Let’s talk about Kamloops—actually, let’s talk about the future of Kamloops. Our team is connecting with innovative entrepreneurs from the Thompson Valley who are paving the way for a diverse, inclusive, and sustainable future to discuss the River City and what we need to tackle today to create the Kamloops of tomorrow. Welcome to Kamloops Tomorrow.
Acres Enterprises is a locally owned and operated company in Kamloops. Acres has a 40+ year history in general, industrial, and civil construction, stretching from the Interior to Northern BC. Their teams work in partnership with their clients and are driven by a commitment to quality. Acres is a concept-to-completion company that delivers excellence through the cutting-edge use of technology, including fully automated equipment and drones that are fitted with GPS technology.
In March, Acres Enterprises celebrated 𝐖𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐖𝐞𝐞𝐤 by highlighting the contributions of the wonderful women that make up their team. Ann Mary Vithayathil is a Project Manager with Acres’ Civil Department. She joined the company because she was intrigued by the opportunities, challenges, and rewards of working in the construction industry.
Interview conducted by Boom Business Solutions.
Ann Mary, you grew up in Oman and then moved to India to pursue post-secondary education. What brought you to North America? What attracted you to Kamloops?
As a child, I was always wondering what it would be like to move to a completely new place and experience new cultures, traditions, lifestyles and start life from scratch. This motivated me to move halfway across the world and pursue my Masters in Civil Engineering at the University of British Columbia. I studied at the Okanagan campus and graduated from the program in 2018. From there, I was offered the position of Project Coordinator at Acres Enterprises in Kamloops. The idea of having a new place to explore and new opportunities excited me and I moved to Kamloops that year. I’ve loved Kamloops ever since.
You are a Project Manager with the Civil Department at Acres Enterprises. What does that role entail? What attracted you to that position?
I was originally hired as a Project Coordinator in the Civil Department. That role allowed me to work on various projects such as subdivision development, landfill services, and duct bank installation. Working with my team and brainstorming ideas to reach an effective solution is what I loved most about being a Project Coordinator and it’s also what attracted me to the role of Project Manager.
Construction is a fast-paced environment, and every project comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges. As a Project Manager, I am tasked with the responsibilities of planning, organization, directing, and evaluating construction projects, with an emphasis on managing costs and schedules.
I know that many post-secondary institutions across Canada are actively encouraging more women to get involved with the construction industry. What do you think are the biggest barriers for women in construction? How do we overcome these barriers?
The construction industry can be challenging for everyone because we work in a fast-paced environment with tight budgets, unforeseen challenges, contract issues, and specifications. I believe many women do not choose a career in construction because of the small percentage of women that make up the industry. Being a female in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating, and tends to discourage women from pursuing a career in construction. For example, during my first project in Oman, I was lucky enough to be a part of the construction of a beach resort. In a crew of over 500 members, there was only one other woman besides myself. The other female in the group was the engineer in charge. I admired her boldness, courage, and depth of knowledge, and that respect motivated me to face any challenges on that project. Working in this field also includes physical hard work, harsh environments and weather conditions, and literally getting your hands dirty. It might not sound very inviting, but the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity to grow.
Acres Enterprises is known for its use of cutting-edge industrial technology. What exciting tech do you get to play with? How has this tech accelerated the industry?
We use drone and GPS systems for surveying. Drone surveying allows us to generate precise measurements for high resolution models that are used to develop 3D maps. These maps are then used for detailed 3D cut-to-fill analysis and serve as a beneficial tool to guide excavation teams to the most efficient use of materials, equipment, and labour.
For document tracking for all our projects and estimates, we use SharePoint. This cloud-based platform stores all data and documents pertaining to our projects and it makes the information accessible from any device in any part of the world. SharePoint also allows for real- time collaborations during contract reviews, which expedites the review process.
The construction industry is constantly evolving, and I take pride in being a part of a company that is technologically inclined and is always looking for further opportunities to improve quality of work and efficiency. Building designs concentrate on plans that provide a lesser environmental impact, which creates potential for net zero and self-sustaining buildings in the future. The industry is also using 3D printing to plan and make changes to designs prior to building, and there are also future aspirations to use artificial intelligence to perform tasks that are unsafe or high risk for construction workers.
When you have out-of-town guests visiting Kamloops, what do you recommend they see/do?
Kamloops is an ideal location for exploring BC’s beautiful mountainous landscape. One local activity I really enjoy is visiting the wineries trying the different varieties of wines made in the region. The Kamloops Wildlife Park is another big attraction I would recommend. The diverse species of animals and birds will have you in awe and is an experience worth having. Last but not least is watching a Blazers hockey game at the Sandman Center! Go Blazers!