It takes perseverance

Greig’s Story

For Greig Samodien, the roots of a successful career began growing in his early visits to campus alongside his father, who worked as a plumber.

“I really liked the environment at UBC,” Greig remembers. “And I always thought being a plumber was a cool career.”

It wasn’t long before Greig had his own role on campus: he landed a summer job, right after high school, in a unique opening called Lamp Changer. Criss-crossing the multi-acre Point Grey campus, it was Greig’s job to take care of fixtures and bulbs around UBC, keeping buildings shining brightly.

He realized it wasn’t just a “good summer job” he needed, it was direction. He needed a career that was going to fit him well, and he didn’t know what that was going to be. In search of a better future, he left UBC.

Greig couldn’t have known this at the time, but this wasn’t the end of his relationship with UBC — and the inside-out knowledge of the campus he gained as a lamp changer would one day come back into play perfectly.

Greig tried everything that year, from working in a law firm, to working at an insurance agency, to working construction.

Tools of the trade. Greig tried out many jobs before he found the one that fits.

“I realized I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk,” Greig says. “It got me motivated to do some kind of schooling. I knew it would be great to have a ticket under my belt, and I wanted to work with my hands.”

Back to school he went, and began a plumbing apprenticeship on Bowen Island.

Depending how you hike, you can actually see the UBC campus from parts of the island. And it was there, separated by English Bay and the Georgia Straight, that Greig realized that being a plumber was the right path, but Bowen Island was not the place: he needed to go back to UBC.

He found out there was an opening on campus again, this time, a labourer position.

The labourer role was a steady job, a hearty one; it was indoors and outdoors and it was definitely not a desk job.

And it took one year, that was all, before an apprentice plumber job at UBC appeared, and Greig seized it. The plumbing apprenticeship would last three years, would lead to his ticket, and would let him stay here at UBC -- it felt like it was all starting to come together.

The key word is “starting.” Apprenticeships are not instant transformations; they are slow-burn accumulations of experience and time that slowly, gradually, chisel a professional out of raw materials.

Greig, if he was committed to becoming a plumber, would need to labour without much recognition for four years before he could lift the burden of the apprentice label.

“I’ll never forget the first day,” Greig says. “The day it felt like my career started.”

“The day I stepped into the shop knowing I was going to be a plumber in four years — assuming I passed everything I needed to — it was like a new beginning.”

“I had loved the time I had spent as a lamp changer, and as a labourer, but all the hard work I had put was towards this, and now I could see the fruits of the reward that were coming. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

For seven years, he worked as a plumber, letting the satisfaction of a job well-earned keep him motivated. He never lapsed into routine, and he refused to let work become stagnant: he was constantly learning, continually growing his knowledge.

“I would take classes on the side,” says Greig. “I studied construction estimation, project management, and a few others.”

The steady learning opened yet another opportunity: he earned a promotion to sub-head plumber, which he worked at for a year and a half.

“I do one interview a year,” Greig says. “Just to keep my resume updated and my skills sharp. If an opportunity opens, I want to be ready for it.”

Then the biggest change of all came: he was promoted to facilities manager.

This remarkable change has made Greig essentially a foreman on the maintenance team. He is one of eight facilities managers on campus, each of whom oversee a zone of campus and lead a team of skilled tradespeople, including plumbers.

It’s been three years since Greig first landed this new role, and he’s thriving in it. It has brought together the knowledge of campus Greig earned early, the hands-on experience he gained through hard work, and his natural, energetic, people and communication skills he always had, into one unique leadership role he never expected.

“I am absolutely, 100%, really enjoying this,” Greig says.

The reason Greig has risen from a labourer to a leader is because he has persevered, and he’s done it with a positive perspective.

Even when water and inexperience separated him from his goal, he kept working hard.

And even when he finally reached his goal, he kept at it, transforming his career into something beyond what he had ever expected.

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There are more: more people like this, each one with a different passion, and a different story, who bring their out-of-the-ordinary selves to make the world a better place at UBC.

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