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Spotlight on Cindy (Strickland) Hands, P. Eng. CCP
Cindy (Strickland) HandsCindy was born in the town of Fogo on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada, a small island in the Atlantic Ocean off the north east coast of Newfoundland. She was one of six kids, which included Cindy’s identical twin sister (who also became an engineer). Cindy’s dad was a very hard worker and very industrious. He helped build their home, he cut firewood, caught fish in boats he built himself, picked berries, hunted wildlife, and dug their water well (in addition to working a full time job maintaining communications infrastructure on the island). Cindy’s mom also worked hard to run the household, make clothes, and cook the meals. Cindy believes that it was through observing her parents that she developed the characteristics of determination, innovation and proficiency.

Growing up on an island, and looking out over the ocean as far as the eye could see, gave Cindy a heightened sense of wonder and adventure. She knew there was a huge world out there to explore and experience. So, when in 1979 a major oil reserve (Hibernia) was discovered off the coast of Newfoundland and the provincial Leader at the time prophesied that this discovery would change the way of life for Newfoundlanders, Cindy remembers thinking that she wanted to be a part of this change. This dream was realized in 1991, when, at age 20, Cindy landed her first job working in the oil and gas industry in Newfoundland.

Cindy received a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She first started working in project controls while studying at the university. Several of her cooperative student work assignments entailed working with the project controls team on the Hibernia Offshore Oil Project in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. It was a $6.0 billion dollar EPCM project with more than 5000 people participating. Cindy enjoyed project controls because it allowed her to get involved in all aspects of the project—not just a limited technical piece. Realization that her work had a direct impact on the outcome of the project was exhilarating!

Cindy has nearly 20 years of experience working in the energy and construction industries. She has provided project controls expertise to oilsands projects in Alberta and offshore oil and gas projects in eastern Canada. Some of these major projects include the Hibernia Offshore Oil Project, Sable Offshore Gas Project, Shell Muskeg River Oilsands Project, Syncrude UE-1 Oilsands Project, ConocoPhilips Surmont 1 SAGD Oilsands Project, Petro-Canada Fort Hills Oilsands Project, and more recently, the TOTAL Joslyn North Mine Project. Cindy has also applied her project controls knowledge to wind power projects in Canada including the Suncor Wintering Hills Wind Power Project and the NextEra Ghost Pine Wind Power Project (both in the southeastern Alberta).

Currently, Cindy is the Corporate Project Controls Manager for Hatch Ltd. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is responsible for implementing project controls on all projects in the office and ensuring that the appropriate resources are assigned. In addition to her Civil Engineering degree, Cindy completed the CREST Leadership Certificate Program and is currently working on her Masters in Leadership (MCL) through the Canadian Graduate School of Ministry. Cindy also became a Certified Cost Professional (CCP) in August of last year.

Over the years, Cindy has had many mentors and colleagues who have encouraged her career development. Strategically, she has chosen positions and companies where she could learn, grow and contribute. Cindy excels at asking lots of questions and continues to absorb the knowledge and experiences of others. She has always felt that there is no challenge too large or too complex, and attributes much of her life’s success to this deep-seated belief.

Early in her career, Cindy became a member of AACE International and joined the Board of Directors of the Chinook-Calgary Section. She made it a priority to attend the technical dinner meetings and workshops hosted by the section: “Through my participation in AACE, I developed relationships with other project controls professionals in Calgary and around North America. This network of new friends and mentors have encouraged and helped me throughout my career.” One of the most rewarding positions Cindy held on the Chinook-Calgary board was that of President. Cindy says: “Although the prospect of being president was a little unnerving, it gave me a tremendous opportunity to hone my management skills while contributing to the growth and success of the section. Personally, I found AACE to be a welcoming and encouraging environment in which to lead. Today, Chinook-Calgary is the largest AACE section worldwide.”

In 2006 Cindy attended her first AACE Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. She was amazed to find so many people in one room who shared the same passion for project controls. Cindy gained a new respect for the profession and felt honored to be a part of the community. Attending the presentations was extremely informative and Cindy came away more knowledgeable and more aware of current developments and challenges facing the project controls community. The event also provided the opportunity to network with other women specialists to discuss viewpoints and workplace matters. While observing that women are still a minority in senior management roles of engineering and construction companies, Cindy notes that, “…AACE provides a venue for women managers to meet other women managers. It’s energizing to discover that you are not the only woman changing the face of management in the engineering and construction industries.”

In conclusion, Cindy believes that while it’s not easy, one can get pretty close to ‘having it all’. She has a great career, loving husband, two beautiful children, financial freedom, and supportive friends and family. For her, the recipe has been: “…knowing what you want, being committed, and surrounding yourself with generous talented people who truly want to see others succeed.”

Since interviewing Cindy, her dad, George Strickland, passed away (1930-2012). Cindy dedicates this article to him. “Thank you dad.”

Article by Marina G. Sominsky