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Arnold Permut, Wastewater Systems Planning Engineer, City of Winnipeg, Water and Waste Department, Engineering Division

Career Mentor – Arnold Permut

25 successful years, 25 Career Mentors

October 1, 2015 — 

Arnold Permut [BSc(CE)/74, MSc/76] is one of 700+ Career Mentor volunteers who devote time to meeting University of Manitoba students. Each year, career mentors share their knowledge and advice to guide the career plans and contribute to the success of students. In celebration of 25 successful years, 25 career mentors have agreed to share their career stories and advice…

Briefly, tell us about your job.  What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?

My job consists of planning and managing projects pertaining to wastewater treatment and water pollution control issues within the City of Winnipeg. Many of the specific day to day aspects include a great deal of report writing, trying to effectively navigate a large organizational bureaucracy as efficiently as possible to get things accomplished. I also assist more senior management in the processes required to hire new staff, primarily engineers and engineering technologists.

Things I find most rewarding are working with extremely capable and motivated professionals in a team environment and seeing the results that in a very real way help both the public and the environment. I also enjoy mentoring younger staff and providing what hopefully is helpful advice as to how to proceed with complex issues (not found in a textbook) such as “people problems,” navigating the “system,” and preparing better reports or presentations. I frequently interact with researchers at the U of M and find this to be not only mentally stimulating, but rewarding on a personal level as well because the perspective of researchers can provide a yet a different “view of the world” and this is a good thing.

The greatest challenges within the profession include hiring and retaining qualified and experienced engineers. Another challenge is successfully dealing with large bureaucracies of organizations outside of our own including other levels of government, and sometimes including large engineering consulting firms that have their own complex bureaucracies.

Frequently the most challenging of all problems is dealing with “people problems” being staff that present difficult problems such as performance or interpersonal problems.

While you were completing your degree, what experiences and activities helped bring you to your career decision or helped you succeed in your occupation?

Issues that helped me make a career decision included the fact that environmental engineering provides an opportunity to apply areas of science outside the realm of those normally thought to be common to engineering such as calculus and physics. The areas that also interested me included chemistry and microbiology. Another factor that influenced my decision was that I believed there would be many opportunities available to me after completing a master’s degree in this field as it was a newly evolving field of engineering at that time (mid – 1970’s) and I could see with time the need for engineers trained in this area would only increase.

Once working in the field of environmental engineering it got progressively more interesting because I soon realized that other disciplines were required to undertake relevant projects. These included the application of mechanical and electrical components such as pumps, valves and motors. Rapidly evolving was also the area of computerized instrumentation and control that we pretty much take for granted today.

Describe your career planning journey. Please include any highlights, bumps or roadblocks.

Some highlights of my career journey include a significant amount of volunteer work with APEGM that I found extremely rewarding as it is a way of “giving back” to the profession that has been very good to me.

There is a great deal of personal satisfaction in seeing a project that started as an idea in your head and seeing it being finalized and operating effectively as planned.

One roadblock would have to be when in a managerial position dealing with some very challenging personnel problems that frequently one is ill equipped to readily solve as there are no formulas or textbook solutions. Ultimately I made the decision to go back into a more pure engineering planning and project management role and have found this to be most rewarding.

What inspired you to be a career mentor?

Given that I have enjoyed my career in engineering and the profession has provided me with a high degree of satisfaction as well as a positive way to earn a living, I believe at some point in one’s career it is time to give back and mentoring is a way to do this. I love to see the “light bulb” go on in the student’s eyes when they realize that could be a great path forward for them. I also find that during mentoring sessions the students frequently ask very challenging and thoughtful questions and this gives me pause for thought that is always a good thing to have happen.

Finally, the Engineering Code of Ethics promotes the mentoring of younger engineers, and I think this an excellent way to leave a form of legacy to the community by having motivated young engineers “take over” after a generation of engineers retires.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in following in your footsteps?

The best advice I can give is to choose a career wisely and do not just go into it “for the money.” A career must provide personal satisfaction because it is something that one may be doing for over 30 years so you better enjoy it. Otherwise going into work on a daily basis will be a chore rather than an enjoyable part of your life as it really should be.

What career advice do you have for university students?

Following the above comments, “look before you leap” when taking a promotion or moving to another job. Although the remuneration may be better, this will pale in comparison if you are not happy at what you are doing. Also, keep in mind that you need work life balance, and in the end family is more important and work is not your whole life.

Stay tuned for more career mentor profiles! From September 25 to November 2 the Career Mentor Program will be profiling 25 dedicated and wonderful mentors from across several sectors. To view more career mentor profiles and learn about the anniversary event on November 2, 2015, please visit the CMP 25th Anniversary website.

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