professional background?

Growing up in the South-West of England, I was exposed to many opportunities in structural, environmental and geotechnical engineering. These provided a good understanding and gave me insight into a wide range of engineering mandates from Flood Risk Assessments to Structural Design and Ground Contamination Studies.

 While I loved England, I moved to Canada in search of new opportunities and started at AtkinsRéalis shortly after arrival. I worked for the Fenco Division (Sulphuric Emissions Solutions) as a Junior Structural Engineer and have since grown into my current role as Structural Engineering Lead for the Coeur Rochester Project.

What inspired you to become a Structural Engineer?

 When I was a child I would spend most of my time carefully planning and creating elaborate Meccano and Lego structures. I always enjoyed building and understanding structures. My Dad was an electrical engineer, and as I grew older I became fascinated with the blue prints he would bring home. With encouragement and academic support from my family, I was lucky to follow my dream and passion for science, math, structures and engineering – it all fell into place and this is how I began my career.

What do you think has had the biggest impact on your career development to date?

One of the most important things a young engineer can do is find a mentor. It’s very important to have someone to look up to, but also someone with the knowledge and experience to guide you, as you make decisions about your own career path. A career is not so much about the opportunities but the decisions you make throughout your career, the exposure and ability to learn from others. A mentor can help guide you to build the right type of experience and set you up for success. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have had a mentor at AtkinsRéalis . It has really helped guide my career and helped me navigate changes.

What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve made and how did it impact your life?

Deciding to immigrate to Canada one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. It was not an easy decision to move away from friends and family and start in a new city. Looking back after 11 years, it was one of the best decisions that I could have made; I have never regretted it. Sometimes we just need to take the occasional risk in life and go with our gut. The risk is sometimes well worth it.

How is collaboration central to what you do at AtkinsRéalis ?

 Collaboration is one of AtkinsRéalis ’s values and it is the one that resonates most with me. Collaboration is essential in our work, especially on large projects like Coeur Rochester that have a large scope. Several companies and teams are working together to achieve a common goal. COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we collaborate, but it’s about embracing technology, such as Teams and Skype.  I believe strongly in open communication, which requires a system with formal and informal meetings and check-ins with our broader team to ensure we are connected, have the energy and drive to achieve our common goals.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love to paint! This is a relatively new hobby that I started a few years ago. It was always an interest of mine, but during the past few years have I taken the time to improve my skills. I’m at a level where I can sell my artwork! There is a definitely a crossover between technical drawing and creating something on a canvas, both inspire creativity.

What values are important to you?

My fiancé is a teacher; she encounters a lot of unique situations that are different to what I do in the field of engineering. I’m grateful that we can learn from each other, but also approach situations together with patience and understanding. By understanding two different perspectives, it leads to positive results and achievements, especially in these difficult times.