Wolf Keller – WCW Member Profile

Working-in-Water-logoWCW Member Profile – Wolf Keller

Wolf KellerName: Wolf Keller
Position: Director, Water Resources, (2004 – 2013)
Organization: City of Calgary
Born and Raised: Born in Germany, immigrated to Canada at 9 years of age and settled in Calgary.

Education/Training

Completed a B.Sc. Civil Engineering at the University of Calgary in 1972.  My first position after graduating was with a medical supply company manufacturing plastic hospital supplies.  Also worked in the oil patch servicing gas processing facilities and in the construction industry building municipal water and wastewater plants.

History in the industry and as a WCW member

Initial experiences in construction, maintenance, and operations management were in the wastewater and drainage side of the business.  When Calgary amalgamated water, wastewater and drainage, scope broadened into the water supply area.  Promotion to Director led to involvement in strategic planning, staff development, financial management etc.

Long time member (probably late 1980’s) and served as Alberta Director of CWWA from 2005 to 2011.

Typical day

The first comment would be, there is no typical day, which is what has kept me energized and involved in what I do.  Because there are so many business activities and initiatives running in parallel, each day brings a new mix of challenges and questions which need answers in order to keep moving forward.

In terms of process, my days are filled with meetings as project teams and area managers seek to provide updates, raise issues and seek decisions they need to continue their work.

I schedule considerable amounts of time to meet with staff and keep them apprised of our progress towards our business goals and to help them clearly see their role in achieving them, and to recognize their efforts in helping us achieve them.

Another major pull on my time is spent in developing the policy and budget reports needed to obtain approval from City Council for programs and expenditures to meet our business objectives.  Working with Councilors to understand their perspectives and priorities can be challenging but ultimately is at the core of our role as public servants.

Job Satisfaction

The variety, the daily challenges and most importantly, the opportunity to put in place initiatives, policies, practices and infrastructure that help shape our community and environment in a lasting and hopefully beneficial way.

Certainly a highlight is the opportunity to work with an incredible group of talented and dedicated people.  Each day I marvel at the creativity and commitment of our staff.  It’s really energizing to be a part of the creative process that takes place every day.

Main challenges

The main one has to be time.  Having time to really understand what staff are putting before me for comment and decisions, time to spend with staff, to really connect.  Time away from meetings to think and plan.

Another thing I see more and more is staff turnover.  People are on the move from job to job and each time we are challenged to find replacements.  We’re always pleased to see staff take on new challenges and the openings create opportunities for others to step in and learn and grow in their careers.  Sometimes it seems like we can’t possibly fill one more vacancy, but then we do and life goes on.  What it does do, is really put an emphasis on training and development programs so that employees become productive as quickly as possible.  We no longer have years to get people comfortable and expert in their roles.

Career Highlights

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in many fields, at a variety of levels.  Each new role I took on meant learning new skills, building on what I knew but also stepping out into the unknown.  For me that’s the exciting part of any career.  Most of the time, after figuring out what my job was, I was also able to make changes I could see were needed from my new perspective.  I was never one to just accept the status quo and was lucky enough to be able to make changes for the better on many occasions.

Advice

Learn new skills, be open to change, take a chance when opportunity presents itself, and if none seems apparent, make your own opportunity.

Don’t get caught in the “comfort zone” trap.  I’ve seen many people say that theirs is such a great job, the best job, they know it so well, they couldn’t leave it right now because of the important work they have in progress.  That’s probably about the time to start thinking about the next opportunity.  And the bigger the stretch to the new role, the better.  If you’re and engineer, spend some time on an HR project.  Managing front line staff?  Get on an organizational development team.  Take the leap and learn.

Time away from work

There’s time away from work?  Seriously, I do find it possible to shut off the work when I leave the office.  I don’t have an all-consuming hobby, just enjoy dabbling in a variety of things – losing money on the stock market, making wine, cooking, handyman stuff, entertaining, travel.

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