With over 16 years of experience, Christi Downing, a leader within our Toronto-based team, joins us in a Q&A session and shares valuable career insights for students interested in the electrical field.

What sparked your passion for electrical engineering?

Engineering runs in my family; with my love for math, problem-solving, and electricity, predominately power, pursuing electrical engineering felt natural. My electrical interest grew from electronics, the world of power generation, and the distribution of energy to and within commercial buildings. I knew I wanted to be part of the electrical community to find solutions and provide the infrastructure to support our modern society.

Now, in my role at Salas O’Brien, I enjoy designing systems that provide clients with the “magic” of power. Without electricity, most things in this world would not be possible. Engineers build the world, electrical engineers power it!

What advice would you give a new college graduate in electrical engineering?

As an electrical engineer, learning how to write reports, getting comfortable presenting to a group of individuals, and most importantly honing your teamwork skills will take you far, so embrace new learning opportunities! Try shadowing a mentor you look up to or enroll in career development courses. We come out of school with theoretical knowledge but must learn how to apply the principles.

Who has inspired you in your career and how have they made you a better professional?

My stepfather and his dad inspired me to pursue electrical engineering, but I was also lucky enough to have a few mentors in my previous positions. One mentor was a CEO who took me under his wing and provided me with advice, skills, and knowledge that made me a sharp engineer and a well-rounded manager.

Additionally, Salas O’Brien’s electrical department principles contribute to my ongoing career development. They make me a better professional every day, whether with new code material, how to implement new learning tools, finance and business strategies, or networking with clients and other business partners.

How do you stay updated on the latest regulations and developments in electrical engineering?

Our internal code management group keeps me and my team up to date on new code revisions that provide additional training on electrical code changes. However, I make sure to carve time out for self-study, lunch and learns, and taking additional courses in areas of interest in the field.

Tell us about a project you’ve participated in that you’re especially proud of.

One project that stands out is the renovation and restoration of the iconic St. Michael’s Cathedral in the heart of Toronto. During this multi-phased project that spanned close to a decade, we improved and upgraded the main distribution system to support the base building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning loads all while preserving the cathedral’s architectural aspects.

We also upgraded the lighting systems and designed custom-made chandeliers with fabricators, lighting designers, and lighting control teams to provide a certain architectural feel and ambiance within the restored nave. During other renovation phases, different aspects of the cathedral were brought up to code and the new spaces met the needs of the church and its patrons.

Can you tell us how the work you do is helping solve our clients’ biggest challenges?

For our new long-term care facility builds, we help clients provide updated facilities that meet new code requirements and ministry guidelines for their residents while working within a budget and meeting the needs of fully electrified and zero-carbon buildings.

What do you enjoy most about being part of Salas O’Brien?

I’m part of a company who recently merged with Salas O’Brien. Within the last year, I have participated in a leadership course and met new and interesting people. I’ve improved my leadership skills and tools and connected with individuals in other roles and departments in the company that I may not have met otherwise.

Tell us about your career progression at Salas O’Brien.

I joined the firm in 2007 after graduating from university as an electrical engineer-in-training. Since then, I have grown and taken on more management and leadership responsibilities. I’ve been promoted from electrical associate, interacting with clients and architects, all the way to my most recent promotion to Associate Vice President of the electrical department where I manage a team of project managers, associates, and designers while working with our finance department in assembling fees, and with the marketing team for business development.

What does our tagline “engineered for impact” mean to you?

We are a company that provides engineering opportunities to those who want to attain a large-scale goal of improving the lives of others across the North Americas.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

I love to travel whether it is here in Canada or to other countries. Otherwise, anything outdoors, biking, hiking, and camping are some of the top extracurricular activities that our family enjoys doing together.