CCE’s Lifetime Achievement Awards: Jeremy Haile
February 14, 2023
Editor’s note: In late 2022, for the first time, Canadian Consulting Engineer launched an initiative to recognize leading professional engineers for their exceptional careers in—and legacies of contributions to—consulting engineering in the fields of construction and infrastructure. The community responded strongly, with a wide variety of nominations for these accolades. The following is one of three chosen winners.
Principal engineer (formerly president) of Vancouver-headquartered Knight Piésold Canada, Jeremy Haile expressed an early interest in engineering projects when he was a child—and as it happened, he was in the right place at the right time.
“I was very fortunate to grow up in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and go to school in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) at a time when lots of major projects were being built, including the Kariba Dam and the Kafue hydroelectric project,” he recalls. “We lived in one mining town, Bancroft (now Chililabombwe), before moving to another, Broken Hill (now Kabwe). All of that was part of my youth and I wanted to go into civil engineering.”
Haile graduated from Oxford University with an M.A. in engineering sciences and economics in 1972. He started his career that year as a project engineer at Watermeyer, Legge, Piésold and Uhlmann (WLPU) in 1972, the predecessor to Knight Piésold, working at an office in the U.K. and construction sites in Zambia and Malawi.
After completing an M.Sc. in soil mechanics at Imperial College of the University of London, he was transferred to Knight & Piésold in Vancouver in 1979, where he served as senior engineer and director until 1990. (The Knight Piésold name was adopted by WLPU and associated operating companies around the world in the early 1990s.) After the retirement of Bruce Knight, founding partner of the Canadian operations, Haile became president of Knight Piésold Canada, a position he held until 2012.
“I’ve only worked for one company,” he says. “When we expanded to Canada, we brought a different perspective from mining in central Africa. Translating our expertise into a Canadian context was a major learning exercise; I’d never dealt with winter conditions before! It was an exciting challenge.”
Growing from a team of about 20 people in the 1980s, the company focused primarily on mining tailings and water management projects until Haile, as president, branched out into British Columbia’s hydropower industry in the early ’90s. The company developed run-of-river hydroelectric projects for mining clients and independent power producers. Haile also led geographic and service expansion by opening another office in North Bay, Ont., increasing involvement in Eastern Canadian and international projects.
“He has been an incredible mentor.” – Ken Embree
The company had grown to about 200 people across Canada when Haile stepped down from the helm in 2012.
“It was a big relief to hand it on,” he says, “knowing there was a very capable team in place to continue managing the company.”
Looking back today, Haile’s 50-year career—one of the longest tenures of anyone currently working at Knight Piésold anywhere in the world—has combined technical expertise in civil and geotechnical engineering, mentorship of his fellow engineers and contributions to industry associations.
“He has been an incredible mentor to me ever since I started at the company 32 years ago,” says its current president, Ken Embree.
“Now I can work when I want to,” says Haile. “I get involved when I’m asked to and I don’t come into the office unless there’s something for me to do. I enjoy staying in touch with everyone. I write proposals, look at management systems, conduct risk reviews for projects around the world, streamline office documents and just help make it all work seamlessly. I like staying involved in complex, challenging projects.”