Meet Hal Lewis!
Say hello to Hal, our very first Vice President of Atlantic Canada! No matter the scale or type of project, Hal loves the interdisciplinary aspects of design and championing creative problem solving through a collaborative approach. We can’t wait to see what great projects he’ll bring!
Tell us about what your role at RVA.
I’m honoured to be RVA’s first Vice President of Atlantic Canada overseeing our company’s operations on the East Coast. My role is geographically-centered, as opposed to being focused on a particular business line, and that’s full of exciting opportunities – especially here in Halifax, one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, which I want to leverage into our growth plans as a company. There is an exciting client base in Atlantic Canada, some of whom we’re working for already, and there are a whole bunch more we want to work with going forward. One of my objectives is to parallel what we do here with the rest of RVA: our business lines, our structure, our technology. I’m looking forward to that challenge as we grow our team, strengthen our capabilities, and add offices on the East Coast.
When did you first discover your passion for your line of work?
I can remember the weekend, almost down to the moment, when I decided pursue engineering. I was 12 years old, and I had gone on a camping trip with my dad. When you find yourself around a campfire, you have the time to chat about things you normally wouldn’t talk about when life gets in the way. I was always a natural problem-solver, and it was a time when I wanted to plan my path forward, so I asked my dad a barrage of questions. I knew I liked the concept of engineering, and I always liked math and sciences, so I began crafting my career path from there, following that through from high school to university. In the last 15 years my engineering career has evolved into more of a leadership role – I sometimes joke about being more of an accountant or lawyer than an engineer – but I really enjoy the different aspects and challenges that come with that. Now that I have the opportunity to talk to kids and young professionals at different ages, I consider myself very lucky to have found my direction at an early stage.
What were some of the major milestones in your career that defined your journey towards joining RVA?
My journey is pretty similar to a lot of us in the engineering consulting world. I evolved from a site inspector, to a project engineer, and eventually to a project manager – and that was when I really found my sweet spot. I loved the technical side of working on site and building out designs, but project management was a major milestone for me, and every role I’ve had since then has been an evolution of that. It all comes back to my enjoyment of problem-solving, which is what a PM does every day. I love working with people and learning what they’re about, coaching staff from different disciplines, keeping clients happy, and working with regulators, which are part and parcel of the process. There are a lot of different edges to what a project manager does, and being able to work with different subsets of people, and taking a team approach internally and externally, is something that I’ve expanded on throughout my career.
What do you strive to achieve or bring to every project you undertake?
Pride in the collective is something I try to bring to every project. That means giving our maximum effort and being able to deliver something we can stand by and be proud of as a team. There are different ways to look at every project, whether it’s designing a wastewater treatment plant, building client relationships, or expanding our offerings – there’s no one person who can do all of that, and to think so would be a recipe for failure. Multiple heads are much better than one, and you’re going to come up with a way better solution when you involve different types of people. A single person can only accomplish so much, but when you bring a team of people together – that’s when you can really push the limits of what’s possible.
What excites you when you think of the future at RVA, or in your industry?
RVA is on an exciting growth trajectory, and a very positive one. In my short time here, I’ve been able to talk to a lot of people, many of whom have been here for decades, and the pride in this company is very evident – and rightfully so. What excites me is being given an opportunity to be a part of that, and in a geography that is on the cusp of some really big developments. Having been in the industry for close to 30 years, there’s always been a sense of ethical morality to RVA’s reputation – that is, we say what we’re going to do, and we deliver on what we say we will deliver on – and now I’m able to live and see that, day in and day out. The East Coast, like our company, is in expansion mode; the sky is the limit here, and it’s fun to talk to staff to see the pride and excitement in the opportunities ahead.
What is a piece of advice you give often?
Don’t get too fixated on an endpoint. It’s good to have a plan, whether it’s a strategic or career plan, but life is about the journey, not the destination. When I sit down with people I mentor, I like to sketch out Point A and Point B on a piece of paper, where the shortest distance between two points is a straight line – but what a boring trip that would be! So, I draw a squiggly line between the two points, and using myself as a reference, I show all the different places where I had fun along the way in my career. I might not have ended up at Point B, but where I did end up is a lot more fun than where Point B was. It’s human nature to want to go straight from Point A to Point B – we’re simply wired that way – but reality rarely ever ends up being that straightforward, and that’s fantastic. Sometimes you have to push back on life, but I say don’t push too hard: you might not see it in the moment, but once you get further along, you might just find some interesting opportunities. So, enjoy the journey!
What keeps you motivated outside of work?
My wife and I enjoy our time together, and we love our day hikes and day walks. My family and I are really lucky to be here in Nova Scotia, which has so much diversity in its landscapes and trail systems. On a ten-kilometer hike, you can start out on a beautiful boardwalk, connect to a trail system in the woods, and end up on an embankment with views of the Bay of Fundy or the Atlantic Ocean. Three years ago, we bought a plot of land on the north shore of Nova Scotia overlooking Prince Edward Island, and we’re on a five-year plan to clean up the lot and build a brand new cottage there. It’s become our go-to getaway, and we’ve fallen in love with the locale, which is right on the ocean, close to hiking trails and small villages that have neat little farmer’s markets in the summertime. We also love to travel. We’ve fallen in love with Europe, especially Paris, which is where I proposed to my wife. I love the energy of the city, and there’s a realness to the personas of the people there that I really appreciate.
You surprise people when you tell them…
I sit on the Board of Directors for Symphony Nova Scotia. People are often surprised by that – given I have next to no musical talent – but I’ve always loved the symphony, ever since my days in university, when I would play symphonic music to clear my thoughts and relax. So, I was honoured to be asked to sit on the Board four years ago. I also sit on the Board’s Fundraising Committee, and the Facilities Committee, which is currently planning a new music hall. Taking part in that project has been a tremendously rewarding experience. I’ve gotten to know the musicians, especially the Music Director, Holly Mathieson, who is a great person to work with. It has given me the chance to tour different performance halls, meet with architects and professionals, and explore different approaches to a project like this. It’s an exciting prospect to be able to give Symphony Nova Scotia a new home.