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Mike's Story - Hay River

I grew up in Toronto and have always had an affinity for science and math, so becoming a Civil Engineer was a good fit. I did a number of summer terms and work co-ops during my schooling in Ottawa, but when I graduated in 2008 no one in Ontario was hiring. Then I saw a position for an engineer in Yellowknife and applied. The company brought me up for a visit, hired me, and I moved to Yellowknife with my girlfriend, Tiffany, all within three weeks.

Moving to the NWT was the best decision I’ve ever made – it put my career on the fast track. When a position came up for Director of Public Works at the Town of Hay River, I took a chance and applied. For someone who only began working in his field 3 years ago, to move to top-level management – that’s a pretty big leap, but I’m able to help make major decisions and my opinion is heard and valued.

We really like it here in Hay River. The first winter in the NWT was long and cold, but I’ve gotten used to it. If you spend time with people, it passes quickly. On the surface it may seem like there isn’t a lot going on here, but as soon as you meet someone – bam! – you’re invited to join something. I tried curling last year for the first time and it opened up a whole new group of friends. I also wanted to make difference in my community, so I became a member of the Hay River Youth Justice Committee and it’s been very gratifying.

People here have a good work/life balance. In my position I am on call 24/7, but work doesn’t often get in the way of my after hours life. There is a great support system here, both in friendships and in work. When I first moved up I was shy, but you’d never know it now with the strong personal and business relationships I’ve developed. In summer I play slo-pitch. My girlfriend and I also use the pool several times a week and take road trips – it’s only 7 hours from here to Grande Prairie and 10 hours to Edmonton.

When I look back at how far I’ve come in just a few short years, even I’m surprised. But I’m where I wanted to go in life, doing what I wanted to do. I challenged myself and discovered that just like this town, there’s a lot more under the surface than I ever imagined.