Stretch and Flex

During my time here, I’ve learned that the Vigilant Team is a very accepting group. After my first few weeks back at a desk and sitting for the majority of the day, I noticed that I started to get sore and tense. This made me think about when I was doing a stretch routine twice a week at one of my previous work terms. After mentioning stretch to Colin here at the office, he said “if you are going to do it, you have to do it in the morning, every day”.  

Needless to say, we now conduct a daily “no social pressure stretch”. This means it is a voluntary activity that happens every morning. Employees stretch in a space free of judgement, because everyone participating in stretch looks the same - foolish or not!. Workers in today’s society typically spend the majority of each day sitting at a desk. As we all know, the body needs to get up and move around sometimes, and what better way to do it then to get up out of your desk and start the morning off on the right foot (literally). 

What most people don’t know is that stretching is a very popular occurrence on construction sites. Stretch occurs every day, and first thing in the morning, as it can reduce the risk of soft tissue injuries. This made it easy to integrate stretch because out of the 12 people we have in the office, 3 of them have spent a significant time on construction sites and understood the benefits.

Our daily stretch includes a toe touch/ hang, wrist/typing stretches and oblique stretches, just to name a few. This activity has gone over really well and also works as a team building opportunity. We have recently added a new component called “celebrity guest stretch”. Every day, this is where a new employee leads one stretch at the end of the session.
My challenge to whomever is reading this is to talk to your co-workers about a stretch at work or take a few minutes in your work day to stand up and do some personal stretching. And remember, if you ever end up having an early morning meeting at Vigilant, feel free to join the stretch. Or not, there’s no pressure! 

- Kathleen

P.S. Please see below our Vigilant stretching routine!


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Stretch Routine

Quad Stretch: 10 seconds per leg. While balancing on one-foot pull foot with hand toward body

Toe Touch: Hold 10 seconds 

Head/ Neck Stretches:

  • Ear to shoulder: 10 seconds each side

  • Head Roll: Slowly roll head forwards from left to right 3 times

Typing stretches: 10 seconds per direction

  • Flex hand upward and pull toward body using other hand - arm straight

  • Flex hand downward and pull toward body using other hand – arm straight

Figure eights:

  • Interlace your fingers in front of your body.

  • Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, move your interlaced hands in a figure eight motion.

  • Allow your wrists to rotate fully so that each hand is alternately on top of the other.

  • Perform this exercise for 10 to 15 seconds.

Runner's Stretch:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.

  • Step back with your left leg 

  • Lower your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip and leg.

  • Switch legs

Side Oblique Stretch:

  • Stand with feet a little wider than hip-distance apart 

  • As you lift one arm overhead with your palm facing inward, reach and lean toward the opposite side of the arm raised

  • Switch sides.

Wall Stretch: – chest opener

  • Place arm against wall keeping arm parallel to the floor

  • Place open hand or thumb and index finder against the wall 

  • Rotate chest outward while arm is against the wall

  • Hold for 10 seconds

  • Switch

Calf Stretch Against Wall

  • Standing near a wall, place the toes of your right foot on the base of the wall.

  • Lean in towards the wall, feeling the stretch in your calf.  Make sure not to bend your back leg—only go as far as you can while keeping it straight.

  • Hold, then repeat on other side

Take Initiative

My name is Kathleen, and I am the latest addition to the Vigilant Management Team. I am a 5th year Business Commerce student at Memorial University and I am spending my last work term with Vigilant Management. I have been working here for two and a half weeks, and there are a few things that have become quite apparent.

The gang here is very hard working and at most times are functioning at 120% capacity. That being said, as a new addition I have had a lot of questions. Thankfully, every time I’ve needed clarification, the people here have stopped whatever they are doing to help me out.

I learnt on my first work term that there are two roles that a work term student can take; the role of a student, and the role of a temporary full-time worker.

I asked a supervisor once what they were looking for when hiring a student, and he said something that has stuck with me throughout my student career: “I am looking for someone who will work like a full-time employee because this student will perform work that a full time employee would have to do. If I don’t get a student, then I will have to hire a full time person.” That concept always stuck with me because I didn’t realize that this was an ideology that existed when hiring a student.

