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Stantec at HydroVision: Three leaders reflect on past conferences

June 21, 2018

By Paul Blaszczyk, Kathleen King and Mario Finis

Stantec’s Hydropower experts share their memories of the annual HydroVision International conference

Over 3000 professionals from around the globe will gather in North Carolina to participate in the world’s largest hydropower conference, HydroVision International (HVI). The event highlights the newest perspectives and industry best practices, making it a must-go conference for hydropower experts. Among those attending this year’s event are Stantec’s WaterPower and Dams (WP&D) Global Leader, Mario Finis; Vice President and Civil Engineer, Paul Blaszczyck; and Senior Associate and Civil Engineer, Kathleen King.

What HydroVision has been most memorable and why?

Over the years, HydroVision has moved around the U.S. This year, Charlotte, NC will serve as host to this iconic conference. Our experts shared their most memorable experiences. 

Paul: My favorite HydroVision was hosted in Austin, TX back in 2005. It was the first year I served as a faculty member for the ”Hydro Basics Course,” a technical course that is offered as part of the HydroVision conference. I taught the water retaining structures piece. It included water retaining structures like dams, penstocks, valves, and gates. This was my first real opportunity to get involved with the technical offerings at HydroVision. The beautiful weather and setting that is Austin, TX also didn’t hurt.

Mario: The most memorable HydroVision year for me was the 2013 conference held right here in Denver, CO. As an organization, we were heavily involved in the planning and execution of the conference. What was then MWH (now part of Stantec) headquarters was in Broomfield, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. With the conference in our backyard, our team did a lot of planning with the Pennwell folks including organizing and securing speakers. We were instrumental in having Governor Hickenlooper speak at the opening ceremony along with Alan Krause, our then CEO.

Kathleen: My most memorable HydroVision was just a couple years ago at the 2016 conference in Minneapolis, MN. I joined the planning committee a year prior so it was my first time seeing the work that goes into organizing HVI firsthand. It was also my first time hosting a panel discussion which turned out to be a great experience.

What are the benefits of attending HydroVision? What do you enjoy most?

Beyond getting to travel to different and exciting locations every year, what is the benefit of attending HydroVision? From a diverse set of clients to plant tours, our respondents said it best.

Paul:  I enjoy the mixture of attendees that are at HydroVision. It’s a very well attended conference. We have the opportunity to connect with our private sector clients as well as those in the government sector. In addition, we also get the chance to discuss best practices with consultants, peers, suppliers, and vendors. Moreover, the technical content is very much applicable to our everyday work, and for that, I like the conference set up.

Mario:  Two aspects come to mind when considering what I enjoy most about HydroVision; the mix of people and the plant tours. HydroVision comprises of vendors, consultants, owners, and distributers—truly an array of people. You really get a broad overview of what’s going on in the hydropower industry. It seems that all facets of the industry are represented with a broad brush. The other piece is the plant tours—visiting new hydro plants is always fun and exciting, The tours they conduct as part of the conference are quite interesting and visiting the actual plants that are built and in operation is a great treat at the conference for all.

Kathleen:  As Mario and Paul mentioned, HydroVision attendees comprise a diverse group in the industry. The conference provides a unique opportunity to connect with a varied group of colleagues in the same day. And Pennwell encourages international participation, so there is geographic diversity as well. The mix of attendees is reflected in the broad spectrum of presentations and discussions hosted throughout the conference, which is one of my favorite aspects of HVI.

Do you prefer presenting or attending?

From hosting panel discussions to presenting and joining planning committees, the team recalls how getting involved on a deeper level at HydroVision can be quite fulfilling.

Paul:  I absolutely prefer presenting. It engages you more in the program and allows you to be an active participant. I believe any time you’re an active participant in a conference, you get a lot more out of it. You’re invested in the conference because you’re a part of it and interested in its success. When I was given the opportunity to get more heavily involved in the conference as a session chair and co-chair, the experience made me that much more invested. The more you are participating, the better it is for the company. I also enjoy working on the paper selecting committee. We meet six months in advance and read through all the abstracts. I had the opportunity to decide and choose abstracts that influence what would be presented at the conference, which helps steer what the industry is hearing.

Mario:  Presenting is preferable from a number of standpoints. Attending as an active participant comes with so many advantages. We get to share a little bit about our experiences, what we know and what we’re finding out. We get the chance to speak about the great things we’ve done as an organization and share those with others in the industry. We also get to influence the content of the conference. Having that ability to influence what people are seeing and talking about at the conference is always something we enjoy.

Kathleen:  Personally, I prefer hosting and attending panel discussions. Hosting a panel offers some of the benefits of presenting; you are invested in the conference, and the upfront work in the year preceding makes the week of the event more meaningful. It often forces you to extend beyond your established network to find the right panelists, which exposes you to new information. It’s more work than attending but it is also more rewarding. That said, I also find attending the panel discussions of others to be a lot of fun! While I am in the Water and Environment track, I always end up attending a few sessions in the Asset Management track.

What are you most looking forward to at HydroVision 2018?

Since the 1990’s, HydroVision International has evolved in its own unique way, embracing the culture of each city. Our respondents tell us what they are most looking forward to at HydroVision 2018 in Charlotte, NC (or as one of our respondents refers to it, “NASCAR Country”)

Paul: I missed HydroVision this past year so I’m looking forward to getting back into it. It happens to be in the east this year, which tends to bring out a separate group of clients who I’m looking forward to interfacing with. As a session chair this year, I’m looking forward to that session and again, being an active part of that conference.

Mario: Simply put, Charlotte is a great city to visit. I’m excited for a visit to that side of the country. As the host utility, we know Duke Energy will do a great job and we can’t wait to reconnect with some familiar faces. HydroVision is a chance to connect with all the people and clients that we have not had the chance to see over the last year. It’s our annual opportunity to see those who matter most to us face to face. On a more personal level, Charlotte is “NASCAR Country,” a sport I highly enjoy and follow. In fact, an event is being held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I couldn’t be more excited to head back.

Kathleen: I am looking forward to hosting a panel on using basin management to increase environmental resiliency and mitigate risks. We have four great panelists lined up. I also have my eye on attending some sessions on energy storage and asset management. Lastly, it will be nice to connect with colleagues and clients. It’s great to see familiar faces in the exhibit hall and at conference events.

  • Paul Blaszczyk

    Paul helps our team and our clients create effective strategies that make hydropower, dam, and other projects successful.

    Contact Paul
  • Kathleen King

    Part of our Hydropower Planning Group since 2007, Kathleen is experienced in risk evaluation, decision support and analysis, systems modeling, and optimization methods relating to hydropower and electrical supply system planning

    Contact Kathleen
  • Mario  Finis

    As executive vice president for Stantec’s Energy & Resources business, Mario oversees our Oil & Gas, Mining, and Power & Dams business lines.

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