An Interview With President
Linda Van Gastel, P.Eng.

Linda Van Gastel, P.Eng., became APEGGA’s 85th president in April. A native Calgarian, she graduated from the University of Alberta in 1967 with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering, and added an M.Sc. in 1972.

Ms. Van Gastel began her career with Western Research and Development, and later joined PanCanadian Petroleum (now EnCana). Now retired from EnCana, she’s been an active APEGGA volunteer since 1991 when she joined the Practice Standards Committee, and was first elected to Council in 1998.

The PEGG presented her with a series of questions to help members learn a little more about their newest APEGGA elected leader.

1) What excites you most about assuming the leadership of APEGGA?

I view this as an opportunity to give something back to a profession that has done so much for me. I believe that our professions and our Association need the active support of our members. Like many retirees, I find that I have both the energy and the time to contribute, and I enjoy working with Council and the wonderful people APEGGA has on staff.

2) Inclusivity turned into a hot topic for Council near the end of your predecessor's term. What do you think APEGGA learned from the experience and do you see any changes coming in the way the Association handles potentially contentious issues like this one?

APEGGA learned a lot about the importance of effective consultation and communication. Interestingly enough, Council thought that there had already been a lot of communication, and there was widespread support for the concept. As more details began to be communicated in the March time frame, some of our members had serious concerns, and took the time to express those concerns.
The feedback was valuable, and as soon as Council became aware of the concerns we realized that we were moving too fast and that we needed more widespread consultation. We learned that we need to have more and better communication, including consultation and dialogue, especially on potentially contentious issues.
We also learned that many of our members wish to understand the details of implementation as part of considering proposed policies. We are currently planning more extensive consultation on inclusivity, and I’m sure we’ll learn from that process as well.

3) In this space last year, Mike Smyth, P.Eng., said inclusivity was the major issue or challenge of the year. Does that hold for 2004-2005, or are there other issues that you see moving to the forefront?

Inclusivity will be a major issue for 2004-2005 as well. Other issues that will likely require attention include ASET’s continuing quest for status as an independent regulatory body, and a more active advocacy role for APEGGA on behalf of the professions.

4) Communication and consultation appear to be two watchwords emerging for your term as president. What's your role, as president, in these areas?

As president, my role is to speak for Council, and be active in communicating Council’s intentions. We have committed to consulting with our membership as well, and that will involve a lot of listening and consensus building. I expect a busier than usual year on both fronts, and will work hard to make sure that APEGGA handles this challenge well.

5) What are the main challenges facing individual APEGGA professionals on the job, and how do you see their self-regulating Association helping them meet those challenges?

Our professions and working conditions are so diverse that there is no simple answer to this question. As members of self-regulating professions, though, individual professionals gain a great deal. Their status is recognized and valued by their employers, their customers, governments, regulatory bodies and the public, and there is an automatic level of trust associated with that status. This degree of recognition is much more difficult to obtain without the benefit of membership in a self-governing association. Governments are increasingly relying on bodies like APEGGA to provide regulation of “qualified persons.”

6) What can members do to make the Association more effective, now and down the road?

Back to the communication and consultation theme. We need members to engage in the issues of the day, to consider proposed solutions carefully, and provide their suggestions in a spirit of constructive discussion. We also need to have members take an active role in the Association – volunteering to work on committees or projects.

7) What perspective do your career and personal background bring to the presidency?

My career was largely spent with a large and effective petroleum company, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take on a variety of leadership roles. In my most recent assignments I worked with geologists, geophysicists and a wide variety of engineers, so I have a broad understanding of the challenges faced by our professionals working in operating companies. My experience at the senior management level also provides useful perspective in dealing with association governance.

8) How did you become interested and involved in APEGGA, and what has that involvement done for you personally and professionally?

I was asked to join APEGGA’s Practice Standards Committee in 1991 – an associate had recommended me to APEGGA. Working with APEGGA broadened my perspective, including giving me exposure to the consulting side of our professions, and provided me with leadership opportunities that were different from and complementary to my working opportunities.

I particularly enjoyed working with APEGGA Council, because it welcomes constructive dissent and deals effectively with differing perspectives on issues. This experience has been very helpful to me in working with other boards and corporate management teams.

9) Are there any APEGGA or other mentors you'd like to mention? How did they help you get where you are today?

The gentleman who invited me to join Practice Standards Committee in 1991 was Stewart McIntosh, P.Eng., and he has been a continuous connection with APEGGA and an inspiration. Many of APEGGA’s past presidents have also been inspirational and encouraging – and “helped” my development through task force assignments.

In my working career, I was fortunate enough to work with many wonderful people, too numerous to name. I particularly value my associations, however, with Terry Lawrence, P.Eng., David Tuer, Honorary Member David O’Brien, Gerry Macey, P.Geol., and Des Allen, all of whom encouraged me, challenged me and gave me room to grow.

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