Steven Thomson: Meet this maverick engineer

Pushing the envelope is the norm for this dynamic engineer and his company

Steven Thomson enjoys the challenges and diversity of his career, even sitting in the office, as he is here

Steven Thomson enjoys the challenges and diversity of his career, whether he’s in the office, in the lab or out in the field. — Justine Thielker/ 9dot Engineering photo

Professionals in 9dot Engineering Inc., based in Nelson, B.C., pride themselves in thinking outside the box. Steven Thomson, CEO of the company, explained that the company’s unusual name and its philosophy are based on a nine-dot puzzle (see below).

The company specializes in civil and structural engineering and project management. “(Currently,) we have been working with local small communities and businesses on assessing existing infrastructure to build plans and budgets to strategically implement cost-effective solutions,” said Thomson.

As his 40 Under 40 nominator said, “With over 400 projects under his belt and direct experience in project management for projects throughout B.C., Alberta, Northwest Territories and Yukon, Steven has the required depth of experience to meet and exceed each client’s requirements. He  is a team player with a proven track record for seeking new solutions to old problems.”

The 30-something Thomson answered a few questions for us.

What is it about your work that has you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

Some people think I am crazy for waking up at 5 a.m. each morning without complaining—each day brings excitement. On any given day, I could be shovelling in the trenches, running tests in the lab or designing and drawing in the office. There is always something new or challenging to figure out.

I recently became a father, and this has given me a whole new perspective. Not only does my son wake me up early, but he inspires me everyday to push the limits of normal as an engineer and to create change and a sustainable future for generations to come.

What has motivated you throughout your entrepreneurial journey?

It started with wanting to create change from the norm. We have built a dynamic team with key partnerships, such as the one with Aqua Diversities Inc. (a local design-build-operate water and wastewater company). We all challenge each other everyday, which is highly motivating.

Steven Thomson is out in the field carrying a heavy-duty chain.

Thomson's goal in starting his business was not to model it after others but to create something new. — Justine Thielker/ 9dot Engineering photo

What trends have you observed in your community that might impact the local economy in the next five years?

Nelson and the Kootenay area is a great place for the young and old to come and enjoy. It is somewhat untouched still but the secret is getting out. The area attracts a lot of people because of the amazing recreational opportunities; people come to visit and then they want to stay and live here permanently.

Currently, all communities in the Kootenays have similar problems with aging infrastructure, limited funding (requiring strategic engineering and planning), limited housing markets and the challenges of mitigating the impacts of climate change. These infrastructures and services need to be upgraded to support the needs of our growing and changing communities.

Is there a backstory behind the name "9dot Engineering"? It's an unusual name.

My goal in starting a business was not to model it after others that I have experienced. It was to create something new that provided the opportunity and flexibility for clients and staff to break the norm and "think outside the box." The name and business were modelled after the historic 9dot puzzle, which is one of the first mind puzzles used to help exercise and test how you approach problems.

Try it yourself:

Nine dots in a pattern, 3 by 3.

The challenge is to draw four continuous straight lines that go through all of the nine dots without taking the pencil off the paper. (There is a subtle hint to the solution in the first sentence of this article.)

If you can solve this, have a technical and/engineering background, and can work hard and play harder, then please submit your resumé!

Virginia Rasch

Virginia is a writer and copy editor with Koocanusa Publications. She is an avid outdoor recreationist in all seasons and has lived in the Kootenays for 10 years. With degrees in the natural sciences, she has worked as a tour guide, an environmentalist, a writer, and a copy editor of scientific publications. Virginia now brings her passion for everything green to Kootenay Business. View all of Virginia Rasch’s articles

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