The world is rapidly urbanizing. The challenges are awesome. Engineers are at the vital centre of progress globally.
John Bianchini, P.Eng., is one of us. As President and CEO of Hatch, he’s leading the change that his organization is championing globally. Passionate about the engineering profession, John’s career is a celebration of processes and technology that have changed the world in both small and large ways.

OSPE:
Why did you choose engineering as a career?

JOHN:
Like a lot of students who pursue engineering, I was always interested in technology even as a young kid. I was always doing chemistry experiments, always in the science fair. I grew up in the era of rocketry, when we first went into space and walked on the moon. That fascinated me. How do you get something to go that far away and land? As far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted to work in science and technology. Then when I got to high school, I discovered that it’s really engineers behind all this stuff. I didn’t know what an engineer was – but then I realized it was engineers that actually made things happen!


OSPE:
What do you find rewarding about your career; have there been surprises along the way?

JOHN:
Well, what we do is actually world-altering – it’s been a slow gradual realization for me, and it became fully formed really around mid-career. I’m a chemical engineer, and when I finished my education at the University of Toronto, I was chomping at the bit to go and create new chemical processes and build equipment that makes oil and gas and iron and steel. I don’t think I had an “a-ha!” moment, but certainly over time as I started working on processes in different regions, and I began to experience the world and work in different industries, I started to realize that engineers were really at the centre of it all.
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OSPE:
Can you expand on that idea of engineers being the hub of progress?

JOHN:
A problem or challenge would present itself, and the first questions would always be “what do the engineers say? Is this possible? Can we actually do this?” People had dreams of new businesses or new processes and they would always ask the engineer. So not only are we in the middle, but we’re the ones that bridge the gap between ideas, concepts, aspirations, dreams, and reality.

OSPE:
How has your work changed the world, in both small and large ways?
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JOHN:
That’s a big question. I think in small ways, engineers in general add to new businesses, new ways to advance society. Early in my career I was part of a team that created brand new processes for pigments that made them much lower cost and more environmentally friendly, which helped move away from the lead-based pigment industry. And then later in my career I realized that what I did as an individual could go well beyond simply helping my clients improve their businesses. I spent a lot of time in South Africa during the apartheid and I had a lot of trepidation about working in a society where I didn’t align with the views of the political party at the time. But I started to realize that by working there and advancing our clients businesses, we were helping – at least in a small way – to build prosperity so that people had a means to actually affect change. As Canadians, we bring a more progressive, open point of view. Engineers, because we work around the world in different cultures and societies, help bring a broader worldview, which helps affect social change, beyond science and technology.

OSPE:
You speak very passionately about your work and the profession of engineering.

JOHN:
You’re right – I’m very passionate about this. It’s a great time to be an engineer. I tell young people I wish I could turn back the clock 25 years and be 25 again, because this generation has even bigger challenges than my generation. Things like climate change and the way communities are interfacing with industry – the rural world and the urban world are clashing, and engineers have to resolve this. The digital era provides us with lots of advantages but also challenges. There are mass amounts of data. How do we use it to make the world better? These are issues that didn’t exist when I was a kid. So right now, to be at the head of a global firm like Hatch, now is a great time to be an engineer and be part of a company that can do big things to change the world.
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