Val has spent her entire career on projects that were for the benefit of the public.
It takes hundreds, thousands, of people to build and maintain the infrastructure—the roads, bridges, and other structures—that provide safe passage for a province the size of British Columbia. Val Fabick, a quick-witted, task-oriented, project manager with a love of gardening and the arts, is one of those people.
Currently, Val serves as the Senior Project Manager within Binnie’s Project Services Division. Before joining Binnie, Val was Regional Manager of Project Delivery with the BC Ministry of Transportation. She managed all levels of project managers and technicians in the Ministry’s South Coast Region, a region that covers Vancouver, Victoria, and surrounding municipalities.
Val started in the finance department of the BC Ministry of Highways. She took night school courses, came up through the ranks, and found she was interested in project management. She took technical and computer training, completing the Highways Technology Training Program at BCIT. She followed that up with many courses on project management. Studying by night and working by day, as she recalls, “was a lot of work.”
In the early eighties, the procession up the ranks at work may have been seen as a steep climb up a rock face to women standing on the ground floor. Val remembers how it was hard for women to advance—they knew it as a “glass ceiling” where they could see through to heights they were prevented from reaching. But as the years progressed, Val witnessed the culture at her work begin to respond as workplaces throughout North America started opening doors for women to advance.
Women used to take minutes, serve as office staff… but now you see a lot of women working in transportation. It’s great to see that.
Once the doors started opening for Val, she didn’t hesitate to step through and take on challenges. Val led multi-discipline project teams from project development through to construction. Projects included Highway 7 Silverdale, works on the Lions Gate Bridge, and a Commercial Vehicle staging area at the Pacific Border Crossing that connects British Columbia with the United States. She also had a hand in coordinating the Advanced Traveler Information System (digital message signs) for people crossing the BC border into the US. That meant that Val had to liaise with both Canadian and US authorities.
Val was actively involved in the promotion of universally-recognized project management procedures and best practices within the Ministry and was a member of the Project Management Steering Committee and Regional Management team. Under Val’s leadership, the South Coast Project Management Services team successfully delivered a $137 million Federal Infrastructure Program in southern BC.
After having worked non-stop for over several decades years, Val is a sought-after mentor. She’s a mentor for clients as well as for Binnie staff.
This year, Val took on the role of a team lead. She is leading six staff at varying levels in their careers—from fresh assistant project managers to senior managers with 30 years under their belt. Part of that role involves working with new staff and helping them set career goals. She talks with them about what they might consider when setting goals, and how they can achieve them.
I really enjoy that. It’s my goal to pass on whatever knowledge I have to everybody else. I want to make sure my group is all set up and anybody else that I can help, I can get started. I think it’s really important. I love what I do. I wouldn’t still be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s fun. They keep me young too. Gives you a perspective. You always should be learning something. [My staff] give a lot back. They keep me up with the technology, new ideas, and a fresh approach.
Val’s many years of work in government infrastructure projects has given her an understanding of government organization and the particular way things work. The BC Ministry of Transportation is aware of this and hires Val to mentor their junior staff. She guides staff through procedures, explains things like how reports are expected to be written, and why they need to be a certain way.
A lot of it is about how everything fits together – it’s the bigger picture. People who are new [to the job] are only familiar with what they know. You can learn project management from a text book, you can learn the technique of PM, but to be really good, you have to know how an organization conducts its work.
In addition to her role as a staff mentor, Val has a full project workload. She manages a range of projects, including the construction of roads and bridges, rehabilitation work on bridges, seismic upgrades, paving, drainage, and highway expansion.
Val’s projects included working on a complex two-year road widening and seismic upgrade project in the Fraser Canyon, as well as upgrades to a bridge in Aggasiz, BC. She also managed the Ministry’s Port Alberni Passing Lane and Angel Rock widening projects on Highway 4 on Vancouver Island.
When asked what projects she’s most proud of being part of, Val replies quickly,
All of them. What’s remarkable about working with public infrastructure is it’s right there for everybody to see. I’m driving to the States with a friend and I can say, I installed those signs! You’re able to work on projects which are benefiting the public.
On the work culture at Binnie
I love it, I really feel like the management cares about me and sees that one of the best things that you have going for you is the people that work there. You’re really nothing without the people.
If you want to do something you can make it happen in the organization. [Binnie] has an employee survey every year and people make changes accordingly. I think people generally like working together.
When she has time, Val attends staff lunches and outings such as a baseball game.
Words to live by
Love the life you live, live the life you love – Bob Marley
Current favourite movie
My overall favourite movie is the Wizard of Oz. It’s original, it has lots of good songs, it was really ahead of its time. I also enjoy musical theatre and concerts.
I’m always reading a book. I alternate between mysteries or a biography or a history book.
I’ll read a novel and then something factual.
In addition to being a traveller, Val is a proud gardener. She’s maintained a plot in a big community garden for over 25 years.
I grow any kind of vegetable, I bring vegetables to the office, and give them away to friends and family. I like being in the sun. It’s something that you don’t have to think about a lot, you just do it, it’s very relaxing for me.