Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

People of Queen’s: An electrifying career choice

[POQ Janet Pollard]
Janet Pollard, an electrical engineer at Queen’s, is also a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Her job includes both planning and maintaining the university’s electrical infrastructure. (University Communications)

There’s more to Janet Pollard’s job than just keeping the lights on.

As one of Queen’s electrical engineers, she has a hand in nearly all of Queen’s electrical infrastructure, from planning the power sourcing of a new building to the maintenance of emergency generators. Her role requires both an eye for detail and a sense of the big picture.

“When we develop or review electrical specifications and drawings, it can be for a variety of things,” Ms. Pollard says. “It could be a small office renovation or it could be the construction of a whole new building. Queen’s is almost like a small town, so there’s always a lot to keep in mind and a lot to do.”

Ms. Pollard came to her role in January 2006 following seven years spent in the automotive sector. After her time in an auto glass production plant, she felt ready for a change.

“Supporting a manufacturing plant can be much more demanding on your personal life. Nights, weekends, and holidays are not always your own as you are often called in to resolve issues that are halting production. Although working at Queen’s also has its share of demands, there is more opportunity for a work-life balance. Of course, when the chips are down and power is off in a building, we’re here around the clock to fix it.”

Coming to Queen’s was something of a homecoming for Ms. Pollard, who graduated from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science in 1998, but it didn’t take long before she was in the thick of things.

“It’s been busy from pretty much day one,” she says. “There have been major construction projects since I got here: the Queen’s Centre, the Goodes Hall Extension, new Medical Building and the Isabel Bader Centre. That said, this summer is shaping up to be our busiest yet.” 

Campus is receiving a wide range of much-needed electrical upgrades over the coming months, and Ms. Pollard is helping to oversee them. There’s work being done to prepare for the revitalization of Richardson Stadium, electrical equipment retrofits and fire alarm upgrades to some of campus’ older buildings and the replacement of the main electrical switchboard for the Queen’s Central Power Plant, to name just a few.

“When we develop or review electrical specifications and drawings, it can be for a variety of things. It could be a small office renovation or it could be the construction of a whole new building. Queen’s is almost like a small town, so there’s always a lot to keep in mind and a lot to do.”

- Janet Pollard, electrical engineer

Though we use electricity constantly, we don’t often stop to think about the work or systems that keep it running, something Ms. Pollard says comes from design. Queen’s buildings are powered by “electrical feeders” that connect them to the power grid and most have redundancies, meaning power can be provided from multiple sources. Those redundancies help prevent prolonged power failures and allow isolation of feeders without building disruption.

“We can move a building onto another feeder without anyone inside being disturbed or even knowing that we’ve made any change,” she says.

Her job is mostly behind the scenes work, making everything run smoothly, and that suits Ms. Pollard just fine.

“I do what I do to try to support others in their work,” she says. “It’s nice knowing that I help make campus systems more reliable so that students, faculty and staff can perform their jobs and studies — the things they came here to do — without being disrupted.”