Leadership at Every Level: Navan Chawla and Misha Vickar
Entuitive’s continual pursuit of being better tomorrow than we are today manifests among our high-caliber, talented team. We recognize leadership among all levels of our staff, who continually inspire us with their talent, motivation, and enthusiastic problem-solving.
We recently sat down with Navan Chawla and Misha Vickar, who have both not only been playing key roles on the Port Lands Flood Protection & Enabling Infrastructure Project, but are taking on many leadership roles in and outside of work.
Thanks for chatting with us today, Navan and Misha. Can you tell us more about when you first started working on the Port Lands project?
Navan: Thanks for having us. I joined Entuitive’s bridge team in May of 2018. Misha joined a month after, and we had a small bridge group, working specifically on the Port Lands project. It was a bit daunting at first as a Junior Designer coming into one of Entuitive’s first large bridge projects. Would you agree, Misha?
Misha: For sure, it was quite intimidating when we first started since we were saddled with the design of these four complex bridges that are unlike any bridge seen before. While most of my previous experience was in performing bridge inspections, I was excited to take on more of a designer role. The nerves quickly went away, as we received great support and technical guidance from team members. It has also been nice to see our team expand throughout the years.
That sounds like an exciting first project to work on! Can you expand more on your learning experience and the team collaboration?
Navan: Aside from the strong support we received from our direct team members, we’re fortunate that we could easily ask colleagues from other disciplines for help. For example, this project involves lots of complex geometric modelling. We’ve been able to receive support from colleagues who have worked on complex buildings in the past to try to get ideas from them and see where we could apply their knowledge in the context of bridges. Entuitive has a very collaborative culture and we’ve never felt intimidated about asking anyone a question at our company.
Misha: The openness of our One Company culture really helped us in the design challenges. We often turned to colleagues from across the company who had great knowledge of steel design for building projects to provide us with some guidance. Every day we learned something new, and we were also able to share our knowledge and teach others afterwards.
Collaboration is the key to success. What’s been your favourite part of the project so far?
Navan: I had a lot of fun working on the computational parts of the project. We were first introduced to Grasshopper and Rhino on this project. Rhino is a commercial 3D computer-aided design software that allows users to create 3D models of their designs, while Grasshopper is a visual programming language that works with Rhino. Last week, we actually presented a paper at the 11th International Conference on Short and Medium Span Bridges, focusing on the algorithmic and parametric modelling for the bridges. It was a great experience.
Misha: The computational design aspects were also my favourite part. It’s extremely fun to work with cutting edge tools in the industry and have support from leaders to pursue it. It has also been exciting to see the arrival of the bridges in-person. When the LRT bridge came in, I was amazed at the full scale of the 56-metre-long bridge after only seeing it on a computer screen for two years. It is incredibly rewarding to see your hard work come to life.
Where else do you believe you’re taking the lead at Entuitive?
Navan: In the last few years, I’ve been interested in the computational design side of things, and I wanted to bring the knowledge I’ve gained to a university audience. With the help of colleagues, I set up a lecture series for university students where we host sessions to introduce them to these computational tools and share what it’s like to work at Entuitive. We’ve also partnered with universities to support students’ capstone projects that make use of these tools.
Outside of Entuitive, I’ve been focusing on building relationships and providing more mentorship, such as volunteering to teach young students about STEM as an Engineer-in-Residence (EIR) with Engineers of Tomorrow. I strongly believe that It’s important to foster young students’ interest in STEM at an early age to promote diversity and inclusion in the industry overall. I’m also a member of the Women in Transportation Group (WTS) in Toronto, and the Women’s Network with the Association of Consulting Engineers Ontario. I value making strong industry connections and gaining knowledge from each other.
Misha: After seeing how homogenous our industry can be, I’ve taken an interest in trying to increase its diversity to create the role models I didn’t have growing up. Last year Entuitive launched their Inclusion, Diversity & Belonging (IDB) initiative, and I volunteered to join the ENPride group as a Co-Chair, one of the four Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) (the others are ENable, Gender Balance, and Multicultural & Indigenous). Co-chairing the ENPride pillar has given me the opportunity to have influence the culture and IDB strategy of the company, which is one of the benefits of working for a smaller firm. I sit down with the executive leadership team every quarter and have thoughtful conversations about how the company is promoting diversity and the representation of minority groups and the work that is still needed.
Beyond Entuitive, I’ve also become a founding member of the Queer Infrastructure Network (QUIN). QUIN was created to help promote and connect LGBTQ+ people within the infrastructure and broader AEC industry. The executive team at Entuitive have been very supportive of this initiative and Entuitive was a major sponsor of QUIN’s inaugural launch event in June 2022.
What are you hoping to achieve in your career at Entuitive?
Navan: My biggest goal is to continue learning, especially while I’m in the early years of my career. Every day since I’ve been here has been a nice learning opportunity, whether it’s just building on what I already know or doing something completely different.
Misha: I’m excited to continue learning and honing my skills in structural design. One of the amazing things about Entuitive is the amount of knowledge among our colleagues at this company, and how everyone is always willing to share their knowledge of diverse specialties. I’m looking forward to taking on more leadership roles and continuing to build Entuitive’s transportation engineering offerings.