Steering through challenges: Malhotra’s journey to the top at March

In 2012, an engineering manager at a well-established electrical engineering firm found herself at a career crossroads when approached for the position of Director, Power and Controls at March Consulting Associates Inc. (March). After numerous discussions with the then CEO and her family, Ritu Malhotra decided to take on the new challenge.

Upon joining March, she immediately dove into managing a large team for two significant projects that spanned the next few years. By 2015, as the current leadership neared retirement, she was presented with the opportunity to step into a larger leadership role as the Vice President of Operations. This promotion came at a time when the Saskatchewan mining and heavy industrial sector was facing an economic downturn, making the subsequent years quite turbulent for the industry.

Then, in 2017, she was asked to take the helm of March, transitioning to the role of President and CEO by 2018. Under Malhotra’s leadership, along with the resilient March team, the company not only weathered the downturn but grew its client base, leading to significant growth. Over the past five years, March has opened two additional office locations and achieved almost 300 per cent growth in revenue.

Reflecting on her journey, Malhotra shared that the key lessons she’s learned are the importance of seizing opportunities and making tough decisions, even when the timing may not seem perfect. Her values play a crucial role in guiding her decisions, emphasizing “that standing firm on one’s values is a cornerstone for success, no matter the situation.”

When Malhotra transitioned into the CEO role with March, a new set of challenges arose, particularly around ensuring the company’s financial sustainability during another industry-wide downturn. With the collective effort of the March team, they rebuilt the business piece by piece, laying the foundation for the robust organization that March is today.

The pandemic, undoubtedly a challenging period, also highlighted the strength and unity of the March team. “Their ability to adapt and continue growing during such an unprecedented time is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career journey thus far,” she says.

Malhotra’s work goes beyond March, as the Chair of the Board for the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Suppliers Association (SIMSA), bringing her expertise and vision to an organization pivotal to the province’s industrial and mining sectors. She is a valued member of the Boards of SaskTel and Karnalyte Resources, contributing to their strategic direction, and she also brings her insights to the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA), fostering the local business community.

Malhotra’s tenure on the University of Saskatchewan’s Board of Governors from 2017 to 2023 is a chapter that not only exemplifies her governance expertise but also showcases her capacity to drive meaningful progress. As the Chair of the Land and Facilities committee, she was instrumental in steering pivotal infrastructure and planning initiatives.

“If I had to pick one key initiative that I am proud of as Chair of the Land and Facilities committee, it was the initiation and creation of the USask Properties Land Trust, which guides the long-term strategy to develop a new source of revenue for the university.”

Two decades of growth at AGI with Andrea Harrabek

A happy family of five posing for a photo outdoors at dusk. From left to right: a young woman in a navy blue dress, a man in a white shirt and black tie, a young boy in a white shirt and gray trousers, a young woman in an embellished gray gown, and a woman in a navy blue dress with a tied waist. They are standing on a gravel path with trees and a soft sunset in the background, all smiling at the camera.

When Andrea Harrabek stepped into the role of AGI receptionist in August 2001, she had no idea it would grow into the dynamic, fulfilling career she has enjoyed for the last 22 years.

“Looking at the date now, it seems like a VERY long time,” she laughs.

Harrabek’s journey with AGI mirrors the growth and evolution of the company. Each role she has taken on has been a building block for the next, as she has embraced new challenges with enthusiasm and expertise.

Today, she is AGI’s Office Manager.

“I wear a lot of hats in this position,” Harrabek says. “Quality assurance, design coordination for a team of seven drafters and five engineers-in-training, document control for all projects, client relations, project coordinator assistant…and then, of course, the general office managerial duties. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but I LOVE it!”

Harrabek says her organizational and prioritization skills have played a key role in her success, crucial to her ability to manage AGI’s diverse and constant flow of projects.

“This is a crazy busy place,” Harrabek says. “No day – and no tank – is ever the same. It keeps us on our toes!”

Known for going “with the flow,” Harrabek juggles whatever comes her way while always prioritizing the client. She says she hasn’t struggled with decisions or barriers because Jeff and Wade Burton have created a supportive culture and a cooperative, inclusive environment with fair treatment and equal opportunities for all employees, including women.

“We all try to work together to get the job done,” she says. 

Away from AGI, Harrabek is a mother to three incredible children, grateful for AGI’s support of work-life balance.