This perspective has been relevant to all of my employment as a student and is especially relevant at Vigilant Management. The people here are very busy and the company requires a temporary full time worker who is a student. Someone who can identify issues and resolve them before they become problems.

The following article was sent to me by a friend who was given the article by a supervisor. It is especially relevant to students, but I believe it is worth the read to anyone in the workforce.

“My advice is to always work hard, take initiative and learn new things. The world is always short for people who do those things. The Business world is always looking for people who can get things done, and they will pay more for those people. Your ability to get things done depends upon how hard you work, how willing you are to take initiative, and how much you have learned.

Do a good job in your first task, even if you think those tasks are beneath you. A person who does not do a good job on the simple things will not be given more complex things to do. If you learn a little bit more than the next person every day, after a few years you will know a lot more than the next person.

If you are the type of person who works hard, takes initiative, and learns new things, you will be the first to be chosen for new jobs, the first to be promoted and the least likely to lose your job in the event of an economic downturn.

More important, you will be happier if you do those things.

There are many people in the world who look for ways to avoid work. The working day for those people is very long, and they are only given low level work to do. Life is too short to be this type of an unhappy person.

If your work hard, take initiative and learn something every day, the work day will seem very short, you will grow in your job, you will be more able to help your family.”

That is all for now, until next time.

- Kathleen


Columns and Slabs

For me, without support it would be very hard to live a happy and fulfilling life. I have this support in the right places; much like a slab on columns.

Over-designed columns are a tire on resources and manpower which, at the end of the day, does not allow the slab to properly take the weight it was designed for. This gives the slab a false sense of how much weight it can hold. Although, using the same slab design with correctly designed columns will allow the weight to be properly transferred between the two. This gives the slab the actual weight it is designed to hold. The same can be said about people; the slabs. 

With too much support they never fully know what they are capable of. They are wrongly shown that they can take on more than they really can because most of the weight is being transferred to their support system. With a proper support system in place, a person knows how much they can take on. They know when they are reaching their peak and it helps to not overload them to failure. It is always nice to think you can pile on more weight than you can actually handle. However, if you are a person with an overbearing support system and you find yourself without it (like at a job, for example), you will quickly find yourself overloaded, stressed, and strained. 

This is why I am very appreciative of my columns: My family, my friends, and my co-workers. My family is and has always been my #1 supporter. They also know when to step back and let me make my own decisions on the things I have been involved with in and out of school. My friends support my life outside my family. They let me know when I seemed stressed and need to relax. My co-workers at Vigilant have been amazing at supporting my interests and consistently check in with me for feedback on the things I am working on.

I am learning everyday how much I can handle and because none of my supports are overbearing, I am consistently learning new ways to take on additional things in my life all by myself.

- Taylor

Lego Houses

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved Legos. Cliché thing for an engineer, but I was honestly captivated with how simple blocks could come together to make such colorful and intricate things.

My favorites were the Lego Creator sets which allow you to use one set of pieces to build one of three creations at a time. I currently have eight or nine of the house sets, so a few years ago my parents decided to buy me a Creator set, which was a moving t-rex, spider, and something I can’t even remember. It was cool to build but it never really clicked with me, and it ended up in the back of my closet whereas all my houses are currently on display on a shelf. These house sets were how I recognized my love of residential construction.

My initial career thoughts revolved around Dentistry, but then I did a Biology course in high school and realized it wasn’t for me. I racked my brain for things that I would actually want to be doing for the rest of my life, and my Lego houses always lurked around. I looked up architectural and building design programs, but they were all extremely expensive and really specific, which would make my life more difficult in case the exact industry wasn’t there when I graduated. I was also doing a physics and advanced math course at the time, which I really enjoyed, so I looked into the Civil Engineering Program at Memorial University. I saw courses like structural analysis, concrete and steel design, structural building systems, and finite element analysis. Even just typing these courses out right now gets me excited (although I’ve discovered concrete is crazy hard and also gives me slight anxiety along with the excitement lol)! So that’s where I decided to apply, and where I am today with one year left to my program!

