Meet William Oestreich – Mechanical Engineering Designer, Technology Division

William joined HH Angus in 2021 as a new graduate.

Why did you want to become an engineer/designer?

In high school, I discovered a love for math and physics, and when I learned that mechanical engineering was a good blend of the two, that’s what drew me to it. As for the designer aspect, I’ve always had an eye for design, to the point that I contemplated studying architecture. But with poor drawing skills, I decided that probably wasn’t the path for me; however, with the role I’m in now, I’m still able to fulfill that design interest (with computer software to help!).

What drew you to HH Angus?

I was attracted to the diversity of projects the firm is involved in, from hospitals to airports to data centres and so many more. After applying, what really sealed the deal for me was the team of people who interviewed me, all of whom I now work with everyday. They were all incredibly friendly and outgoing, which holds true for the rest of the organization as well, and that warm atmosphere was what I was really looking for in the workplace.

What are some of the things you like about working here?

My favorite thing is the people I work with and the community. Everyone is friendly and always willing to help wherever they can. As a new graduate with minimal industry experience, this was particularly helpful as I had a lot of questions to ask!

Another of my favorite things here is the flexibility. From hybrid working and flex time to half-day Fridays, the company has different mechanisms in place to help employees maintain a good work-life balance.

How would you explain your job to someone not in engineering?

When I’m asked what I do, my answer is usually “we design the systems that keep buildings liveable and comfortable - heating, cooling, ventilation, plumbing, fire protection, lighting, electrical systems, etc.”. As for my own role, I explain that it includes a little bit of project management, some design, and also time on-site.

Describe a typical day at work.

A typical day might include meeting with various parties involved in the project - clients, contractor teams, or other consultants. In between meetings, I work on the deliverables I have on my plate, which might include producing drawings for a design, reviewing submittals or contractor requests for a project in construction, or talking through a question with a colleague.

Some days I’m on-site for a construction site review or commissioning activity. I always find time spent on-site to be an incredible learning experience, physically seeing how a system functions or working through a coordination issue that’s come up during installation. On-site time really is the last puzzle piece in understanding how a design comes together, as you get a better understanding for it and what it takes to implement.

Is what you’re doing at HH Angus what you expected to be doing when you graduated?

In all honesty, no. In addition to having an eye for design as a kid, by far my biggest passion was airplanes and the aviation industry. For years I dreamed of becoming a pilot and, upon starting my engineering degree, I saw myself working on the design side of the aviation sector. Then, in a summer internship, I had the opportunity of working in the design and construction industry, and when it came time to decide where I wanted to work after graduation, I liked the idea of returning to that sector as this would give me lots of client-facing experience, which I enjoy, as well as the opportunity to work on a range of big and small projects.

How has HH Angus helped you grow in your career so far?

My work here has helped me gain confidence and given me the opportunity to take on different projects and challenges. At times, as a new graduate, you might experience a bit of the ‘imposter syndrome’ and feel that you don’t have the qualifications to work on something, but the most important thing to remember is that the best and sometimes only way to learn something is by doing. And that’s not to say that you’re totally on your own; there are always others with more experience who are ready to support and assist where needed. But it’s important to take the opportunity to first work on the task yourself, apply your knowledge, and then compile your questions and work through them with your colleagues so that you can learn from the experience. Then the next time around, you’ll be better equipped and know exactly how to approach the task.

Can you recall a useful mentoring tip?

A helpful piece of advice came from some of my more senior colleagues: every hurdle you face in a project is a lesson to be learned and will only make you into a better engineer down the road. Only through experience and working with different manufacturers and their products do you get a full understanding of which solution is best suited for a given situation.

What’s the best thing you have learned on the job to date?

There’s not just one way to do something, there can be multiple ways to achieve the same outcome. For example, in designing the cooling system for an elevator machine room in one of my projects, our team’s initial proposal was to install a split AC unit in the room to directly cool the space. However, another way to achieve cooling for the space would have been to add supply and exhaust ducts and fans to pull fresh air from outside and exhaust hot air back out. While the solution with an AC unit was more effective for cooling quickly, it was more expensive and had a different range of space implications. At the end of the day, the best solution is the one that meets the client’s needs in terms of desired cooling, cost, and other considerations. So, in that sense, another key thing I’ve learned is that the “best” solution to a design challenge is defined by a lot of different factors.

If someone asked you if they should apply to HH Angus, what would you tell them?

“Absolutely!” I would go through my list of favourite things about the company, and the reasons I joined and stay. These would include the variety of sectors we work in, with lots of opportunities to gain different experiences and learn from some of the best in each area. There’s also the collaborative, friendly work environment that keep me excited and looking forward to each workday. And, as mentioned earlier, flex time, hybrid working and half-day Fridays!

When you tell people outside the company about HH Angus, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

It’s usually some of the larger and well-known projects we’ve worked on. These could include Canary Wharf in London, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), various hospitals like Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and St. Michaels in Toronto or CHUM in Montreal, or some of our transit projects such as various TTC Subway stations or the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project. These usually pique people’s interest and rightfully so, as they’re interesting projects to be involved in and change the way people live and move.

What inspires you?

I enjoy seeing the physical product of my work and, in a sense, watching my designs come to life. There’s something unique about seeing what you’ve designed actually implemented in a building.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy most?

I enjoy commissioning most. This is quite different from the design side of our work and involves being brought onto a project as an independent 3rd party to review and witness the testing of installed equipment and building systems, and verifying that they are operating in accordance with the original design intent. I enjoy this part of my work the most as it’s a very collaborative process involving your team, the design build team, and the contractors, and is a key step in bringing a design build project to completion.

What are some of the trends and/or technologies in the AEC sector that you find exciting?

I’m excited about rapid fabrication technologies such as 3D printing. The use of 3D printing in design and construction offers several advantages, some of which include greater design freedom and the ability to develop and produce more complex designs with greater ease, reduced waste, and increased speed of production.

If you could change one thing about how buildings are designed and constructed, what would it be?

Aside from perhaps my childhood dream of constructing buildings out of Lego, if I could change one thing it would probably be to make it an even more collaborative process. While many projects go smoothly, there are always cases where something goes wrong, whether that be delays or design problems, and then the “finger-pointing” ensues. It’s important to bring a team-oriented mindset to solving the problem and getting things done, as opposed to pitting project members against each other.

What skills or traits have helped you to advance in your career so far?

A key skill that’s helped me advance in my career and in life generally is good organization. When dealing with multiple deadlines in university, the best way to stay on top of them is to be organized, whether that means having a list of all the tasks you need to complete or a calendar breaking down the day and what gets done when. The same holds true in the workplace when handling multiple projects with different needs. Staying organized and on top of things not only helps you get things done but allows you to keep track of everything on your plate, identify what your top priorities are, and move those items up on the list.

What would people be surprised to learn about you - do you have any secret talents or hobbies?

I love to travel, but more specifically I love to fly. I started pursuing my private pilot’s license in high school (even before I was old enough to drive a car!), and in my spare time I create content for my YouTube channel where I review airlines and their services. And getting that content means a lot of flying in my personal time!

I also love to bake! In fact, baking was one of the topics that came up during my interview. It turns out that there’s quite a community of bakers at the company, so whether you’re a sourdough bread baker or a ‘cookies and cakes’ kind of baker (which is more my speed) there’s lots to bond over (and even more to eat!).