I had the invaluable opportunity last summer to work at Technical Safety BC which is why it would be helpful to reflect and explain what it was like as a Policy Researcher in the Policy & Regulatory Affairs department. I applied to work in the Policy and Government Relations team, which was composed of 3 members: Jennifer Hall (Acting Leader), Chris Kyllesø (Policy Specialist), and myself.
My first introduction to Technical Safety BC was during the BC Priorities Project in 1st year as they were my group’s partner organization. We did a project on ageing infrastructure and end of life management of passenger ropeways (looking at how to address old ski lifts and gondolas). At that time, we made 2 trips to the Vancouver office, one at the beginning in September to meet our sponsor organization, and at the very end in April to present our finished policy analysis.
About Technical Safety BC
Technical Safety BC’s main office is located in Vancouver (right across from Renfrew Skytrain station), but they also have several other regional offices. It’s a new building; Technical Safety BC has only been in it for around a year. It’s an open-concept office with very few enclosed offices (for those whose work is highly confidential in nature). One thing that struck me at first was that the CEO sits in an area just as open as everyone else, and her work area is the same size as everyone else’s too.
Aside from your assigned desk, there are tons of other areas you can work in, from different types of breakout or meeting rooms to comfy chairs and benches spread throughout the office. Around the office, there are large whiteboard walls, strategically placed near each unit various team have taken their unique approach to what to fill the wall with. For the wall near Policy and Regulatory Affairs, we decided to use one side to list each member of the team along with a sketch of their spirit animal, and the other side to market one of our tools (Look Who’s Talking, accessible organization-wide to track communication with government, government agencies, and Crown corporations).
The Vancouver office has a large, open lunch space (casually called the Café). It’s very bright, has different kinds of seating, access to outlets, and plenty of fridge and freezer space. Oh, and the unlimited, free coffee machine is an added bonus; how can you say no to a midday mocha?
Technical Safety BC is a remarkable and complex organization. Not a government agency, nor a for-profit corporation. Rather, Technical Safety BC is a delegated administrative authority and an independent, self-funded, not-for-profit organization that oversees the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment across the province. Technical Safety BC is responsible for regulating 7 technologies:
- Amusement Devices
- Boilers, Pressure Vessels, and Refrigeration
- Elevating Devices
- Passenger Ropeways
By virtue of that, Technical Safety BC interacts heavily with government and industry. This puts them in a unique position to be able to inform and influence government policy, as well as ensure the industry is doing its part in the overall safety system. However, many outside of government or in the general public see them as a government entity.
My official title was Policy Researcher. What that exactly meant at the beginning… I wasn’t too sure about. I came to do a bit of everything, from a comprehensive jurisdictional scan on training providers (which is done through background research) to stakeholder mapping of new amusement devices (which involved identifying stakeholders). I also organized and resourced meetings to writing talking points (which meant to inform executive for higher-level meetings). Believe it or not, I didn’t write a single memo or briefing note until the middle of July! I had the opportunity to work with all sorts of individuals in the organization, from stakeholder engagement to product leadership, to project management, from data analytics to business intelligence, to safety officers in the field and client services representatives. Having the opportunity to interact with different groups within the organization was definitely an anxious experience at first, but I soon grew to enjoy interacting with such a diverse range of professionals.
All the skills we gained in the 1st year of the program, the foundational pieces that we learned, were tremendously useful. Grad school has definitely taught me some very valuable skills that have come in handy, such as how to be proactive in meeting deadlines and learning how to juggle multiple tasks and deliverables. I also learned to stay resilient when facing uncertainty, and to always keep learning by being open to new ideas, opinions, and ways of doing things. Part of this was being open to new tasks, and going into situations with an open mindset, and being willing to watch and learn.
Also, I’ve developed a reputation for being quite the Googler. I guess we don’t realize the tremendous amount of Googling we do as Grad students. From trying to figure out simple concepts before a test, to having to quickly search for stuff during class, these experiences make us valuable researchers to large organizations such as Technical Safety BC. Thanks to that, I was approached to guide people through my research process. However, that proved to be a difficult task as it’s been developed through experience and has become second nature.
Connecting and Networking
Technical Safety BC has a history of hiring coop students, and for the past 3 years had summer coop students from SFU’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program. During my coop, 4 MPP alumni were working there. The alumni all played a significant role in making last summer’s experience memorable and meaningful. From the tips and tricks in navigating the organization, to bringing me in on different opportunities, they definitely looked out for me. Speaking with the alumni here and talking about their reflections on the MPP program and how it has impacted and informed their careers, was truly eye-opening to the sheer breadth of opportunities the program prepares you for.
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and network with people from across the organization. One thing Technical Safety BC values are collaboration, and that goes beyond working in teams. It has been such an enriching opportunity to actually sit down and have a coffee with someone from a completely different department than yourself. From grabbing a coffee in the café to heading into a huddle room, there are countless avenues for connecting with colleagues from across the organization.
My time at Technical Safety BC, while short, was an experience that I will value for the rest of my career. I am grateful to those who made it such a welcoming and rewarding experience. It opened my eyes to new ways of working, like cross-team collaboration. My work term has piqued my interest in project management – something that I plan on pursuing after graduation.
Beyond the Blog
Unsure if you should do a Graduate Co-op? Visit the Graduate Co-op Page for more information.