Completing a bachelor’s degree in engineering at MUN allows me to complete up to six 4-month work terms. This is currently my 4th, and I remember when, in my interview with Vigilant, they mentioned residential construction projects. I made this random squeak noise trying to hold in my excitement that I thought totally cost me the interview. Thank god it didn’t because this is the first work term where I’ve had the opportunity to step onto a residential construction site, and I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing. Even sitting in meetings with architects to iron out interior details leaves me captivated for the entire day! I’m pretty much a kid in a candy store with this stuff. Or maybe a younger me in a Lego store? Either or!

-  Taylor

Goodbye (For Now)

Well I thought this blog post was going to be a sad finale. I thought I was going to have to say all of my goodbyes and tell everyone I hope to see them around. If you’d asked me two weeks ago what I was going to write about, that’s exactly what I would have told you. Although this is still going to be sappy I’m sure, I can’t hide my glee, as I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be coming back to Vigilant in May as the newest Junior Project Manager (PM)! I could not be happier to have received an offer last week to join the Vigilant team full-time!!

The last four months have taught me so much about project management and construction, but more importantly, I’ve learned that you can actually LOVE your job. There was not a moment of doubt in my mind that I would be accepting the offer to come back in the Spring as a Junior PM. Vigilant has set the bar so high for how a job should feel; I can’t imagine that many people get to experience that, even though they should. 

I can’t believe four months have already gone by. I am so grateful to have learned so much in this short time, and to have been given so much responsibility and trust. I got to be a real part of the team and really contribute in every aspect. That’s how I managed to learn so much from these incredible people.

Now even though I’ll be back in four months, I still want to say some special thank you’s and goodbyes because I’m going to miss seeing every one of your faces everyday over the next four months. 

Mark, thank you for being an incredible mentor and teaching me so much over the course of this semester. You were always patient and happy to help, and you’ve given me so much responsibility which really allowed me to learn. A great part of what I learned over this term has been thanks to you and your effort to make me feel included and valuable. From our countless drives to Torbay and downtown, I’m glad we got time to chat about podcasts and books and life. You’ve been such a huge part of why I loved my work term so much!

Michelle, what started out as cubicle buddies has blossomed into a friendship; I am so happy to have made a friend from work that I can hang-out with on the weekends, and who enjoys vegetarian food almost as much as I do. You’re always there to help with all of my computer issues and the endless RedTeam questions, and your motivation and leadership motivates me on the daily. You’re an incredible employee and Vigilant is so lucky to have you, and I’m so excited to come back and see you more in May J  P.S. please save me from studying and eat veggie burgers with me next semester.

Sheldon, you’re the WD-40 of the office (lol). You do everything and anything to keep the office running, and you’re always there to lend a hand. I’ve loved working with you this semester, and I’m going to miss your morning “wattya at bys” and the vigorous typing you always seem to be doing during lunch. As the big head of HR, thank you for the opportunity to continue my journey with you guys, gonna miss you!!

Todd, you have one of the warmest, most sincere hearts than anyone I’ve ever met. You’re always happy to help no matter the task, and you’re freakishly good at LITERALLY EVERYTHING. I haven’t seen a thing that you haven’t been able to do or figure out yet… Please teach me. Thank you for making this semester so great! 

Holly, you are one of the smartest women I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and you’re an incredible role model for me as a young female engineer. I can’t wait to learn more from you and attempt to become half of the estimator that you are. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you and receiving not only work-related advice, but life advice too. And don’t forget that you, me, and Michelle are going for sushi soon!! 

*** side note this is way longer than I intended, I hope you’re making your way to the bottom and haven’t quit yet ***

Ian, you’re always so helpful for any random or stupid question that I have. You’re so knowledgeable in such a wide variety of things. I’m going to miss your sass and poking fun at each other every day. I’ve had such a laugh this semester with you. P.S. I’m going to respectfully enjoy my last day having seniority over you J Unfortunately you will surpass me when I go back to school… also, sorry for forgetting your Christmas card.

Lloyd, I wish I could have worked more closely with you throughout the semester but I’m so glad that I’ve gotten to work with you when I did! Your stories are always appreciated, and you’ve got so much wisdom that I hope to learn from. I’m looking forward to coming back and learning more from you!

