The year started off on a high note for Managing Partner Kathy Oberg as she reached her 20-year anniversary at B&A.
Kathy jokes, “I actually started working at B&A when I was 13! In all seriousness though, it has flown by and I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride so far.”
Following her academic achievements (Master’s degree in Urban Planning and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design which included Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning), Kathy began her career working at the City of Calgary for two years before joining B&A.
Twenty years later, we asked Kathy to reflect on her time at B&A, and here’s what she had to say:
What is one of the most important things you’ve learned working with B&A founder Greg Brown?
Greg adds perspective and calm to every situation. When we hit a bump or had to take a new path, he reminded me that the other paths weren’t wrong, just different. When I got excited over something (yes, I am an emotional spirit and I wear my heart on my sleeve) he would say, “we aren’t heart surgeons, no one is going to die. Figure it out, explain it, and it will be just fine.” I carry that philosophy with me still today.
Is there a significant project that has helped shape your approach to planning today?
The John Howard Society (JHS) Land Use in Manchester. There are many community facilities that are needed, and sometimes that includes uses no one wants to live near. JHS is a non-profit organization that focuses on programming to reduce crime by supporting youth and adults and includes housing for vulnerable people. We experienced significant opposition to the project, but we maintained trust, integrity, and honesty throughout the application. I feel strongly that our communities need to encompass everyone, and we all need to do our part. This was an application that I was able to give back to an organization that has a significant role in our City.
What are some of the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Diversity of projects, exceptional clients and consultants, and a great team at B&A who are committed to planning exceptional developments. I cherish every relationship that I have had the pleasure to make and continue to make.
Why is planning your passion?
At an early age, I was interested in interior and architectural design and it wasn’t until the second year of University that I realized that Planning was the scale I enjoyed most. It has a significant impact on how we live, work and play in our communities’. I get excited at new ideas and places we can create, especially ones we can learn from for next time. If I believe in it, I will be your biggest champion.
Any words of wisdom for current/future planners?
Balancing work and family can be a challenge, so it’s important to have a supportive partner who understands your goals and will help achieve this balance. I’ve learned you can’t do everything, and you can’t beat yourself up about it. My family is understanding and supportive – they know that it doesn’t matter if their socks match, if dirty dishes linger one more day, or if I play a board game instead of cleaning the bathrooms. It will all get done.
What does your vision for the company look like moving forward?
I believe we have the expertise that could, and should, be shared with regions and municipalities across Canada. Many of our clients have challenged us to be innovative and sustainable to align with market demands and desires, and we have risen to the occasion. I see an opportunity to expand into other key markets which could include small offices in other cities or providing services from our Calgary office. As planning evolves, so does our drive to cater our service offering. An example of this was the introduction of an in-house team of Communication and Engagement Specialists. We will remain fluid over time and make key decisions based on what our clients need.
If we can’t find you in the office or at Council, where are you?
My family is very important to me. I’m not only a Managing Partner, but I’m also a Cheer and Hockey Mom. People laugh that I plan Disney Vacations to get away from work, but there is benefit in going to a place where you are so occupied that you let the office and to-do lists go. I appreciate the support I get from our clients as well; they know that if I re-arrange a meeting that usually means I have an important family commitment that I can’t miss.
Congratulations Kathy on all your achievements in life and at B&A. We asked staff members what they love most about working with you, and they had a lot to say:
Are you sure you want to do this?