Don’t try and fit this high-school dropout into a stereotype! At fifteen this up-and-comer already had an ambitious career plan and spending three years in high school was the equivalent of ‘warming the bench’ waiting for the real game to start. The importance of education was instilled in Dan through his family—both of his parents were teachers, and two of his grandparents—but as Mark Twain once quipped “one should never let schooling get in the way of one’s education.”
The first step in his career plan was to convince the educators in his family that he would be better off learning a trade rather than sitting through hours of high school classes learning “career and life management”. Dan put his plan into motion six months before he turned 16, rebuilding the front-end of a damaged Volvo in his father’s garage and contacting a local electrical company about employment. By his next birthday he had a job and a means to get himself there (even if the hood and fenders were different colours).
Dan quickly transitioned through positions on various worksites moving from apprentice, to lead hand, and eventually by third-year he became a foreman. The first four years of his electrical career taught him—through experience—that each worker is responsible for his or her own safety. A few “lost time” workplace incidents left a deep impression on him. He observed young workers were especially vulnerable to workplace incidents and he became motivated to ensure that young workers understood their responsibility to identify and mitigate high-risk situations. Thus began a major career pivot from journeyman electrician to Health, Safety and Environment advisor.
By age 20 Dan earned his journeyman ticket as an electrician and completed a Red seal endorsement. Eager to leverage his construction experience into a new field—occupational health and safety—he continued his educational pursuit investing time and money to complete the National Construction Safety Officer certification. With that designation Dan made the transition from the journeyman electrician to Health, Safety and Environment advisor.
As one of the youngest HSE advisors in the field, Dan committed to a two-year Occupational Health and Safety certificate from the University of Alberta. He completed his studies through night classes, online, and weekend courses. He finished the program with distinction, and along the way found time to get married and start a family.
At the age of 23, Dan Hathaway kept studying his trade to became one of the youngest master electricians in Canada, yet his mastery of the electrical code is surpassed by his knowledge and passion for occupational health and safety. Dan strives to make a difference in the lives of his fellow construction workers. As the corporate HSE Manager for Airdrie, AB based Techmation Electrical and Controls Ltd. Dan is responsible for the implementation of corporate safety strategies in 25 locations across Western Canada.
With his completed NCSO certification and the OH&S certificate from the University of Alberta he is now preparing to write his Canadian Registered Safety Professional certificate. In addition to being a master electrician Dan currently holds Blue Seal, Red Seal, and Gold Seal endorsements. However there is one designation Dan is particularly proud of. When Dan inquired about the Bachelor of Technology program at Thompson Rivers University, he was perplexed why the university registrar would ask about his high school diploma after reviewing all his numerous credentials from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the University of Alberta. So in order to appease the university registrar Dan finally earned a high school diploma by writing eight hours of GED tests—leading him to the conclusion that eight hours of high school may be all that is necessary when one is sufficiently motivated to build a career.
I started with a goal of becoming knowledgeable in the field of electrical and HSE and enhancing my professional skills to advance within my organization. Now that I have achieved that goal my career aspiration is to have a significant and meaningful impact on the health and safety culture of the energy sector worldwide. I am passionate about leading change in the field, and that passion drives my day-to-day activities.
I see leadership as the opportunity to inspire your peers to reach their potential.
My leadership style is based on four leadership powers identified by John French and Bertram Raven. I try to reinforce behaviors through appropriate rewards, making sure that I have legitimate power for the work I am directing. Being a valuable resource and expert in the fields of electrical and HSE to influence the behavior of others is important. Building relationships, friendships, and respect to ensure I have the ability to influence others based on referent power is also critical. These tools enable me to lead my peers from a position of formal and personal power and significantly contribute to my ability and success as a leader.
In junior high I had a good friend, Eric, that was a few years older and already an apprentice electrician. I asked him why he chooses an electrical career, and his response was “it is a job that involves using your hands, but more importantly using your head!”. That appealed to me.
My father also bought me an autobiography of Richard Branson called “Screw It, Let’s Do IT”. I learned that trying new things can result in reward or failure, but failure is temporary. I decided to commit four years to become an electrician. Instead of enrolling in Grade 11, I challenged the technical institute’s entrance exam to start my apprenticeship. The decision to not finish high school was part of my strategic plan to become a journeyman electrician before I turned 20.
As an electrical apprentice, I witnessed multiple workplace incidents and was even involved in a few. I saw a disconnect between the safety policies and workplace culture in the field and realized that health and safety of workers—especially young workers—needs to be addressed in ways that promote worker protection as an essential part of workplace culture.
I saw the potential for the industry as a whole to do a better job of unifying the interests of employers and safety of workers, and I felt I had the abilities to bridge this gap to improve safety and help my company become successful in all areas of the business.
Over my career, I have had many people who had helped me succeed and achieve to where I am today, but there are a few individuals who stand out.
Foremost, I have been surrounded by a supportive family. My parents—who are both teachers—believed in my career plans enough to let me become an electrician instead of completing high school. They have consistently supported my decisions and let me make my mistakes and create my path. My uncle Calvin has coached me from the beginning of my apprenticeship to reach my full potential and continues challenging my personal behaviors and comfort zones in order turn the impossible to possible. And today, my wife supports every decision I make enabling my career achievements.
Richard Branson inspires me, and so do many of the colleagues I get to work with. I try to learn from anyone that is actively pursuing an ambitious life-plan. I have mentors in the workplace that are, like me, next generation leaders, as well as established veterans in the industry: Evan Topolnisky, Derek Polsfut, Roland Polsfut, Rob Young, and Tyler Smith.
