Complexity is a common theme in Izabela Okon-Uribe’s life, but that’s just how she likes it. With two teenage boys, recently moving from Canada to California, and managing teams across North America, there’s a lot going on in her life.
Izabela has been working at Pattern Energy for about ten years and is now the Senior Manager of Project Controls.
“Our team is responsible for the day-to-day budget tracking, purchase order creation, managing contractors, managing invoices, working with Accounts Payable, working with development, pre-construction, and construction,” she explains.
The team is part of Pattern’s renewable energy projects from the early stages of development through to the pre-construction and active construction phases. There are eight people on the team, including Izabela.
“I like to say that we’re the glue that binds the project together behind the scenes. My entire team is addicted to keeping things on track, we function best in a fast-paced environment. You have to have a personality where you can run full tilt, manage the deadlines in an orderly fashion, and help at every moment,” she says.
A Different Path
Izabela has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Criminology from the University of Toronto, and this led her to find her passion for project management.
“I’ve always been a people person. I love talking with people. People come to me because they know I’m a shoulder to lean on if needed or someone who can give advice. I guess psychology kind of went hand-in-hand with that. I started thinking that maybe I could become a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In the end, I decided to see what else was out there in the world,” she explains.
Next, she found a job managing a medical office at a chiropractic and physiotherapy clinic.
“I managed the front desk and then after that, I got into construction. I had a friend who got pregnant and couldn’t work at the site anymore, so I came in as a Site Manager. Once I made it into construction, I found my soul. I like to be the one with the boots on.” It just fits and I’m very happy with where I’m at now,” she explains.
From there, she was hired at Pattern Energy, but not before adding another project into the mix.
A True Foodie
“My mother and I had a catering company for 15 years, and we did weddings and parties every weekend, just because we love cooking,” she says.
The experience taught her a lot about managing projects, making people happy, and working out fine details to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
“When I cook, it helps take me away from my day-to-day work. I’m not looking at papers when I cook, I’m working with my hands and I love feeding people. Food is at the centre of family and I actually met my husband at a grocery store. I was buying groceries and he was working there,” Izabela says.
Cooking is still a huge part of her life, and even more so now that she and her family have moved across the border.
“Even though we sold our catering company years ago, we still hold parties. We celebrate both Canadian and American Thanksgiving as well,” she says.
From Canada to California
“I was born in Poland and then my parents and I left in 1981 just before martial law came in. We essentially became refugees. We were in Austria for just under a year waiting for a country that would take us, and eventually, we were picked up by Canada and we moved to the Toronto area in 1982,” she explains.
She stayed in the Toronto area until just recently.
“Three years ago, Pattern decided to move me down to San Diego since I had been running my team remotely for two years at that point. We decided it would be best if I ran the team from San Diego so my husband, two teenage sons, and I moved to California and have been here ever since,” she says.
It was a welcome change as she and her family love traveling to warm destinations.
“It was exciting. The idea of moving to California and being near palm trees and the beach was great, but it was also an adjustment. We, unfortunately, moved five months before the pandemic hit. We were just getting settled into our new house and our sons were getting settled into their new schools when the world shut down, so that made the transition a lot more difficult,” Izabela recalls.
But nearly three years later, she says they’ve found their groove.
“We love being here. Now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we’ve been going out doing lots of fun things. We’re making it, we’re doing okay,” she says.
Cars & Music
“We are avid car buffs. We love cars, and California is amazing for car shows. Every Saturday morning we go to something called Cars & Coffee. It’s a morning meet where you can see Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and lots of million-dollar cars on the streets. My son wants to be a Porsche mechanic so he loves going out to see the cars and take pictures of them,” Izabela says.
The rest of the weekend is spent enjoying and celebrating music.
“My other son just started Grade 9 and he just started marching band. After we do Cars & Coffee, we go off to marching band and pageantry competitions all over southern California,” she says.
With two teenage sons, two dogs, and managing a team living in different time zones, Izabela says managing different schedules and adapting to change is a constant in her life, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.