Introducing R&R Utility Limited’s president Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson, co-founder and president of R&R Utility Limited, has four decades of experience in his industry.

by Jillian Clark
Bill Robertson is standing on a mountain and checking structure locations prior to construction at the Brucejack Gold Mine.

Bill Robertson checks structure locations prior to construction at the Brucejack Gold Mine. — Photo courtesy R&R Utility Limited

Bill Robertson, co-founder and president of R&R Utility Limited, has four decades of experience in his industry: transmission line engineering. “A transmission line was being built passing through our backyard in Nova Scotia,” he said. “I took an interest in the work and followed that contractor to some work in Newfoundland.” After graduating from university with a degree in civil engineering, Robertson moved to British Columbia to work for BC Hydro.

The value of mentorship

Robertson values the knowledge he gained from various mentors over the years. A willingness to share their insight and personal experiences has helped shape his career.

“A lot of knowledge I gathered over the years was from other people,” he said. “I remember one fellow who took interest in me and saw that I had an interest in this business. He shared a lot of knowledge and gave me opportunities that no one else would have given me.” Robertson believes that books can give you some knowledge, but personal experience is the significant key to a well-rounded career.

Founding R&R Utility

An air crane is transporting concrete to structure sites at the Brucejack Mine. The Salmon Glacier can be seen in the background.

An air crane transports concrete to structure sites at the Brucejack Mine. The Salmon Glacier can be seen in the background. — Photo courtesy R&R Utility Limited

After so many years in the industry, it was time for Robertson to return the gift of knowledge. “In 2011, I met a young professional in the wind energy field. He said it was a shame that I had all this knowledge and I wasn’t sharing it with anyone,” said Robertson. “He thought it would be a good idea to set up the company so I could mentor younger engineers and teach them what I’ve learned over the years.”

The young professional was Shad Rashidi, R&R Utility’s co-founder and operations manager. The third partner, Stephen Randall, joined the team as a recent graduate from the University of British Columbia’s engineering program.

Selecting a budding team

R&R Utility takes pride in hiring the new generation of engineers. Robertson and his management team teach their younger counterparts how to solve problems quickly and effectively by passing on personal experience. Robertson relates new problems they encounter in the field to challenges he has overcome in the past, giving insight that leads to success.

A crew is installing dead-end assemblies on the transmission lines high in the air.

A crew installs dead-end assemblies on the transmission lines. — Photo courtesy R&R Utility Limited

“We don’t shelter them. They are out in the front lines with us,” he said. “We look for people who are honest and have some old-fashioned work ethic. People who can do many different tasks at once and are willing to learn how to do multiple jobs. People who are open-minded to resolve problems in various ways.”

Looking for these qualities leads to satisfying results for Robertson as he sees his young engineers solve problems in ways that he would himself. “They have the knowledge now to do what I did a few years back,” he said. “They learned what we taught them, and they put it into practice.” This hands-on experience and mentorship mentality have helped R&R Utility’s young engineers bring the company success in major projects. “We have a lot of young people who can take over after I retire,” he said.

Successful beginnings

Aside from his appreciated mentoring, Robertson’s specific duties include resolving problems in the field and finding new projects. “As soon as we finish one job, we have to find another to keep going,” he said. Although R&R Utility is a relatively new company, they have easily created a reputation as experts in their industry. “It’s just a true blessing; that’s the only way to describe it,” said Robertson.

R&R Utility’s first project fell into their lap. It was a $20-million project. “They had a two-year construction schedule for that work and we did it within seven months,” Robertson said. This success on their first project attracted the attention of others in need of R&R Utility’s help. “Through the reputation of that work, other projects came in,” he said.

Pretivm Resources’ Brucejack Gold Mine

A steel pole A-frame transmission line tower is being installed with an air crane.

A steel pole A-frame transmission line tower is being installed with an air crane. — Photo courtesy R&R Utility Limited

The Brucejack project caught R&R Utility’s interest in 2013. In 2015, Pretivm Resources Inc. was in the market for construction management expertise. They hired R&R Utility as the construction management team for Brucejack’s challenging transmission line.

Robertson’s team guided Pretivm through the complete project. Aside from overseeing the construction of 56 kilometres of steel pole transmission line, R&R Utility helped Pretivm hire a general contractor to physically work in the field, received and inspected all material, managed quality standards, and provided engineering and construction support.

The remote site posed a few challenges. Communication and receiving supplies on-site was difficult, as well as the necessity of helicopter access for workers and construction of the transmission steel pole towers. Plus, northwestern British Columbia’s elements played against the tight construction timeline.

Despite the challenges, Pretivm completed the transmission towers with the direction of R&R Utility’s team. Robertson was on-site himself at the beginning of the project, and 10 to 14 team members were always on-site throughout the construction of the transmission towers.

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