March 2022

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Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Repurposing Passion

Follow your passions - Rather than slogging through “what you are supposed to do” do what you love and know that there will be a way to make it a career

Kristin Tangen Steffins, BSc, PhD  Managing Partner at Banyan Group of Companies Ltd.

In 2020, Steffins saw the comingling of both her passions. “COVID-19 brought about a bizarre intersection of my past and present careers,” she says, adding that her unique background enabled her to react quickly and confidently. “Even though my career path has changed, I have continued to keep up on recent research and stay connected to past colleagues. And I continue to be passionate about science.” source


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The primary message we have for Banyan is that we wanted to work to change our industry, create a company based on mutual respect, integrity, teamwork, opportunity, and merit. We want to get away from the stringent hierarchies, intimidation tactics and tough “guy” approach historically seen in the construction industry. We value our team; we want people to love working for Banyan and to have balance in their lives. Our policies and practices focus heavily on respect and inclusion in the workplace. We are supportive of our team finding balance in their lives and understand that family is first. We are also big believers that if you find good people, help them shine. We have taken on many “greenhorns” who have high potential, a passion for the industry, for Banyan and a positive team-focused attitude to promote up the ranks. Rather than hunting down only seasoned individuals, we want to provide opportunity for the “right” people. We provide training and a progressive environment to our team. We further work to identify individuals in our hourly trade team who have supervisory or management potential and promote from within.


We promote and hope to see an increase in underrepresented groups such as women in the future. The province and our construction industry advocates- Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA), the BC Construction Association (BCAA) and the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) are all developing the “infrastructure” to support a greater entry of women to trades. We as the employers need to collaborate to see this into reality.


1.      What do you love most about your industry/your job?

  Love the fast pace of the industry and the tangible results-seeing a drawing become a building. Science could be slow with significant work yielding no or non interesting results.

  Love all the processes and logistics in commercial construction.

  Enjoy the team dynamics and positive feedback from the team.

  Had a different idea for a company based on exceptional work ethic, mutual respect, inclusion, promoting from within. We consider ourselves employees and want the company to grow based on input from the whole team and subsequently we share the success of the business with the whole team. We believe the companies belong to all of us.

  The most rewarding part of the business has been when we have team members tell us that they love working for Banyan, how they feel valued, like family. We have even had partners of team members thank us and tell us that their partner is so much happier and home life is better. It is so encouraging and valuable to see that our vision is becoming reality.

  I am also a self admitted nerd, so I enjoy working on the systems, contract document flow and finances.


2.      What would you like to see changed/help change about the industry?

  Our three main concerns would be unfair taxation, lack of skilled workers and unfair procurement-Third point more relevant to colleagues but crucial issue in our industry.

  We would like to see the government do a better job with fiscal responsibility and rather than downloading all inefficient and increased public spending onto businesses.

  Let me say that I am proud to be Canadian and grateful for our social programs in particular socialized medicine. I would; however, like to see more accountability by the government for inefficient spending and see streamlining of services to reduce costs on their end. Do their part to reduce the burden on the public.

  For example, the addition of the EHT is a big burden on business and is particularly more weighted on labour-based businesses like construction. It would have been more prudent to have employers take over MSP payments rather than create an entire new department effectively costing business more while taking funds away from the medical system.

  Instead, I would like to see the government provide mutually beneficial incentives for businesses and investors to come to BC. Competition is good for everyone, and the economy will suffer if businesses and investors are driven away. Obviously, COVID will have an impact on all aspects of the provincial, federal, and global economy but already impacted businesses should not be expected to pick up the full tab.

  We are committed to diversity in our work force but many underrepresented groups e.g., women and indigenous workers may not have access to training that provides the opportunity to enter the trades. We would like to see more investment by the government in training and incentives to bring more people-particularly in underrepresented groups into the industry. I do not think this will be achieved by the government creating a new crown corporation that effectively adds more red tape and costs additional taxpayer money. Rather, I think the government should work to create more training spaces. Having said that, we are committed to bringing on new eager people and have them train under our skilled team.

  We would like to see the trades promoted as a professional career path rather than a fall back.

  We are not currently bidding on public projects but would love to see a fair and transparent bidding process including standardized procurement processes that are fair to the GC/CM.

  We are incredibly impressed with the advocacy performed by VICA, BCCA, CCA. We would like to contribute however we can, to support the great work they do on behalf of the industry.



3.      What advise would you give to your younger self?

  Follow your passions-Rather than slogging through “what you are supposed to do” do what you love and know that there will be a way to make it a career. Have faith that with hard work, a positive attitude the opportunities will present themselves.

  Do not be discouraged by challenges-work through them, look for the lesson and find the opportunity from that lesson.