I am indebted to guys that gave me opportunities. Rob Young Regional Manager of Techmation Electric & Controls Ltd. who first recognized something special in me when he hired me and gave me the support I needed to reach my potential. Tyler Smith Account Manager and previously the HSE Manager for Techmation Electric & Controls Ltd. gave me the autonomy I needed to be successful at my position and saw that I had the ability to join the corporate team. And, Derek and Roland Polsfut President and Vice President of Techmation Electric & Controls Ltd. who understand that hiring the right person for the job sometimes means hiring the 23-year old young, innovative, inspired professional. Derek and Roland consistently give me the tools, resources, and autonomy I need to contribute to making our organization successful while teaching and mentoring me in the areas of the business.
I could not have asked for better mentors or a better organization than Techmation Electric & Controls Ltd. to help me achieve everything I have accomplished to date, and support me in my future endeavors.
I have two pieces of advice: One is to start from the end and work backward. By this I mean clearly define your result—know what success will look like to you. Once you have a clear vision, set short term and long term goals followed by short-term objectives (action steps) to ensure you reach your goals. And, don’t settle for mediocrity, continually work on the next objective that will enable you to achieve your next goal. Remember, time is going to pass whether you are improving yourself or not, so make your time count by developing your potential.
The second piece of advice is to find a mentor; someone who encourages, trusts, challenges, and most importantly disagrees with you. With a mentor, there is an open dialogue and accountability that you can leverage to your advantage. The important part of picking a mentor is making sure it is someone you want to emulate. Don’t pick someone full of advice that they never follow. Find a mentor with a track record in the area you want to improve in; this may mean engaging multiple mentors for different areas of your life.
The next five years is going to be a very exciting time. It starts with ensuring that I am executing my corporate responsibilities with Techmation Electric & Controls Ltd. to a level unprecedented within the industry. Followed by continuing my professional development through education and training. I currently hold six designations between in the electrical and safety industries: Red Seal (Electrical), Blue Seal (Business Competencies), Gold Seal (HSE Professional), NCSO, OH&S Certificate (with distinction), and Certified Master Electrician (first to receive CME at 23 years old). I am about to complete my Professional Electrical Contractor designation and will be receiving my CRSP (Canadian Registered Safety Professional) designation in 2017. I am also working on my Bachelor degree in Technology, Trades, and Leadership at Thompsons River University.
After Immersing myself in five years of learning, I hope to leverage this education, training, and experience to explore options in Occupational Health and Safety law.
My passion for learning may also pivot into a speaking and presentations at energy sector conferences in the future, and maybe teach university level programs part-time. And of course ensuring that my wife and three kids still get to see their father as often as possible.
Online cloud databases and computerization. Within the energy sector, there is a lot of information that we use that is paper-based. I believe that this is a primary cause of communication silos within organizations, moving away from a paper-based system seems to be an ideal solution.
Leveraging digital culture and online databases will enable instant communication almost anywhere in the world. Digital information offers accurate and timely analytics and trend analysis. Online databases also allow us to ensure that everyone has the proper resources, information, and tools to complete their tasks competently.
I would offer the simple idea that everyone has the potential to achieve greatness. The key is understanding that greatness means many different things to many different people. The objective of our lives should be to share, grow, love, forgive, encourage, and understand the people we surround ourselves with.
Help the people around you reach their potential no matter what that is; a receptionist or the next Richard Branson. If you apply the concept in the workplace and give employees increased autonomy this can lead to worker enrichment, engagement, and improved job satisfaction.
The OGM: What recommendations do you have for oil companies given the low price of oil and the struggle to adjust and survive?
Safety resources cannot be compromised due to the low oil prices. Look outside of the box for innovative solutions to your problems. Examples would be ensuring that you are using centralized purchasing where possible, this gives you buying power, the ability to track budgets, and ensure that your personnel are getting the resources they need, at the best prices. (Acure Safety in Alberta is a great resource).
I would also look into training your supervisors in safety, something along the lines of superintendents completing the NCSO (National Construction Safety Office) certification. A $1,500 certification is an inexpensive investment and gives you a platform to present to your clients a no-cost added benefit.
On jobs where you require a safety advisor you may be able to use your superintendent instead of adding safety resource to your bid, and if there is no safety advisor required you can inform your clients that your superintendent is a safety advisor and that this will be a no-cost added benefit. Safety has to build into your business triangle Revenue/Profit = Safety + Quality + Service.
Safety is a profitable and fruitful venture when it’s engineered into your business processes if it’s an afterthought you will run into complications and cost overruns.
I see the oil industry recovering to a sustainable and profitable level. The industry is going that way already because of market physics and investor sentiment. I believe the key is to be upgrading and refining the engineered process to be more efficient and economically feasible while maintaining public reputation, employee safety, and reducing environmental impact.
Canada’s oil industry will have to transform itself to meet these new demands, but we are starting to see employers expecting better returns on their costs like efficiency, service, quality, and safety as the industry aligns with public and government interests. Employers and contractors understand the new expectations of what it will take to be competitive and profitable in the 21st-century oil and gas industry.
In my position as the Corporate Health, Safety, and Environment Manager the qualities of being honest, trustworthy, consistent, and having moral principles are essential. I find myself completing my job to the best of my ability. I want to be able to say ‘I did everything reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of my workers’.
Spread the word about Dan Hathaway!
We respect your privacy and will never share your information with third parties.