It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of business, so interviews like this one help us here at SNC-Lavalin pause and highlight our people. Every day, their dedication, passion, and plain old hard work drive projects shaping our world. Their work is outstanding, but that’s far from the whole story.
Meet Tara Siemens Kennedy, Senior Project Specialist and Environmental Toxicologist, Environment, from SNC-Lavalin’s Burnaby office. She spends her spare time enjoying the great outdoors with her two kids, and her work time making sure our environment is protected.
What are you working on right now?
I have about 15 projects on the go. The work is quite varied—everything from risk assessments for contaminated petroleum handling facilities to developing guidance documents for regulatory agencies.
How long have you been with SNC-Lavalin?
Just over eight years.
Why did you choose environmental consulting?
I went to college right after graduating high school. Since I was super interested in chemistry, I did my bachelor’s degree in that. When I finished that degree, I felt a bit lost. I knew lab work wasn’t for me, so I began working for a mining reclamation company. The job was seasonal, but when it wrapped up, I started looking for similar opportunities. Sometimes life just happens, and you make decisions along the way. Environmental consulting is where I landed, and I really do enjoy my work.
What do you love about your work?
I work with wonderful people. And the work is challenging, it’s interesting, I’m always learning something new, and I do feel I’m making a positive contribution to our environment. One of the projects we recently completed was for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We developed guidance, which didn’t exist before now, for monitoring and impact assessment following a marine oil spill. Of course, the conservation and preservation of our oceans is hugely important, so this project definitely made me feel that I’m making a positive contribution. It was challenging, and we learned a lot through the process, and we put together a great document. In a nutshell, this project was everything I love about my job.
What do you do in your free time?
I am a mom of two awesome kids, aged 10 and 13. They’re fantastic and I wouldn’t change them for the world. We just got a new puppy—he’s a Whoodle (a Wheaten Terrier/Poodle cross)—so we spend lots of time hiking in the forest near our house with our new puppy.
I also teach an environmental risk assessment course for a master’s program at Simon Fraser University. Mentoring and teaching other people is something I love doing. And when I have me time, I head to yoga.
What energizes you and brings you excitement?
Being in the outdoors! I really love mountain biking. I have taken it up again recently because my son is super keen. I love the adrenaline rush, being outside, and hanging out with my kids doing something we love together. We live near Burnaby Mountain, so we often go after school.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Trust your gut! It took me a long time to figure this out, but I live by it now.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve watched this week?
I watched an episode of a new Netflix show the other night called Diagnosis. It’s based on a New York Times columnist (she is a doctor) who looks at rare ailments/medical mysteries and crowdsources a diagnosis. It was super interesting and had me wondering if this is the future of medicine. Talk about getting a second opinion!
People often refer to risk assessors as conservative. True?
We’re not as conservative as people think we are. But our work must be scientifically defensible—that’s our goal when doing a risk assessment—so yes, sometimes we might seem conservative.
Tara in 5 takes:
Love: My kids
Song: I love the classics.
Place: The Sunshine Coast. It’s a beautiful part of our province and I love spending time there.
A structure: Eiffel Tower. My first trip outside Canada was to Paris.
Tara presented “Guidance on Monitoring and Impact Assessment Following a Marine Oil Spill” at the 2019 Canadian Ecotoxicity Workshop
in Quebec City. If you haven’t already, check out the video
for more about the road Tara took to SNC-Lavalin, what she loves about her current role, and where she sees toxicology and risk assessment heading in the future.