Environment, People Spotlight, Sustainability

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a senior regulatory specialist, deputy department manager – impact assessment and permitting, Canada, from our Environment business line in our Calgary, Alberta office and providing insight into their technical inspiration and work.

Elaine has over 17 years of experience in environmental consulting working on oil and gas, mining, in-situ, pipelines, utilities and renewables projects. She is actively involved in leading, managing and reviewing environmental regulatory approvals, permitting and terrestrial scopes of work including vegetation, wetlands, soils, wildlife and reclamation.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

In elementary school, I attended an Earth Day conference where we learned about how to protect the environment. I was inspired by the day’s events and that I could make a difference to help maintain and protect the Earth. From that moment on, I decided that I was going to be an environmentalist. At that early age, I really didn’t know what an environmentalist did, but I knew I wanted to do something good for the environment. To further explore and build on my vision, I went to the University of Calgary and completed a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Once I graduated, I successfully landed my first job in environmental consulting. And the rest is history! I’ve been in the industry ever since and thoroughly enjoyed working as a vegetation ecologist, reclamation specialist and eventually an environmental regulatory specialist. I really like the variety in my roles and different types of consulting opportunities I’ve been provided because every assignment is different yet similar. I’ve been very fortunate to take on progressive responsibilities in environmental compliance activities for a broad portfolio of market sectors.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?

I do not have a favorite project yet since I am mostly involved in proposal development right now. Surprisingly, I do enjoy working on proposals and pursuits because they are a great way to meet and learn from technical experts across the company. Proposals have short turnarounds and really challenge you to manage your time. I find this a great way to map out how we would complete the project. I also enjoy the process of collaborating with the proposal team to create this roadmap together – aligning our strategic positioning to win the work. It’s very rewarding to see everyone — from the technical experts to marketing specialists and graphic designers — collaborate to meet often tight deadlines. We always create such dynamic proposal packages and can showcase our company’s strong capabilities and thought leadership.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

During the last few years, I’ve been involved in renewable energy projects which have positively impacted communities. We’ve been able to site these projects away from sensitive environmental features and provide mitigation measures to protect aspects like native grasslands, since these are so important to wildlife habitat. I’ve seen wind and solar applications get approved and built — it is truly satisfying to know that I had a small environmental part to play in advancing the future of clean energy in these communities.

Share a piece of career advice.

For me, it’s not just about my career but my team’s career paths as well. If we work together, we can grow together. As the saying goes, “you can do anything but not everything.” At the start of your career, you typically begin on small, simple projects, then transition with time and experience to larger, more complex programs. It is important to pause now and again and see where you are going in your career. Are there simple assignments that you can mentor or train a team member to help them achieve their career goals? That leaves room for you to continue working on large, complex projects and on new challenging tasks. Consider this win/win approach. After all, there is only so much time in a work week.

Originally published Jul 6, 2022

Author: Elaine Lee-Ho