To a teenager who loved installing car stereos, the life of an electrician sounded pitch perfect. But the road of life can swerve suddenly, and several years and one serious brain injury later, Reimer finds himself soaring through the ranks of the oil and gas industry, and earning the 2015 Distinguished Young Alumni Award from UFV along the way.
From the frozen world of developing gas plants, to the creature comforts of leadership conferences in luxury big-city hotels, Reimer’s work is as diverse as his career path. While still in his 20s, he was lead contracting inspector for a $7-million compressor station — overseeing electrical and instrumentation installation at a plant worth $100 million while managing budgets and contractors and ensuring the safety of a 60-person crew.
And all with a smile.
“I didn’t take psychology in university, but I sure paid attention to mentors I’ve had who knew what it took to communicate effectively. A lot of it starts with working hard yourself, setting an example, being fair, and actually listening to what people are saying to you,” he says.
“The quality of the time you take matches the quality of your projects.”
Barely 30, he now juggles his own very successful company, Eye on Electric, with family life and his role as one of the industry’s youngest electrical and instrumentation construction inspectors.
Reimer himself is fairly electric, buzzing with energy after another 13-hour workday. His management philosophy is simple: work hard while treating people fairly and they’ll do the same for you.
It’s something he learned early in his training at UFV.
His road to success started after being accepted to UFV’s Career Technical Centre (CTC). A joint project of School District 34 (Abbotsford) and UFV, CTC provided practical trades training to high school students, giving a head start in trades and technical fields.
“I think it was the best thing that ever happened,” Reimer says of his experience.
“I kind of just ran with it.”
He returned to UFV to start his journeyman process, learning everything from power distribution systems to punctuality, thanks to one instructor who locked classroom doors every morning at 8 a.m.
“UFV instructors had such great teaching tools. They talked to you like an adult, they used humour, but they were also showing you what life was like in the real world.”
“There’s a real humanity to UFV professors, they worked hard even after class to help me understand the concepts, and then I worked my butt off to get A’s.”
But it wasn’t all work and no play.
“I had a clear career path but I still had fun with my friends.”
Skydiving, bungee jumping, and cliff jumping helped pass the time, but one fateful day snowboarding on Cypress Mountain almost ended it all.
Reimer was sailing down a run in 2008 when he caught an edge and fell, slamming his unprotected head into the icy hard snow. Headache aside, he seemed fine until waking the next morning gripped in a seizure. A friend called 9-1-1, the ambulance rushed him to hospital, and the doctors discovered a subdermal hematoma — bleeding near the brain.
More seizures followed.
When another friend flipped open Reimer’s cellphone in the hospital, the first thing that popped up was a screen featuring a one of Reimer’s favourite sayings: You Only Live Once.
His friend broke down in tears.
“I almost bit the big one after that crash,” Reimer said.
“It definitely caused brain damage and it definitely changed my life, but I can laugh about it now.”
The injury left him with minor memory issues, but no major noticeable effects.
“I don’t take as many risks, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing; you still have to live your life.”
And that includes making other lives better.
Earlier this year, Reimer donated $1,000 to help build a universal playground accessible to all students at Chilliwack’s Evans Elementary. His sister, Katrina Eng, contributed enormously to the effort. He couldn’t say no.
“Why shouldn’t all kids be able to enjoy playgrounds? That’s the last thing you want, to take any fun away from any kid”. It was an easy decision.
“I believe if you do good things for other people, good things will happen to you.”
That consideration spreads to jobsites.
“I believe in talking to a guy in a positive way; you have to help them, not hinder with negativity. If the contractor works hard and keeps you on budget, he deserves a reward.”
That could mean Christmas gifts, or a barbecued steak lunch, like the one he recently grilled for his crews.
“They’re working their butts off for you and you’ve got to treat them right.”
When he’s not working long hours, enjoying time with his family, or searching for a decent seared tuna dinner in his adopted home of Ft. St John, Reimer stays busy in his shop — often working on his truck — but still finds time to study up on the latest electrical and instrumentation innovations.
“If you’re not learning, you’re sitting still,” he says.
“And you only live once.”
UFV’s Distinguished Young Alumni award is reserved for a high achiever under the age of 35 who demonstrated distinct excellence in one or more of the following areas: community, national, and international contributions; commitment to others; acted with selflessness and/or courage; leadership; and creativity/innovation. Reimer will accept the Young Distinguished Alumni award at UFV’s Town and Gown gala dinner on the Abbotsford campus on November 12.