“Field trips, activities — AGI has given me the flexibility to be involved in all those important moments,” she says. “You know, it goes by fast, and I really appreciate being able to have a career and also to be present with my family.”

Kitsaki’s 2023 Annual Impact Report

Our 2023 Annual Impact Report is here, showcasing how Kitsaki and its group of companies are creating opportunities through sustainable growth.

This document is a testament to the resilience, innovation, and collaborative spirit that has driven Kitsaki through a remarkable journey of growth and community impact.

You can find the entire report below.

March Consulting Plans for Bright Future

Supporting Demands of Booming Resource Sector

To meet the demands of a booming potash sector, as well as First Nations infrastructure and clean energy sectors, March Consulting Associates Inc. (“March”) needs additional talent – and lots of it. The company is aiming to achieve hiring goals by building relationships to increase science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent in First Nation communities and by expanding their offices outside of the province.

“We decided to open an office in Calgary in September,” says Ritu Malhotra, March President & CEO. “Like all others in our sector, we’re facing some challenges with skilled labour shortage. While March has been fairly successful in recruiting top talent in Saskatchewan, growing our presence outside the province will help us meet our project needs in Saskatchewan and open the door to new project opportunities in Alberta.”

March is not just growing in Alberta – the company is on a hiring spree in Saskatchewan as well. With the addition of eight team members already in Calgary, March is expecting to close in on a team of 100 employees and contractors in 2023.

What’s fuelling this growth? First and foremost, the potash sector’s challenges related to managing global shortages resulting from conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Russia and Belarus supply 40% of the world’s potash, and with 25% of their potash shipments constrained, Canadian mining companies are ramping up to meet demand. March is busy working with all the major potash producers in Saskatchewan to support increased production. As the world moves towards cleaner energy sources, the work in the Uranium sector with Saskatchewan’s top producers continues to be strong.

It’s not just Potash, Uranium and clean energy sectors that March is focusing on for 2023. When Kitsaki bought a 25% share equity in March in 2014, March committed to pursuing opportunities with First Nation businesses needing engineering, project and construction management services and expertise. In October 2020, March was awarded the Project Management Institute – North SK’s Project of the Year award for the recently completed Woodland Wellness Centre project in Air Ronge. March’s plans for 2023 include pursuing opportunities with First Nations to provide EPCM services to improve infrastructure – from new office buildings to multi-purpose health and wellness facilities.

To hire the right people for potash, infrastructure, and beyond, March believes in investing in local talent, especially Indigenous peoples pursuing new careers in STEM.

“Building Indigenous talent in STEM is crucial to ensuring local people can participate in projects in their communities,” says Malhotra. “We will continue to build relationships and provide training and mentorship opportunities to make sure people from the community are able to meet their career goals and play integral roles in the projects located in their own backyards.”

Interested in a career with March Consulting? Visit https://www.marchconsulting.com/careers to learn more.

SSR Mine Tour

While many people in this province, especially in the north, have been waiting for an upturn in uranium mining in Saskatchewan, another valuable commodity is still forging ahead with its own agenda.

For SSR Mining, that agenda includes many employment opportunities for First Nations people in the north.

SSR Mining owns and operates the Seabee gold mine, located 125 kilometres northeast of La Ronge and is a viable option for northern residents as a stable employment opportunity.

Recently, the Chiefs and Councils of both the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation were given a tour of the Seabee operation to see firsthand what kind of work might be available for their people.

“We had them up to the site, the first time in eight years, I believe,” said Blair Gunter, SSR Mining’s Environment and Community Relations manager.

“It’s very important to us because we want to be good neighbours with the First Nations in the area,” he says. “We are really working hard on building a solid relationship with people up there.”

With Cameco’s uranium mining operations basically put on hold in recent years, Gunter says a focus has shifted to their gold mining operation.

Many former Cameco mine workers have some transferable skills to what is required for work at the Seabee mine.

“If you can find trained people already, that’s perfect for what we need,” says Gunter, who added there are also entry level positions available which give people the opportunity to learn skills needed to work at a mine.

While Seabee has not set precise employment targets for First Nations people, Gunter says the company is definitely planning to hire more as the mine operations continue and thrive.

“I think it’s something that will work out well for all parties concerned,” says Gunter.

The Seabee gold mine operation was initiated by Claude Resources before that company was bought out in 2016 by Silver Standard Resources for $337 million, before it changed its name to SSR Mining, as it is known these days. SSR Mining is based in British Columbia with other mines located in Nevada as well as Argentina.

