Rob Otway

Rob Otway, Civil Engineering - Class of 1985

Rob Otway

Why did you choose your undergraduate program?

Civil Engineering appealed to me as it provided the most diversity in areas of study and potential career paths.

How did you like your experience at UWaterloo?

Overall, it was a very good experience. I enjoyed the summer terms the most, which I did not expect. Professors were excellent and very approachable and accessible. The work terms provided a good foundation for preparing for the real world work experience.

What were your favourite classes?

Environmental sciences, fluid mechanics, civil systems and project management, hydrology, geotechnical engineering, and transportation engineering.

How did the friends you made at UWaterloo inspire you throughout your undergraduate experience?

This was the first time in my life where I made lifelong friends. We came together as a class and supported each other throughout our time together. My classmates inspired me to do my best because they were hard-working, smart people and they set an example that I aspired to emulate.

Co-op work term history

  • 3 terms with the City of Thunder Bay on the engineering survey crew (municipal construction).
  • 1 term with Acres Engineering testing homes for urea formaldehyde foam insulation.
  • 2 terms with the Ministry of Transportation in Toronto in specifications and standards and transportation studies.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from co-op?

I learned the importance of a strong work ethic and the ability to work with people of all different backgrounds, educations and ages.

What is your occupation now?

In my role as Executive Vice President for Bird Construction, I am responsible for all buildings and special project operations within British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Did your undergraduate program play a role in where you are today? How?

Yes, it is the broad foundational base for the technical aspects of construction. Engineering is very much about problem solving, people management, and time management. In that sense, the undergraduate program forced me to deal with high volumes of work with real deadlines that, more often than not, involved collaboration among classmates and a team approach to solving problems.

List 3 lessons you'd like to share with the current undergraduate students.

  1. An engineering degree was assumed to be a ticket to financial and career success, and although that can be true there are many more factors outside of your degree that influence your overall success. It is just as much about your work ethic, who you are as a person, what drives you, and what is important to you, that determines your path to success.
  2. No matter if you find your dream job, there will be parts of it that will not make you happy.
  3. When life throws you a curveball, it's not fun, it's stressful, but when you work through it you will come out wiser and stronger.