Navigating Career Goals, Work-Life Balance, and Family during a Pandemic: Melanie Banack

The following post is an interview with Melanie Banack, Remediation/Reclamation Coordinator, and was written and conducted by Kelly Zadko, VP of Business Development.

Over the past year the world has seen changes and challenges like never before. As a Consultant, Leader, and Mother, I think it is important for us to share a female perspective on the pandemic, career, work-life balance, and family.  Today I would like to share the spotlight with one of our female leaders at North Shore, Melanie Banack. Mel has been with North Shore for a decade this year! She is one of our Remediation/Reclamation Coordinators and manages our Orphan Well Association Program.

Over the past decade Mel transitioned from a Junior Consultant in the field to her role today. Currently, Melanie is a Project Manager; she manages a large client portfolio and provides technical experience and support on remediation projects. She has experience in a wide range of activities including Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), complex remediations, vegetation monitoring and control, Detailed Site Assessments (DSAs), and reclamation certificate applications (RCAs). Melanie also supports our Corporate Consulting team with SiteView projects and has experience with Site Specific Liability Assessments for large-scale facilities. She has also been involved with several Environmental Due Diligence projects on behalf of clients during the acquisition process. She brings a wealth of experience and mentorship to our Calgary office.

But most importantly, Mel is the mother of 2 beautiful children. Melanie went on her second maternity leave prior to the onset of the pandemic. As a mother myself I know how challenging and rewarding it is to be at home with your children, but no one could have possibly foreseen the strange and scary turns that 2020 would take. Lockdowns, social distancing, face masks, working from home, virtual meetings, all under the constant threat of a disease that none of us could predict or plan around.

How did you feel about coming back to work in the middle of the pandemic?

“I was excited and looking forward to getting back to work, but also anxious about sending our children to daycare amidst the pandemic. As a family, we were so fortunate to even have the option to keep our daughters at home throughout most of 2020; I recognize that a lot of people did not have that luxury.  Our childcare providers have done an excellent job establishing COVID-19 protocols and procedures, and we feel confident that they are safe and well looked-after when we are at work.  I am glad to be back at North Shore, even if it’s only virtually for the moment.”

Melanie, with her husband Shawn and their two toddlers, Annalise and Emma.

Navigating childcare and sick kids is challenging, some guidance or thoughts on how you manage?

“I would say that it has been a collective effort from everybody involved. We are a dual-parent household and are both working from home so we take shifts; on days when we have strict deadlines, we may have to work outside of normal business hours to ensure that our projects are completed on time. Also, co-workers and clients have been very understanding with respect to rescheduling meetings and greater response times between calls and emails on the days when we have sick children at home.”

How are you adjusting to the new way of working? Any tips for others?

“I think the biggest adjustment was getting used to doing everything digitally; whether it was reviewing reports, completing work plans, or invoicing. While it was challenging at first, using existing technology that I was already familiar with in different ways has helped to facilitate the switch. I am glad for the change as it has resulted in less paper waste and ink usage, and it is something that I’ll continue to do when we are able to return to the office. I also try to schedule at least one video call a day so that I have the opportunity to interact with others – face-to-face interactions, even virtually, aids in reducing feelings of isolation. Overall, it has been a really positive experience and I enjoy working from home.”

What is the silver lining?

“With Microsoft Teams, I get to collaborate with a lot of my co-workers from other offices that I typically would only see a few times a year at special events and meetings. I think it has helped foster closer working relationships even though the distance remains the same. I also appreciate having more quality time as a family in the mornings and evenings now that I’m not having to commute to the office every day.”

Your favorite part of your role at North Shore?

“My favorite part of my role at North Shore is the variety of projects that I’m exposed to. I’m constantly working with different people and learning new things. It helps to keep things interesting and exciting. Currently I am spending a lot of time working alongside our Technical Resource Group on complex remediation sites and I am really enjoying evaluating alternative pathways to closure.”

As Melanie stepped back into her work life, she was able to navigate her career and family with support from inside and outside of our organization. She is just one example of female leaders navigating a career, home life, and the pandemic. They say it takes a village to raise a family; at North Shore we believe that it takes a community to support and encourage success in the workplace. We are so proud to have Mel within the North Shore family. For the past decade she has influenced the staff within the Calgary office, provided mentorship and taken on challenging roles. We look forward to celebrating her future contributions to our Corporate Family and to support her growth personally and professionally.

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