Many people choose to live where they work, or conversely, work where they live. John Kirk rep- resents an exception to both of those rules: while residing in Greenbank, John’s long and winding career path has led him to a posting in Saudi Arabia. As a consultant specializing in high-voltage applica- tions, John’s Middle Eastern mandate charges him with training Saudi upper management to be more effective in running the country’s power grid while improving their English-language skills. His posting was not always so exotic. “I started as a meter reader with the Scarborough utility,” he recalls with a smile. In fact, had circumstances been different, electricity may not have provided his lifetime’s employment. “I wanted to be a lawyer, but that was too expen- sive. I considered electrical engineering, but learning a trade in the electrical field offered more chances to find work.” John’s entry-level job was soon followed by others as a groundsman, a lineman, and eventually mana- gerial positions. Inhisopinion,thebreadthofexperiencehegained, once elevated to management, laid the groundwork for the consulting portion of his career. “I had had a diverse background. I’d worked in industrial settings as well as managing a power- generating station and a solar energy project.” His attractive resume would ultimately prove critical to his professional future. “The Ontario Hydro project I was working on was cancelled, so I was suddenly unemployed,” he recalls. “I put my resume online, and in no time had a job as Senior Construction Manager in Calgary. As one door closes, another one opens!” After two years in Alberta, John returned to Ontario: first as Site Superintendent on a liftlock reconstruction project in Havelock, then as a Project Manager for Metrolinx Toronto. When disaster struck a second time – another project cancelled – John’s qualifications again saw him land quickly on his feet. “I had a call from Manitoba Hydro International, who were working with officials in Saudi Arabia. I’d be one of eight people given a district of the country to manage, working to train their local senior managers. “It’s not unusual that offshore companies run elec- trical facilities, and Canadians are respected as well skilled in the field.” John set out to research his new work location, but quickly hit a wall. “There was no information about Saudi Arabia,” he reports. “The library had only two books, one of them in the children’s section! It’s a very secretive country.” Unfazed, John learned the old-fashioned way: through first-hand experience. “It’s been a very positive experience,” he summarizes. From his earliest days in the country, his Saudi coworkers have treated him with what he character- izes as “reverence.” “Someone with 10 or 15 years in a field is held in high regard there, so with 40 years under my belt, they were extremely respectful. I wasn’t really ex- pecting that.” He did, on the other hand, anticipate finding an established agenda on arrival. But the reality was much different. ADVENTURE Vocation JOHN KIRK 4 FOCUS - APRIL 2018