The Seabee gold mine has been operating since 1991. In 2018, the mine delivered record gold production and is forecasting continued growth.

Kitsaki weathers low commodity prices

It’s been a rough go for Cameco in recent years as commodity prices for uranium continue to decline.

Uranium, along with other commodities in Saskatchewan like potash, have been struggling to keep their collective head above water.

As well, Cameco is still feeling the effects from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. That instantly put the breaks on nuclear expansion plans across the world. Reverberations were felt all the way back to Cameco’s head office in Saskatoon as prices now are at least 70 per cent lower than they were in 2011.

Cameco’s stockholders have seen their dividends shrink dramatically by 80 per cent in that time frame as well. Recently, Cameco announced a $200-million loss for 2017. Cameco has cut production already at its Saskatchewan Key Lake and McArthur River mines resulting in layoffs for hundreds of employees while the firm awaits a rebound in market prices.

The trickle-down effect to suppliers has been even more dramatic. For Kitsaki, that has a direct affect on operations for both Athabasca Catering and Northern Resource Trucking.

“It was a multi million-dollar loss in revenue for us,” says NRT’s Dave Mcllmoyl, “It’s significant.”

For now, NRT has been kept busy hauling propane and other goods to northern communities using ice roads, But once spring arrives, those roads will dry up, so to speak. “It’ll be quite slow for us.”

The uranium slowdown has forced Mcllmoyl and his crew to seek out new work in order to keep NRT’s employees on the road. They’ve landed a few new contracts hauling fuel and cement once the spring and summer months arrive.

“On one hand, it’s frightening for us. But on the other hand, it’s good for us. It makes us hustle and get out there.”

With a respected name in the trucking industry, NRT is positioned well, Mcllmoyl believes, He expects once Cameco’s business returns to a more solid footing, there will be no reason to give up the new work NRT has uncovered. New business is always welcomed and will be maintained, he says.

“With the equipment we have and the skill set of our drivers, we’re in a good position.” NRT also benefits from having a great long-term safety record.

Athabasca Catering also took Cameco’s recent decline on the chin.

“The biggest problem for us is our mandate is to employ northern people, and with that business in decline and into care and maintenance, it just means that those employment opportunities have been reduced,” says Alan Cole, Managing Director of Athabasca Catering. “And really, there are few other employment opportunities in the North.”

The company has historically provided Cameco with keeping the mining camps running efficiently with food services, housekeeping, janitorial and other services. But when the Key Lake and McArthur River mines went into care and maintenance, Athabasca Catering’s services were reduced also.

Once Cameco gives the green light to production at Key and McArthur again, Cole and his people are ready since a contract has been signed that gives Athabasca Catering solid footing into the future.

“Essentially, we’ve secured a significant amount of employment for our northern folks for the next two generations, really.”

Cole, who has worked in the industry around the world, became managing director of Athabasca Catering a little more than a year ago. He is confident he will be able to generate new revenue for the company by looking past the uranium decline.

“That’s my mandate for the year,” says Cole. “That’s the key piece we’re adding to increasing our profitability.”

But once Cameco sees itself ready to reopen the mines, Athabasca Catering is ready to return to work.

“Cameco has made it quite clear that it is their intent to bring everyone back again.” Cole has maintained a strong business relationship with the senior executives at Cameco during these turbulent times.

“It’s about keeping the relationships open. It’s not about me. It’s not about Athabasca Catering. It’s about the people of the North, That’s all it’s about in the long run.”

There are signs, however, that the market is poised to return to a more sustainable future after the world’s largest uranium miner- Kazakhstan’s state-owned business KazAtomProm – has decided to reduce production by 20 per cent over three years.

Cameco and KazAtomProm are the two major suppliers of uranium globally.

But news that there are dozens of new nuclear facilities being planned in India, China and Russia is music to Cameco’s ears, As a major supplier of the world’s highest-grade uranium, Cameco is hoping for a market rebound to help reverse fortunes.

Market analysts have been vocal about Cameco’s leadership providing solid planning as the company weathers the storm. For instance, Cameco has wanted to avoid locking in contracts amid such low prices which would severely strain any potential for growth.

It’s now a waiting game,., waiting for the down market to end. And Mcllmoyl and Cole are patient men.