Celebrating Four Years in Vancouver
Our Vancouver office is four years old next week. To celebrate, we sat down with some of our leaders to look back and look forward.
Congrats on the anniversary, team, and thanks for sitting down with us today. Looking back to 2017, why did we decide to open an office in Vancouver?
Mike Lembke: It was August 1, 2017, when we officially started. It’s a long story on how we got started but that story is also a real testament to our firm’s ability to take advantage of an opportunity and make swift, strategic decisions. Two things aligned to make this office happen.
We were looking for a Principal-level structural leader for Alberta and Julien had applied and was interviewing. Coincidentally, I had recently raised an interest in moving to Vancouver for personal reasons to the Board. Since I’m in Building Envelope and we had a potential structural leader in Julien, who was interested in staying in Vancouver, it seemed like a great opportunity.
I think it’s also a good story of how Entuitive can pivot on a dime. I brought up that I wanted to move to Vancouver in February, and my family and I had moved there by July.
How long did it take to hit the ground running and what were the first few years like?
Mike: We hit the ground running very quickly by getting out and meeting people. We wanted to spread the word that we were in Vancouver and let people know what we do. Our name was relatively unknown at that point, so a big task was educating potential clients and collaborators about who Entuitive was. We had to help them understand that while our local team was still growing, it was backed by hundreds of people across three countries, thanks to our One Company philosophy around sharing work and expertise.
Slowly, opportunities arose, and we started winning projects, so we switched our focus to project delivery and began growing the team. Paul Creighton was one of the first to join us and helped us move into the existing buildings market.
Paul Creighton: My story touches that a little bit because I first met Mike when he came to bid on a UBC project. He had just opened the office and I was still at my prior company.
Mike: The interesting thing about that was Paul and I had never met previously, but I knew who he was. We had both worked in Toronto in the past and he was well known there, too. [to Paul] I knew exactly who you were, and I can picture where you were sitting on that day when I said, ‘hi’!
Paul: I remember that, too. Around the following February, I had lunch with Mike and Brian Shedden, and I still had no idea who Entuitive was. I asked my network in Calgary for feedback and what I heard was really intriguing.
Mike: It was great having Paul come on board because I focus more on new construction Building Envelope and Paul focuses more on Restoration, so it was a good fit. Brian was in town to help Paul learn more about Entuitive, which was great, because they had both worked together in Toronto.
Paul: I ended up leaving my previous workplace and aimed to join Entuitive in September, but I happened to win a project before September, so before I knew it I was working before I officially started. The early days felt good – there was a lot of camaraderie among a good group of people who wanted to create something.
Mike: We got our first official Entuitive Vancouver office space in July 2018. Up until that point we had been subletting a smaller space.
Kitty Leung: And this fall we’re moving into a new space that’s double our current size!
How have things changed since the early days?
Mike: One of the biggest changes has been how our structural team has grown and evolved. As Julien heads into retirement, he’s built a strong team around him to take the reins.
Julien Fagnan: We have such a strong team in place now. I am retiring, and I feel comfortable passing the torch to Kitty.
Mike: The other big change is in how much we’ve grown our in-house service offerings. Initially, the office was comprised of Building Envelope and Structural teams, and we’ve now grown to include existing buildings restoration expertise, construction engineering, and our advanced performance analysis (APA) group.
That sounds like amazing progress in four short years. Kitty, as someone who is newer to the team, what were your first days like and what drew you to Entuitive? Has your experience so far confirmed your expectations?
Kitty: I started in the middle of Covid, but I was quickly amazed by how connected everyone is, even among all the other offices. It’s great to work with the other offices and feel like you’re not even located somewhere else.
I was drawn to Entuitive because of the culture of the company. It’s a place that celebrates technical excellence and provides opportunities to lead at all levels. I always have reservations coming to a new firm on how much one talks the talk and walks the walk, but in the case of Entuitive my experience has totally exceeded my expectations.
Even though I joined a year ago, there’s been so much positive change. As Mike mentioned, we have since added so many new services like existing buildings, energy modelling and construction engineering.
Al, same questions to you.
Al Sosin: I was very impressed with the onboarding process. One of the main things that impressed me was that I was assigned a buddy. It’s a great way of connecting people to the company and helping them find their way around, especially during Covid which is when I came on board.
What drew me to Entuitive is the innovative, collaborative, and entrepreneurial environment of the company. In the past, companies have promised autonomy but in most cases that’s not how it pans out. So, when Mike told me that I could have true autonomy, I took it with a grain of salt. In the first few months, I was trying to figure out what Mike wanted and how to execute on that, but I realized that Mike really trusts me and that I truly do have autonomy. I think that’s the best approach – let people do the job that they were hired to do. This is a win-win-win – the manager, the employee, and the company win in this scenario. Because of Mike’s trust, I was able to succeed as much as I have so far in such a short amount of time.
In terms of the collaboration – I found people are generally collaborative throughout Entuitive. I often had to reach out to people in other offices for help. I often found immediate responses came my way and those responses were always filled with a willingness to help. Again, there are many companies that talk the talk about being collaborative but here at Entuitive we actually walk the walk, which is pretty amazing in my eyes.
And Salah, what about you?
Salah Imam: I joined Entuitive nearly 6 months ago to lead our APA (advanced performance analysis) team here. Obviously with an ongoing pandemic, instead of the first lunch with the team and first meeting in the office, I experienced most of the onboarding process online. This surely was new to me, as well as everyone at the Vancouver office. Yet, I was impressed by how everyone was virtually connected, and excited to see all teams integrated throughout the organization and across our seven offices.
Entuitive uses its remarkable resources to build for a sustainable future. And in our transition to net zero, I believe Entuitive is where I need to be to make a difference.
I find that our team is truly committed to environmentally-sound developments. It is great to work with a group of creative, purpose-driven engineers and to already be diving into challenging, high-profile projects across multiple sectors and regions.
What are some of the things you’re most proud of over the last four years?
Paul: For me it’s that we went from zero local experience to an impressive portfolio of good projects, some of which are real standouts. For example, my resume had asterisks on every single project for quite a while, denoting that they were with previous employers, but now I can fill my resume with local Entuitive experience.
Mike: When we first started the office it was a struggle to create credentials-style proposals given the size of our office, and our limited “Entuitive” experience in the market. Slowly, all of that got easier because we had a bigger team and a wide range of project across BC. At this point we are also benefiting from more referrals and repeat business from our clients as they experience the approach of Entuitive and our local team.
Mike: For me, getting involved in passive house, IPD (City of Kamloops Canada Games Aquatic Centre), and timber projects are big, and specific areas of work I’m proud we have been able to deliver in BC.
Kitty: Getting involved in compliance teams is huge too. This means our clients trusted us in providing them support to oversee major projects to fruition.
Mike: Agreed, we are currently working on the New St. Paul’s project in a compliance role which is a fantastic project to be involved in.
Paul: We’ve also been involved in historic and landmark preservation and restoration projects such as with Stanley Park Brewing, which are always exciting and fun to be part of.
We also asked many of our Vancouver office team members what they hoped to see in the future. Here’s what they had to say:
It was such a pleasure to sit down with the team today. For more information on the Vancouver office or our projects feel free to reach out to Mike Lembke, Kitty Leung, Paul Creighton, Al Sosin, or Salah Imam.