Orange Corner

It all came together back in May 2015, when I had my first “chat” at Chapter’s Starbucks with Terry, Krissy, Katherine and Sarah. I remember telling my wife Alice, afterwards, sitting at the Avalon Mall (the staging zone for my first job interview in Canada), how much we had clicked. That I believed I had a chance at working for this odd starting company, swinging above its weight to “fix the construction industry”. It would be an enormous challenge, changing gears from working with electrical high voltage design to working with construction project management. But at that moment I noticed: Canada could – would work. Alice and I had quit everything back in Brazil to try it out here. And after that first meeting with Terry and the gang, I felt the momentum pick up. It would work alright.

And work alright it did. I don’t intend to talk about the roller coaster that is the immigration process to Canada. What I do want to talk about it is how Vigilant stood by me as an anchor, and how the lessons I learned here -  passion, drive, people first, make things right, liking what you do, walking the talk – will steward me on my way forward.

The first thing I was told when I started here -  and throughout these two and a half years – was that Vigilant believes in their employees waking up in the morning excited about work. Construction projects are filled with stressful situations. But to get in your car and drive to the office, and be surrounded by friends who are also your co-workers, and get satisfaction in the results of your effort – that is to be the main drive. Vigilant would like their employees to love what they do.

Like all other companies out there say at recruiting. But lucky me, I made past that stage. And my first year. And my second year. And into the third year, at the company off-site, we were hammering down on the same note: love what you do. Do what you love. Be happy, be fulfilled. I was passing down that message to the new hires, to each work term student that spent a season with us. I saw it daily in Lloyd’s beaming smile, Grant’s explosive laughter, and Terry’s witty remarks. On the “factory floor”, the boys and I always had a good time, no matter how stressful a particular job was. As my time with Vigilant passed, I saw how it dodged the blows of an industry that doesn’t want to be fixed, or took the ones that hit with defying mirth. Writing about it, it makes me think of Muhammad Ali. Fighting and loving every minute of it. Shoulders that floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee.

I can honestly say that after only under three years, the construction industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is being changed. Vigilant is on its way to a heavier weight class, and Owners are becoming increasingly aware that they have someone in their corner. But all those lessons I’ve been living since the beginning, also showed me something: project management was not my calling. As much as I loved the workplace, I yearned for a more technical role. My formation and background became somehow of a nostalgia, and on my way to work everyday, I would go by the massive substation close to the Paradise roundabout, and wish I could visit it. Get to know its workings. Driving back weekly from a project at Upper Island Cove, I’d take a little time to soak in Soldier’s Pond substation. And as much as I loved Vigilant and the people that make it – I realized it was time to act on the very principles that Vigilant taught me.

This is my last day, and a very bittersweet one at that. I move to do what I went to school for. In my cover letter to Vigilant, I said how I loved the buzz of energized high voltage lines, and the crush of a switchyard’s gravel under my boots. And I am going back to that. But hell, will I miss these orange walls! The orange corner where we could retreat to at the end of a round, catch some breath, a sip of water, listen to the coach’s instructions, and go back at it, to fight the good fight.

- John