  Some things that seem terrible at the time can turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. Trust that some things are meant to be, and you may not yet know the reason.


4.      Any lessons learned/silver lining through the pandemic?


  We are grateful that at the onset of the pandemic VICA organized meetings with local GC/CM to share information and help us connect to protect our workers and the industry. We all wanted to be proactive to ensure that we were providing a safe workplace.

  As you know we were deemed essential service which- although good for the industry came with negative public opinion.

  We really needed to think on our feet and scramble to get measures in place then convince a diverse work force how to work differently and understand why it was necessary.

  These meetings were invaluable to us in having a comprehensive approach on dealing with this new and unprecedented situation.

  Being the “New Kids on the Block”, it was also a fantastic opportunity for us to connect to colleagues.

  The meetings have now evolved into us discussing other critical issues affecting our industry.

The pandemic brought an unexpected intersection to my past and current careers.

  My background is in infectious disease-specifically molecular biology and large-scale genomics to identify drug targets. Even though my career path has changed. I keep up on recent research, stay connected to past colleagues and am passionate about science.

  This cross over gave me the unique opportunity to provide information to GC/CM and our team.

  In March 2020, we quickly developed and implemented comprehensive policies and procedures to protect our workers and the adjacent public from the threat of COVID-19. This included providing basic information about the disease (what was known at that time), symptoms, transmission, and protection. We implemented new procedures for PPE, sanitizing and provided detailed policies on how to respond if someone was displaying/experiencing symptoms. We further provided information on compensation that was available for those that were required to or wished to go off work. The policies and procedures have been updated on a regular basis as the situation has evolved-for example as more information became available, the infection rate worsened, and government policy makers have added their recommendations.

  From the onset we have met and exceeded all recommendations. For example, we installed hot water hand washing stations on our sites in March. Masks have been mandatory on all enclosed sites since the summer and all sites since October 2020. We felt that this was the best way to reduce any chance of transmission while ensuring workers would not be distracted by always trying to social distance. We still encourage social distancing whenever possible, but it is not practical or safe to always do so on a construction site. In these cases, PPE is essential to reduce the chance of transmission.

  We also shared our policies and procedures from the onset with the greater construction community. Either by email or on VICA’s website. They set up a great resource page which included all relevant information that was becoming available as well as a member contribution section where we could share our policies and procedures.

  We lost about half our hourly staff in March due to illness or fear and unease. The majority returned within two weeks when they saw that we had a comprehensive plan for their protection in place. Fortunately, we have not had to lay anyone off as a result of the pandemic. In fact, our work force has increased!

  I have been able to function as a resource to the industry and our team in answering scientific questions about the disease -genetics, transmission, pathology, epidemiology, and vaccine development. I think that many people’s anxiety about the pandemic stems from lack of understanding. Marie Curie said “Nothing in in life is to be feared-it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” There is so much misinformation, conspiracy theories and fear mongering out there in the internet age that frighten people and divide public opinion. Most scientists are not particularly good at putting things into lay terms. So, although understanding the science can reduce the anxiety of the public it is not easily accessible through general media channels.

  Another passion of mine is scientific writing particularly to a general audience-I think it is so crucial that scientists learn how to provide the public with an understanding of science-the need for this is all too apparent in the trajectory of this pandemic. I have done contract and blog writing and will continue to do so when I can free up time.

  When the team has phoned to ask COVID related questions-I was usually able to provide them with information that allows them to understand the importance of certain policies and procedures or provide guidance on specific situations. I also provide any relevant resources for the team member or for distribution to the rest of the team.



5.      Any fun projects/career highlights you would like to share?


  I am grateful to work with my partner-he has immense experience, knowledge, people skills and problem-solving capabilities. I feel so fortunate that we are able to spend so much time together.

  We really enjoy looking for and acting on new opportunities as they arise.

  We have a backlog of ideas that we are eager to develop-for now we are focusing on current and upcoming projects, new business development, working to further fortify our systems and build our relationships with stakeholders.

  We have taken on some challenging projects and watching the progress, overcoming obstacles, and seeing them come to fruition is incredibly rewarding.

  I enjoy learning new things everyday-it has been a real process to further develop the business, our systems, and our team. Big learning curves but I like a challenge. Being a scientist has helped me as the scientific process is to ask a question then conduct research to answer those questions. I find that this process also applies to many aspects of developing a business.

  I really enjoying seeing our team develop and show their best selves while enjoying work life balance. We have high expectations, but we value and reward our team accordingly.

  As mentioned,-we consider ourselves employees at Banyan where everybody’s voice matters.

  We further see the trades, consultants, and developers as part of the team where we work to have transparency, mutual respect and work together to ensure a successful project.



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