Krissy, I wish I could have seen more of you this semester, but I hope to do so in the future! You always bring a smile to the office and I look forward to getting to know you better. However, one thing I do know, is that you’re really freaking good at musical trivia. Can’t wait to come back and work with you! 

Grant, you’re such an incredible PM, and you’ve been such a role model and mentor for me throughout the semester. I aim to become a project manager just like you; your productivity and speed is worth aspiring to, and I’ve rarely seen you without a smile on your face. You bring such an upbeat and positive energy to the room - I think we all feed off of it. I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity to work here all semester and to come back and learn from you. 

Terry, please don’t make a comment about saving the best for last. I’m a broken record when I say how much I’ve enjoyed this term and how much I’m going to miss all of you. The company that you, Grant, and Lloyd have moulded is nothing short of exceptional. Your view on how a workplace should be run, and the way you manage all of Vigilant employees, is awesome. Changing the traditional way of doing things is exactly what we need, and I’m glad to be working in a place like this. We had a talk at the beginning of the semester, and I think about it all the time. You really put it into perspective that the sky is the limit at Vigilant. I really can do and become anything that I aspire to be. You made me remember what I went into engineering for, what I want out of it, and that I can be the big boss one day with the right mindset, the right work ethic, and a hell of a lot of work. Like I said in your card, you re-lit a fire that I forgot I had. I leave work with more energy than I come with, which is incredible. 

SORRY this has been incredibly long and I’ve repeated myself a hundred times, so if you made it to the bottom, hats off to you. 

Team, I am going to miss you, and be prepared to see me dropping in at random times, all the time. I can’t wait to come back!!! 

So goodbye, for now.

- Meg

Sleighin’ it

Less than one month left of my work term… Where in the world does time go?! It seems like just yesterday that I started my first day here at Vigilant. So much has changed in this short period of time, yet so much is still the same. My enjoyment at work, the everyday laughs, and the constant support and feedback hasn’t changed at all, but I feel like I’ve grown a lot both as a future engineer and as a person, and the people here have become more than just my colleagues. So prepare for one sappy post in a few weeks when I have to go back to school.

Aside from it now getting dark at 4pm, November was a pretty great month! I got my apartment all decorated for Christmas, and my cats, Alistair and Emery, have destroyed all but about 4 ornaments. They are terribly cute, but man are they ever little terrors. They’re just over a year old now, and this month they’ve FINALLY started letting me sleep through the night. I also booked my flights home for Christmas; I get to spend 10 days in New Brunswick with my family and ring in the New Year at the Crabbe ski hill, I can’t wait! We got our office tree up on Friday too, and I just picked up some more decorations for the office. I’m in charge of the elf on the shelf at the office this year, so if anyone has any good ideas shoot them my way!

This month I had a real first at Vigilant, we all went to a movie IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY for Grant’s birthday and saw Bohemian Rhapsody. How many people can say they’ve done that?? It’s pretty cool the stuff we get to do. When you work hard all week, it’s pretty rewarding to get to go see a 12pm movie with all of your colleagues on a Friday. The movie was great by the way, highly recommend going to see it. I’ve been pretty busy the last month, working two jobs, taking my last elective, and trying to have a social life, so it’s nice to relax and just sit down, eat popcorn, and watch a movie.

I’ve been pretty heavily involved in a lot of projects lately, and I’ve been learning so much from everyone here. I dipped my toes (and fell in head first) into my first buildings estimate with Holly, which was both interesting and challenging. Watching her put together the last of the estimate was mesmerizing, and someday I hope that I can be THAT good. I’ve been going on site a fair bit too, sitting in on a lot of meetings, and helping write reports with Mark. I’m getting such a diverse range of experience here, it’s wonderful. I learn something new every day!

Now changing gears a bit, with Christmas just around the corner, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone has it as good as us. Stay grateful this month, count your blessings, and try and give back as much as you can! There are a ton of organizations around St. John’s or wherever you are reading this from that collect donations, gifts, non-perishables, etc., so make an effort to contribute. It may make all the difference to someone’s Christmas! I’m so grateful to be surrounded by great colleagues and friends this time of year; since my family is all in New Brunswick, it’s nice to have my 9-5 life so cheerful and fun. I try and make a conscious effort to be grateful for the little things every day, and what a difference it makes.

