Top 10 Under 40
Pavan encourages everyone to think beyond the heavy equipment
December 8, 2022 By Andrew Snook
Rock to Road magazine celebrates 10 of the aggregates and roadbuilding industry’s young professionals rising up the ranks in their respective positions.
Editor Andrew Snook had the opportunity to sit down and chat with all of the winners about what attracted them to the industry, their favourite projects, career advice for young people entering the industry.
Here is the sixth of 10 that we are featuring online this month.
General Manager Lafarge Canada, Saskatoon, Sask.
For Pavan Sidhu, the construction industry wasn’t part of her career plans growing up.
“I definitely got into the industry by accident, it wasn’t something I intentionally sought out, however it has turned out to be a very rewarding and challenging accident,” she says. After her first year as an undergrad in Vancouver, Pavan took a summer job working for Lafarge Canada as an accounting administrator to earn some extra money. She had no idea she had just started on a path towards an extremely successful career.
“Lafarge leadership asked me to stay on after that and said they would put me through school,” she says. “I spent the first eight years of my career in finance.”
During that time, the construction market in Saskatchewan was starting to boom and Lafarge Canada was expanding its presence throughout the province. This presented an opportunity for Pavan to gain some valuable experience.
“They needed a finance department with processes setup. I signed up to do an 18- to 24-month term to set up a finance team in Saskatchewan,” she says. “I was in that role for 18 months and said to them, ‘I feel like I’ve completed this role and I would like to head back to B.C. and as much as I am enjoying finance, I am not sure this is the part of the business that I am the most excited about.’”
Lafarge Canada management helped create a career roadmap for Pavan so she would have the opportunity to grow beyond her role in finance. In 2011, she moved into an operations role on the concrete side of the business. She then held a variety of roles from 2011 to 2017. At that point, the general manager position came up for all of the product divisions for Saskatchewan.
“It was definitely a stretch role, but I was excited for the opportunity to learn and develop,” Pavan says.
As general manager of Lafarge Canada’s Saskatchewan operations since 2017, Pavan’s role encompasses several product lines, including aggregates, ready mix, asphalt and paving. She applies her financial acumen, passion for business strategy, networking abilities and construction knowledge in leading her teams across the business.
Pavan now has over 18 years industry experience and has worked on several notable projects including: BHP Jansen Potash Mine, Cyclotron at the University of Saskatchewan, Chief Mistawasis Bridge, University Drive rehabilitation project, and the home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“Pavan’s notable projects are complemented by record-breaking years for the business. When faced with challenges during COVID-19, she worked alongside her team to implement additional safety processes while managing costs due to a sharp drop in revenue; ultimately creating more trust and a deepened culture of ownership,” says Emilia Salamon, human resources coordinator for Lafarge Canada. Emilia says Pavan has worked hard to create teams that are more agile in how they problem solve and execute on internal issues and processes, as well as project delivery.
“Pavan’s team recently overhauled their local safety practices and culture by adapting a methodology from the tech space called ‘sprints.’ The sprint process allowed the teams to focus on a single key area of safety every couple of weeks and completely overhaul practices without distraction for a focused time. Over the period of four months, safety practices in every aspect of their operations were improved,” Emilia says.
Pavan’s favourite aspect of working in the construction sector is that it’s very dynamic and challenging.
“You’re trying to get a project completed, but you’re dealing with many variables including weather, people, machinery and you’re not always able to control how many people you’re going to get in this labour market,” she says. “There’s no two days that are the same in the construction market and find that’s interesting.”
Pavan prioritizes diversity and creating inclusive space in the industry. In 2014, her operations recruited their first woman concrete truck driver to Lafarge Saskatoon, which at the time was quite challenging and even involved retrofitting the restrooms at the shop. In 2022, Pavan was nominated and voted in by peers to join the Saskatoon Construction Association board of directors. As part of her work with the board, they launched the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee for the association.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work to find ways to attract and retain diverse talent in our industry, including new Canadians, women, and members of different minority groups to the construction industry,” Pavan says.
She worked with the board of directors for Concrete Saskatchewan from 2015 to 2017 and has participated as a mentor in the Anne Heggie Women’s Mentorship program focused on supporting women that are new to their career.
Pavan has also taught business strategy at the University of Saskatchewan to share her passion for the subject, and to additionally increase the visibility of women in the construction industry. She says the biggest challenge facing the industry is the shortage of skilled labour.
“There are not enough folks out in the market that want to be in trades and driving trucks. There’s a shortage of candidates for every position that we post,” Pavan says. “We also have people on our teams where expectations on work-life balance is changing… it’s about attracting people to our industry and rationing the people that we have.”
Pavan’s advice for young people considering a career in the construction industry: think beyond the heavy equipment.
“We often think that a career in construction means being on a job site, working in a trade or operating equipment. However, there are many roles and positions that look very different than this. So, please do not rule out this industry without learning about some of the other careers that touch on areas like sustainability, resource/operations manager and design,” she says. “If you want an exciting, dynamic and interesting career where a job well done means something tangible to look back at, a new hospital, a new bridge, then this is definitely an industry to consider.”
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