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By Olivia McMurray, P.Eng, Process Engineer, Scovan

Rowing is often called the ultimate team sport – anyone who has seen an eight-person crew race in perfect synchrony will immediately understand why. More than a decade of rowing has taught me that great teams are not formed simply because a group of people do the same thing at the same time – successful teams are built on a foundation of collaboration and engagement. 

One of the key principles at Scovan is Right People, Right Seats, which is exactly how rowing teams are formed as well. Although the goal is to have all crew members moving identically, each position in the boat has a special set of responsibilities and talents. As the “Stroke” person in both the pair and the four, my job was to establish an effective rhythm and steer the boat – analogous to being a process engineer responsible for a solid process design to start off a project. Athletes in the middle of the boat focus on power and pulling even harder when needed during a race – similar to the multi-disciplinary teams of electrical, mechanical, design, procurement and fabrication teams at Scovan that provide the horsepower to execute projects. The “Bow” rower is responsible for building the race plan, watching their team to make technical changes, and calling for strategic moves during the race – just like project managers who lead their teams to success. Each team member has valuable knowledge and experience, but unless actions are taken in harmony they will not result in success.

A unique trait of rowing is that every athlete starts and finishes the race together. There are no first strings or anchor legs, no winning goal scorers or MVPs. Rowers don’t wear jerseys emblazoned with names and numbers. Success is truly shared between team members, which is very similar to how projects are executed at Scovan. This mindset creates a culture of cooperation and encourages each team member to value everyone’s contributions and support the work of their teammates. 

Quality work requires effective execution, but it can be elevated by true engagement. Teams are stronger when they are connected by more than just tasks – they will help each other get through tough times and celebrate achievements together. Balancing 32 hours of work and 20+ hours of training per week was a heavy load, but it felt lighter due to the encouragement of my colleagues and teammates. At Scovan and on the national team, I felt that the environments were a great blend of striving for high performance but also supporting each other during the hard work. Overall, the experience made me tougher both physically and mentally, and I am inspired to keep pushing myself towards my career and rowing goals. 

In conclusion, rowing epitomizes the essence of teamwork, but successful teams are built long before they hit the water. Skilled people in the right seats can achieve greatness when they are in a supportive and collaborative environment. Whether in rowing or project execution, the true strength lies in the collective effort of every team member.

Olivia McMurray has been with Scovan as a process engineer for 6 years, and recently returned from 3 months of training, selection, and competition with the Rowing Canada National Team. She competed in Chile at the Pan Am Games Qualification Regatta, finishing in 4th place in the Women’s Four event and winning a Gold medal in the Women’s Pair event.

Originally published in Scovan’s IGNITE Vol. 6