Anyways, I’ve been rambling about a whole lot of nothing in this post, and it’s time for me to go study some Spanish (never take Spanish 1000 by the way). Have fun tackling the Avalon Mall and Stavanger drive this month while you Christmas shop!

Until next time (in 3 weeks)!

- Meg

A Concrete Way of Thinking

Well I’m starting my ninth week here at Vigilant and I can’t believe how fast time has been going by! Every day comes with a new challenge and opportunity to learn, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. On top of the work experience, I’ve been lucky to have such a great group of people to spend the busy days with. From talking about food to pets to movies and books, every day is filled with laughter and (friendly) debates and positivity.

A team is kind of like building a foundation wall. Ian could probably write a cooler metaphor about an engine or a pump or something, but I’m a Civil so bear with me. The three major things you need to build a foundation wall are your concrete, formwork, and rebar. All three are completely different materials, with different properties, strengths, weaknesses, and purposes. Without your formwork, your concrete is going to pour all over the ground, and basically make a big hard mess of concrete without providing any purpose. Without the rebar, your foundation wall isn’t going to be very strong, and it’s going to be susceptible to failure. Lastly, without your concrete, well… you know where I’m going with this. Similarly, every member at Vigilant is unique in their own way and bring a different edge and attitude to the team. Without each and every individual, Vigilant would not be who they are today. Every member has their own strengths and weaknesses. Standing alone they’re all great in their own way, but together, they form a solid, strong, useful base.

I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with so many things in the last eight weeks.  Mark has been an incredible mentor, helping me learn and challenging me to be better every day. I’ve learned so much about project management from him, Grant, Holly, Lloyd, Ian, and Todd, in addition to the business side of things from Terry, Michelle, and Sheldon. My only wish is that there were more hours in a day.

Well I just spent an incredible weekend in Halifax visiting friends, so I’d best get back to work! Until next time! 

- Megan

A Warm Welcome

If you’ve read the other blog posts, you will notice that most get away without having to write them for the first month or two… but not me!  I just finished my first week here at Vigilant, and Terry already has me writing one. He must think that I’m going to be good at this (sorry in advance!) [Editor’s Note: Extremely high expectations indeed - Terry].

I was asked to write about how I expected my first week to go versus how it actually went. To start, I’ve wanted to land a work term with Vigilant since my first year in engineering; their work interested me, it sounded like a place that I could learn a lot about my Civil discipline (along with much more), and they held a very high reputation amongst the students at Memorial University. I remember being jealous of every student who got the opportunity to work here and kept applying semester after semester, despite not being chosen. Finally, for my fifth and final work term, I was selected for an interview and got the job! By this point, I had pretty high hopes as to how my work term would go, excited and nervous to join a team that seemed more like a family. All I can say is that Vigilant has exceeded my expectations in every way. Within only a week, I already feel like I’m a part of the team. They’ve entrusted me with tasks that I know I can do but haven’t been given the opportunity to prove prior to working here. I’ve learned more in my first week here at Vigilant than I could have ever expected, thanks in particular to Mark and Grant. I expected my first week to be filled with orientation documents, introductions, and with small tasks to help out, however I’ve been pleasantly surprised to be highly involved from day one. I've already gotten the opportunity to help with a quantity takeoff which I spent most of my first week doing, I was able to go on multiple site visits with Mark, Todd, and Holly, and I attended a tender opening on my first day with Michelle and Ashley. They all make sure that I’m involved and answer any number of questions that I may have.

I knew from just the interview that the energy at Vigilant was positive, and that has completely upheld for the entire week. I never expected to be so delighted to come into work every morning and leave feeling excited to come back. I’ve even been spending evenings at coffee shops playing around with AutoCAD, reading reports, and trying to catch up on projects. It really makes you want to become a useful member of the team as quickly as possible, because just being here makes you want to do better and be better. It's incredible how far a "great work today" comment from a coworker can go, especially being a student, and it’s what drives you to go from good to great. I once had a supervisor tell me to “become comfortable with being uncomfortable, because it means that you are learning”. I’ve kept this in the back of my mind for years; even though learning new things can become overwhelming, frustrating, and awkward, you need to stick with it nonetheless. It means that you’re growing, and with the right team to turn to like here at Vigilant, it has made that so much easier.

