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Wednesday, Oct 10, 2018

A personal drive to succeed and a focus on mentoring lead Paula Steel on a successful career path

Paula Steel (left) with Ed Salenieks accepting a CEO Award

From an early age, Senior Wastewater Process Engineer and Project Manager Paula Steel excelled in math and sciences. She credits her grandparents for encouraging her to leverage these strengths and consider a career in engineering. Paula reflects, “My grandparents were a huge influence on my life. My grandfather wanted to be an engineer, but was unable to go to university. I wanted to do well in school and complete my engineering degree to honour him.”

Paula’s interests in math, sciences, and environmental protection led her to the Biological Engineering program at the University of Guelph. During her studies, she became interested in wastewater treatment and completed a co-op work term with a small company that performed specialized wastewater treatment plant assessments. Upon graduation, Paula secured a research assistant position where she gained an understanding of wastewater treatment processes.  

After brief stints with other consulting firms, Paula joined Associated’s Toronto office in 2003 as a Process Engineer. Paula tells us what she likes best about Associated Engineering is the diversity of staff and projects. She shares, “I enjoy working with people from across the company, from senior management to support staff. I get immense satisfaction from the interesting mix of projects we undertake, especially the challenging assignments, and the excellent working relationships that we have developed with our clients.”

Shortly after Paula joined Associated, Ed Salenieks was hired as Manager of the Wastewater group. Paula tells us, “Ed has been a great mentor, providing excellent guidance. He supported my progression from project engineer to design lead, and now project manager and contract administrator. His attention to detail and willingness to share his depth of knowledge has provided me with opportunities to grow technically. And, his always-present sense of humor keeps work interesting.” 

Following Ed’s leadership, Paula takes the responsibility of mentoring staff seriously. She advises younger staff to not limit themselves.

“It’s important to be open to working on all kinds of assignments, as they will help you figure out what drives your interests and aid in your career planning.” 

Paula promotes a “work hard and have fun” environment. She believes in the importance of balancing life outside of the office. When Paula first started working at Associated Engineering, her children were young. Paula tells us, “Ed always made it clear that everyone needs to find the right balance between work and life.”

Paula approaches projects with a collaborative perspective, and believes everyone has a role to play. Paula has completed two greenfield wastewater treatment plants from project proposal through to construction. These projects were key assignments that allowed her to apply her technical knowledge, work with our multi-discipline team, and facilitate successful completion. Paula was on the team for the Scott Street Pump Station Rehabilitation Project in downtown Toronto, which won a Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) Award of Excellence in Urban Infrastructure Renewal.

Paula shares that the greatest challenges in her career have been related to transitioning from working purely in an design engineering capacity to roles as a site reviewer or contract administrator on construction projects. She has had to learn to adapt her approach when working on construction sites, to understand and manage construction issues, and work towards positive outcomes that are in the best interests of the project and her client. 

Outside of work, Paula enjoys baking, gardening, crafting, and spending time with her family. Paula, her husband James, and their two daughters enjoy visiting festivals and fairs, Instagramming the latest antics of their pets, making S’mores on the deck, and travelling to interesting places, most recently, Iceland and Norway.