Stephanie Robinson is director of Eastern Canada Building Sciences for WSP Canada, president of the Quebec Ontario Chapter of IIBEC, and a past vice president of the Southern Ontario Chapter of IIBEC. Stephanie studied civil engineering at the University of Waterloo and is recognized as both a professional engineer in Ontario and a level 2 thermographer.
Why did you become an engineer?
My grandfather was a mechanical engineer. He encouraged me from an early age to ask questions and take things apart. He inspired me to go into engineering.
In Canada, when you graduate from a university engineering program, you receive an iron ring, which engineers wear on the pinky finger of their working hand. Every university in Canada has a Calling of an Engineer ceremony where engineering graduates receive their rings, and only people who are engineers can attend and participate. My ceremony was a full-circle moment for me because my grandfather was able to be there, and he presented me with my ring.
During the program, they showed a presentation about the top engineering accomplishments in Canada. Two of these projects were projects my grandfather had worked on: designs for a famous jet called the Avro Arrow and the CANDU electric power reactors. The entire event was so special because he inspired my career choice and because we saw his accomplishments celebrated.
How did you get involved in IIBEC (RCI)?
My first introduction to RCI (now IIBEC) came through Jean-Guy Levaque. Jean-Guy had just joined our firm at WSP. He encouraged me to get involved. My first events were the convention in 2018 in Houston and a series of Southern Ontario Chapter events. It worked out great, as I paired up trips for work between Ottawa and Toronto with the meetings, education, and events. Around this time, I met Katharine Spavins. She recruited me to serve on the board as the representative for the National Capital Branch.
Since that time, I have served on several IIBEC committees, including those for the Canadian Building Enclosure Symposium, Certified Building Enclosure Commissioning Provider (CBECxP®), and the updated Manual of Practice. This year, we transitioned the National Capital Branch into the Quebec Ontario Chapter.
What do you do during your typical day-to-day?
Right now, I am in a brand new role: I support three offices and 60 people in eastern Canada. I handle day-to-day interactions with the team and support team production and business development. I provide technical oversight and support for projects across Canada, particularly roofing projects. I schedule milestone meetings, review reports, and provide support for the team during construction. I provide leadership in technical decisions for projects, as well as support training for less-experienced staff. I bring knowledge of local code requirements to all areas of the project.
Currently, with the [COVID-19 pandemic–related] lockdown in our area, I work from home most of my time. It is a lot of Zoom meetings to discuss progress—I’m looking forward to more face-to-face interaction with the team on a daily basis.
What is your favorite type of project?
I like projects where I can see the impact firsthand. For example, I find condo work is interesting because I get to work with a collection of individual owners who have a very personal interest in the outcome of the project.
I also enjoy projects that take me cool places. I have traveled across all of Canada. I enjoy projects that get me into the back end of the building. For example, I recently was in the federal buildings in Ottawa, where I get to see areas that are not normally accessible to the public. I have been on a lot of interesting roofs with incredible views that very few people will ever see.
Have you had a mentor in the building enclosure field, and what is one important thing they have taught you?
I have had several mentors, both at WSP and with my previous employers. I have found the most important thing that I have learned is to make personal connections with people: coworkers, clients, and others in the industry. These connections can make the difference of enjoying your work or not. This is also why I’ve enjoyed more involvement with IIBEC; IIBEC creates friendships out of those experiences.
Also, I have learned the value of sharing the knowledge you gain through your career and empowering those around you. My mentors have gone above and beyond to put opportunities in my path—now it’s my job to try to do the same for other people.
What core values do you aspire to live by?
In my professional career, I strive for continuous improvement. Always learn from your mistakes. If your goal to be perfect at something, you are always going to be disappointed. If your aim is to improve at something, there is always room for growth.
What is your greatest accomplishment professionally?
Over time, I have developed my public speaking skills so that I feel confident presenting technical talks and speaking in front of my industry peers.
Do you have any favorite IIBEC Convention memories?
My most favorite thing is the regional meetings at the convention; there is so much energy in that room. It is interesting to see so many passionate people travel from different countries to the United States, have their voices heard, and contribute to the organization that is IIBEC.
Another great memory was when the new IIBEC logo was unveiled at the convention in Orlando, Florida. The lights went down, and there was a fog machine, loud rock music, and a room full of building sciences geeks. We upped our cool factor that day!
What advice would you give today to someone starting out in the industry?
Don’t be afraid to say yes to new challenges and opportunities, even if they are not what you have been trained for or what’s written down on your “five-year plan.” For example, when people asked me to join the local chapter board of IIBEC, it launched me down a different path with incredible leadership opportunities.
Don’t ever say “no” because you think you are unqualified for something. There is at least one person who supports you (the person who asked you). Don’t ever feel like you are unqualified. You can gain experience and on-the-job knowledge if you have a good support system around you.
What is the most important goal you hope to achieve in your life?
(Laughing) Right now, it’s getting through my vaccination! I am so new in my current job that I need to settle into my new role before I start thinking about what’s next.
What do you do when you are not working? What are some of your hobbies and interests?
During the last year, I have been hiking and reading, and took up quilting. I love curling in the winter and traveling anytime. A lot of my off time, vacation time, and weekends are spent traveling or planning my next trip. I have been to Europe and the United States, I lived in Boston for a while, and I have been all over Canada. My recent big trips were to Costa Rica in 2019 and Bali in 2018. I’ve been to Morocco and Ireland, and to China twice: once to Beijing and the other time to Shanghai.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Back to Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. It is one of Canada’s smallest provinces but such a cool place. I went out there by myself for two weeks two years ago. I loved the small towns, incredible landscapes, and wildlife such as puffins, whales, and moose. I would love to go back.
The trip was very easy and comfortable. On Fogo Island, which you only can get to by ferry, there is a lookout point on the island hiking trail that has been designated as one of the four corners of the earth by flat-earthers; at this point, there is a tongue-in-cheek sign with a count of all the hikers who have fallen off the edge (spoiler alert: it’s zero).
Do you have a favorite book that you would recommend?
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. It is really insightful and helps you understand your motivation and other people’s motivation. “Why” is a better starting point than a series of “what” and “how” questions. This book has affected how I have functioned both personally and professionally.
I also love the Harry Potter series. I have re-read all the books again during the pandemic.
You can connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn here.