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Friday, Sep 30, 2016

Andrea LaPlante balances professional and personal life goals as a consulting engineer

Andrea LaPlante

As a high school student, Andrea LaPlante was good at math and science, so pursuing a degree in civil engineering seemed like the best and natural fit.  While studying at the University of Waterloo, Andrea participated in the co-op program, which exposed her to employment opportunities and projects in the consulting industry.  She discovered she liked the industry’s fast pace, deadlines, and high expectations. 

After graduation, Andrea worked for a small consulting firm, but felt she wasn’t getting the opportunity to contribute on many projects.  When she had the chance to join Associated Engineering, Andrea felt the company and our St. Catharines office was the perfect size to develop her career.  After meeting with some of the staff and hearing what Associated had to offer, Andrea decided to make the change.

Since starting at Associated in 2008, Andrea has worked on a variety of projects, including linear infrastructure, roadway design, multi-discipline facility projects, and Class Environmental Assessments. Her first major project was the Consulting Engineers of Ontario award-winning Avenue Road Watermain project for the City of Toronto. Other notable projects include the Regional Road 20 Reconstruction for the Region of Niagara, Zone 4 Reservoir for the Region of Halton, and several roadway and infrastructure Class Environmental Assessments. 

Andrea believes that communication is one of the most important elements defining the success of a project. Clear communication between all team members and the client help ensure that goals and expectations, which often evolve or change during a project, are met. 

After three years at Associated Engineering as a full-time engineer, Andrea took a maternity leave and came back to work on a modified 20-hour per week schedule that allowed her to be home with her daughter while her husband, who does shift-work, was working. Two years later, she took a leave to have their second child, and returned to work on a modified 24-hour per week work schedule, which she continues to follow. 

“I’ve been able to continue to develop my career while being a very hands-on parent. I have been able to give my children the attention, guidance, and nurturing I wanted to be able to give them during the early and most important years of their lives.”  

Andrea is very grateful to the company and her managers, Mark Belanger and Herb Kuehne, who have worked with her to develop flexible hours that achieve the work-life balance she wants for her family.  Andrea recognizes she has made some career sacrifices but knows eventually, when her children are older, that she will have the opportunity to resume full time work, and take on larger roles on projects. 

Andrea credits Mark Belanger, who is now her Manager, as being a great mentor who has helped develop her technical, project management, and business development skills.  With more than 10 years’ experience, Andrea now mentors junior staff.  She believes mentoring is very important and contributes significantly to the future and the success of the company.  To junior staff, she shares the following, “Be prepared to work hard.  Take the extra step and make the extra effort.  Spend extra time when required.  In the consulting business, often spending some extra time outside of normal working hours is needed to meet a deadline or address a client concern. This investment will pay off for yourself and the company and most often doesn’t go unnoticed.” 

Outside of project work, Andrea is a member of Associated’s Women in Science and Engineering Retention committee. She looks forward to working with the group and the company to help retain professional women at the company. 

Away from the office, Andrea enjoys reading and practicing yoga.  She spends most of her free time with her husband and their two young children, Emma and Griffon. They like to bike, play sports, and explore their local community.