So, I guess overall, I came in with the expectation that this was going to be a great work term. I shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself, but I already know that it will be.

- Megan

Here I Come Term 6

My time here at Vigilant has come to an end. How did 16 weeks go by so fast? I’ll admit, the first couple of weeks I wasn’t sure if I would be kept busy enough for my liking, but I later learned that I would become an important part of the team when it came to getting tasks done.

Growing up I was told that “a day not having learnt something is a day wasted.” Whether it be something big or small, it’s always fulfilling to go home knowing you’re a little more educated than you were the day before.

I’ve had the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience both in and out of the office from every person who works here. It’s a small company so you get to know everyone pretty quickly, and you come to realize that each one of them are ready and willing to help you out whenever possible.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with a team that is so dedicated to bettering the construction industry while also ensuring their students gain valuable knowledge and experience. It was never about how much I already knew, but how much I was willing to learn that made me a good fit for the Vigilant team. It was a pleasure working with each of you and I’ll be sure to visit during the fall semester :)

P.S. I’ll give you a heads up when I’m dropping by to make sure you guys don’t crank the heat!

- Kerri

The Rainbow

It’s my 9th week at Vigilant and I’ve managed to avoid the “Have you written a blog post yet?” discussion… until now. It’s my very first blog post so bear with me.

Have you ever taken the time to look up at the sky after a rainfall and see the rainbow? That’s a rhetorical question – of course you have. As I’m sure you know, a rainbow has seven colours, and each colour is associated with its own traits and characteristics. Well, the way I see it, you can imagine the colors of the rainbow as members of a construction project.

Violet – The Client. Violet is the first inner color of the rainbow. It is surrounded by the rest of the colors and without violet, there wouldn’t be a rainbow.

They “sometimes have high expectations for themselves and others,” and rightfully so. The Client is putting their trust in someone that they probably don’t even know, to potentially complete a huge project that they want to turn out perfectly. However, we all know that “perfect” doesn’t happen in the construction industry.

They are sometimes “taken advantage of” and that’s where Vigilant comes in to help.

Indigo and Blue – Vigilant. Indigo and blue separate violet from the rest of the colors in the rainbow but still play an important role by making sure the other colors of the rainbow all fall in line after them.

 “Integrity and sincerity.” Vigilant has always been honest with their client and has never wanted to just profit from a project. Ensuring their client is happy with the results has always been their main priority.

 “Serious about responsibilities.” Vigilant manages all risks associated with a project in an effort to protect the clients’ interests and minimize any negative impacts that can arise from the execution of a project.

Green, Yellow and Orange – The Engineer and Architect. These colors form the connection between the other colors in the rainbow.

Their “mentally analytical and critical thinking” helps to ensure a project is designed to meet all technical regulations so that the project can be constructed.

They are “creative, energetic and ambitious.” A great deal of the credit for the functional capabilities and aesthetics of the end result of a project should ultimately be given to the Architect. The Engineer is responsible for ensuring that the many systems in a building work well together.

Red – The Contractor. Red is the outermost and largest color of the rainbow. Much like violet, without the color red, there wouldn’t be a rainbow.

 “Active and energetic.” The Contractor is the most physically active participant in a construction project. The Contractor gets to witness all of the little details and surprises first hand.

 “Strong willed” and not in a bad way. They are determined to complete the project as they see fit since they have a lot of hands on experience.

In summary, all of the above colors play an important role in actually forming a rainbow just like all of the members play an important role in executing a construction project.

To be totally honest, I wasn’t sure where this blog post was going to go when I got the rainbow idea, but hey, in all fairness I did choose Civil Engineering and not an English Major.

In all seriousness though, the construction industry is a remarkable field with numerous surprises to keep everyone on their toes – it’s what keeps the work so interesting and enjoyable. I’m fortunate to have gained the experience I have so far with Vigilant and I look forward to the knowledge I have left to gain over my remaining seven weeks. I also look forward to hopefully further exploring my interests in the construction industry over my remaining two work terms, wherever I may end up!

- Kerri