It’s rare for a young engineer to move directly from the university classroom to working on Canada’s largest infrastructure project. Yet this is exactly the career trajectory for Brianna McGrath, a promising instrumentation engineer-in-training who joined the Englobe project team at BC Hydro’s Site C Clean Energy Project last summer right after graduation.
An idea takes shape
Brianna grew up surrounded by mechanical engineers in her extended family. However, once she began attending Memorial University’s engineering program, she opted to study civil engineering. That’s where her interest was first piqued by the BC Hydro project.
“I first heard about this project during the early days of my first construction/field co-op in 2018 in Newfoundland,” she notes. “The person showing me around mentioned that Site C is the job everyone wants to work on. I did some research and learned it was one of the largest projects in Canada at the time, and I became interested in joining this project.”
This was an ambitious goal. The Site C project is the largest infrastructure project in Canada, and was ranked #1 on ReNew Canada’s Top100 projects list for 2022. Located on the Peace River in northeastern BC, this project centres on building a third dam and hydroelectric generating station. Once Site C is completed in 2024, the energy generated will power the equivalent of about 450,000 B.C. homes annually.
A risk that paid off
After graduating from Memorial’s five-year Bachelor of Engineering program last spring, Brianna immediately applied for a role on the Site C project. “During my interview with BC Hydro, I informed them that although I didn’t have any direct field experience with geotechnical instrumentation installations, I had worked as a quality inspector. This meant I was used to working long hours in the field and following specifications. This experience, as well as some of my technical knowledge, gave me a good foundation to enter the field of instrumentation engineering.”
Brianna was surprised to be hired, given her relative lack of onsite experience. “As a recent graduate applying approximately one month after graduation, I wasn’t expecting to be given this opportunity. However, Memorial University has an excellent Co-op program and I believe my previous experience, in combination with being a young engineer, was attractive to BC Hydro,” she says.
She currently works as part of BC Hydro’s five-person instrumentation team, spending most of her two-week rotation monitoring instrument installations . “There are many different instrument types and installation conditions (concrete, earth fill, bedrock, and more). Each provides unique challenges and methods. It’s these challenges throughout the day that make the job more engaging.”
Expanding her horizons
In Brianna’s opinion, Englobe is helping her build confidence and expertise in this first professional role. “Englobe has been very welcoming and supportive since I started working here in July, and the other members of Englobe’s Site C Project team have been very helpful in giving me advice since I arrived.”
“I love having a job where I can be engaged and exposed to new environments,” she adds. “I have met so many people from so many cultural backgrounds and have been given the opportunity to grow in my career as well as my personal life from the people I’ve met.”
For a talented young engineer entering the profession, this experience is truly a career dream come true.