ISL Young Professionals – Olivia Ryan

Welcome to ISL’s Young Professionals! We feature ISLers who are taking the engineering world by storm. Get to know what led them to a career in engineering, what their day-to-day looks like and what they think sets ISL apart.

Meet Olivia Ryan, a Transportation Engineer-in-Training based in our Edmonton office. Olivia has been with ISL for over 2 years.

Olivia Ryan, E.I.T.

Olivia Ryan, E.I.T.

Transportation Engineer-in-Training, Edmonton

What is your role at ISL?

I am a transportation engineer-in-training in the Transportation group in Edmonton. I primarily work on transportation planning projects.

What big project are you working on right now (or have you recently completed)?

Currently I am helping wrap up the Yellowhead Trail from St Albert Trail to 97 St Concept Plan. I helped with various tasks throughout the project.

When and why did you decide you wanted to be an engineer?

I am not sure when I really knew but my dad and grandpa played a huge role in why. Ever since I was little I was helping my dad with his renovation company and my grandpa was an engineer and helped build hospitals in Canada, the US, and Germany which was so cool to me. I have always loved helping people and building things so I liked the idea of being an engineer which would give me the chance to do both!

In high school I took welding to have more opportunity to design and build things like the make-up stand and Christmas stocking holder that are still used to this day. At the end of grade 10 I started to think that engineering would be a good fit for me and made sure I took all the appropriate classes to get into the program.

What was the path you took to get to where you are today? (school, volunteering, work experience/co-ops, networking, ect.)

Well obviously I completed a degree in engineering. The different part about my engineering experience was I completed my first year of my degree at Campus Saint Jean (the French campus of the University of Alberta) so my class sizes were 12 to 80 people instead of the hundreds they had at main campus. I selected to do the civil co-op program which gave me the opportunity to work in the engineering industry while in school.

While most of my experience was in oil and gas I learned that your engineering degree really teaches you how to learn, and that there is still so much on the job learning that happens in every position. During my degree I got to take classes in construction management and transportation which I found to be very interesting.

After I graduated I got a job for a construction company and was doing some construction management but was not loving it as much as I thought I would. I then started looking at transportation positions and the rest is history!

What’s your favourite thing about what you do?

I have really enjoyed the continual growth in my job which have given me an appreciation of my city, how roadways are built, and the logic behind why certain decisions may have been made. Even though I am a transportation engineer each project I work on is different and exposes me to different challenges that I work with the team to overcome. Everyone I interact with is so knowledgeable which allows me to continue learning new things each and every day.

What does a typical day at ISL look like for you? (coffee, inspections, site visits, phone calls, team meetings, design, emails, ect.)

Before the pandemic I really enjoyed going to the gym before work with my husband. Now he heads off to work and I walk from the bedroom to the kitchen to get my water and coffee before I turn on my computer.

At the start of the week I have my to do list of tasks which can include different tasks like developing design criterias, traffic projections and analysis, report writing and coordination to name a few. After a few hours of working on my top priorities (which change depending on the week and the projects I am working on) I take a few minutes to whip up a smoothie.

Some weeks I may have meetings throughout the day or random requests from PMs or the client to deal with. For lunch time I move from my desk to the couch to watch some TV and send people memes. My afternoons are typically touching base with people and completing my to do list. If I am finishing all my tasks  I will ask others if they need help with anything and usually have little chats with people in the afternoon to learn how I can help them.

What are some of your favourite ISL experiences? (Cool projects, social events/charitable initiatives, daily office life, ect.)

Staff meetings! I have never really seen a company where staff meetings are something people look forward to. Usually staff meetings are things people dread because they are dull. ISL has create an environment where people gather with other groups and enjoy learning about what is happening within the company.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I want to be a project manager working on various projects and help new EITs explore the early stages of their career.

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