Raya Smertina

Raya Smertina

Project Manager, Ports and Terminals

Raya Smertina, 36, is project manager for Hatch’s ports and terminals group. Based in Vancouver, she studied civil engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and joined Hatch in 2019 as a structural engineer and has helped deliver more than CAD1.5 billion in complex, multidisciplinary infrastructure projects across Canada and the U.S.

“I like the physicality and concrete nature—no pun intended—of building something,” she says. “My favourite structures have always been bridges and a port is like a bridge out to a ship, only more complicated. It’s basically a 3D puzzle.”.

Her focus is currently on a new TransLink operations and maintenance (O&M) centre, to be built in Coquitlam, B.C. Having led delivery of the early-works tender package and site civil work in 2022, she is now overseeing the project’s SkyTrain yard package delivery through the design of a road overpass, guideway approach embankment, walkways, and other structures.

“I was drawn to consulting engineering because it’s where the design happens,” she says. “It’s the consulting engineers who get to solve all of the issues everyone brings to the table.”

Smertina has also been extensively involved with professional and industry organizations. She mentors young professionals (YPs), has led ACEC-BC committees across the province, contributes to the Structural Engineers Association of British Columbia’s (SEABC’s) professional development initiatives, and is vice-chair of the editorial committee for Engineers and Geoscientists of BC’s (EGBC’s) Innovation magazine. Most recently, she was the recipient of Canadian Consulting Engineer’s Top 10 under 40 award, recognizing her leadership, work ethic, and excellent project work.

“She shows great leadership and work ethic in everything she does,” says Harvie Buitelaar, Hatch’s director of infrastructure for the Canada West and Central region. “She ensures efficient delivery of project work and nurtures long-term relationships within and outside our organization.”

What does positive change mean to you?

I start each day by aligning my priorities and being optimistic about accomplishing as much as possible. By the end of the day, I hope that I contributed to solving (or at least identifying) more problems than I created. Whether it's specific to project work, growing our business, contributing to the consulting engineering community, or my personal life, I check in at the end of the day and the best days are when I feel like tomorrow's to-do list is slightly smaller than today's.

How are you changing the world?

That's a big question! I like to think that consulting engineers make small but meaningful progress in making the world better. Whether it's as incremental as improving traffic flow in a road design, considering durability and climate change adaptation in new infrastructure, or helping our clients prioritize the most critical projects to invest in, our teams make the world a more liveable and friendly place, one piece of stainless-steel rebar at a time. It's definitely not changing the world in a globally perceived way, but I hope it's a drop in the bucket.

What do you think are the toughest challenges facing your clients?

Our clients have some of the toughest problems: limited budgets and increasing costs; expanding versus maintaining infrastructure and asset management; keeping up with constantly moving targets (e.g., evolving codes and standards, climate change, and sustainability), as well as managing consulting engineers, who are notorious for diving into the details and not having capacity to zoom out and look at the big picture. Helping our clients prioritize and focus on the most critical items as well as provide innovative solutions as entrepreneurs with a technical soul is what should get us all energized to come to work each day.

What are you most proud of?

Solving problems, definitely. Each project comes together like a puzzle: some of the pieces are turned around, upside down, or even missing. But through engaging great people who make a difference, we can put the picture together and fill in the blanks to deliver exceptional engineering solutions. I take pride in being part of that group.

What do you like most about working at Hatch? How do you think the Hatch culture is different from other companies?

I've worked at two other consulting firms prior to Hatch and think I have a pretty good gauge of the industry through my committee and board volunteering. Hatch definitely has a positive and inclusive culture and I am proud to be part of a group of engaged people working to make a difference.