Constructive Consultation

Constructive Consultation

By: Denise Le
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Having spent my first co-op term at a small office last summer, my current co-op placement at BC Hydro exposed me to a very different work environment. I previously worked as a Marketing and Events Assistant for the Heights Merchants Association, which is operated by only two employees for the majority of the year. In contrast, BC Hydro employs more than 5,600 people who each work in one of the many departments of the company. This co-op term, I was fortunate enough to land a co-op position in Public Consultation and Stakeholder Relations with BC Hydro. I know, it’s quite a mouthful to say, and it doesn’t even begin to fully encompass what the department does. But for ease of reference, I’ll address the department as Stakeholder Relations.

Stakeholder Relations primarily focuses on communication and consultation surrounding major capital projects conducted by BC Hydro. Significant components of their work involve fulfilling the regulatory requirements to move forward with the construction of these projects, as well as the consultation necessary to ensure that proper consent has been received for the construction to take place. My co-op experience with BC Hydro has shown me effective communication to be an imperative part of project consultation through its ability to drive the success of a project. Stakeholder Relations requires you to not only be an effective speaker but also being an active listener. Observing the team’s ability to critically assess and deal with the needs and opportunities of a construction project and to reach an effective approach is what has made my time with BC Hydro so valuable.

My role as a co-op student in Stakeholder Relations is to provide support and assistance for the department on any ongoing transmission or substation construction projects. I have been involved in creating documentation, such as information notices to the public, stakeholders and businesses, as well as writing and updating content on BC Hydro’s transmission and substation construction website. I have also worked on notification plans, helped with communication plans and have had the opportunity to attend project meetings with my supervisor, a Stakeholder Relations Advisor, which have given me a better sense of the logistics and consultation approaches involved in large scale construction.

I still remember how excited I was on my first day of work. I have never worked at a corporate office, so it felt kind of glamorous being on the 15th floor of a high rise building. During the first couple of weeks, I was overwhelmed with the extensive and technical vocabulary that was constantly being used in the workplace. They have acronyms for everything too! But after reading and learning more about BC Hydro’s capital projects, I became more familiarized with the office jargon and have learned more about electricity than I could have ever imagined - in a good way, of course. Another great thing about this co-op placement is the amount of knowledge and transferrable skills I have obtained from my short time with the department. From my extensive exposure to projects, I have gained a better understanding of how much has to happen in order to mitigate risk and opposition to ensure that construction progresses as smoothly as possible. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many experienced people who have shared their strategies in public consultation and project communication, which I can apply to future roles that will require me to assess the logistics of an event or project I am planning.

Working for a company that involves a deep level of knowledge about large-scale electricity projects has enhanced my corporate and technical writing skills. Since my role also involves writing pieces to the public, learning about these projects has given me practice at translating complex terms so that they are more clear and understandable, which I feel has made me a stronger and more effective communicator. And as a communications student, what more could I ask for? My work experience with BC Hydro has opened up an entirely new door to career possibilities.

Although consulting has crossed my mind, I don’t think I ever had a really good sense of what it entailed until I had the chance to experience it first hand. This opportunity allowed me to grasp a better understanding of public consultation and to really appreciate the skills involved. If there’s any advice I can offer, it’s that you just never really know what something’s like until you try it out!

Posted on June 01, 2011
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