Life at Vigilant

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

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

Stilettos To Steel Toes Part 4

Wow, a full month of my work term at Vigilant Management is officially complete. It's been a very interesting and informative month here at the office. This week at Vigilant I gained significant insight into project budgets.

As a result of my experience, research, and various conversations with people in the industry I have gained a better idea of the likelihood and reasons a project will go over budget. As a young engineer, I have quickly realized that although a project can be well designed and planned there will always be uncertainties that will not be clarified until the project is started. For example, although everything may appear to be perfect on the drawings it only takes a dimension to be 50mm off to severely change things. This is why it is so important that all designs be checked over and over again to ensure they are practically flawless.

In addition, projects in which there is a substantial amount of civil work including excavation and trenching, it is difficult to know what lies under the surface. For example, the rock can sometimes be harder to blast through than anticipated, resulting in a longer, more expensive blasting period. However, there are ways to gain a better understanding of what lays beneath the surface such as completing a thorough test pit analysis.

In summary, a project is based upon three things: cost, time, and quality. I've heard of the "magic triangle" (as shown below) before but it is only now that I truly understand the significance of the triangle. The key idea behind the triangle is that time, cost, and quality are all reliant upon each other. As the quality of the project increases so does the time and cost of the project. As time, cost and quality are interdependent on each other, this is a topic that I could go on and on about.

So after one month at Vigilant Management, I have learnt an outstanding amount of information. I can't wait to see what the next three months have to offer! Until next time…

- Laura