By Jennifer Buchalter
Adriana Mema knew from a very young age that she is a builder. "Ever since I was young, I remember playing with sand on the beach and building alongside my brothers all sorts of roads, bridges, and obviously castles out of that wonderful material," confirmed Mema.
Mema immigrated to Canada from Albania in 1999 with one goal: to continue pursuing her love of buildings. However, when she arrived, she found there was resistance to women working in the construction industry. "The majority of women in construction at the time were working in the office and dealing with administrative duties," she said. Mema had a choice, be complacent or disrupt this societal inequity.
Today, she is president of Adriatica Safety Consulting Inc., a company she founded in 2004 and is a professor in the Civil Engineering Technology program in the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology at Humber College, where she teaches the next generation of engineers for a career in the growing field of civil infrastructure. "Investment in engineering infrastructure construction in Ontario has increased dramatically in the last ten years. Continuing investment in infrastructure development and redevelopment in the GTA has resulted in strong job placement for our graduates, and I consider myself very lucky to be able to teach students who are passionate about pursuing a career in this growing field," says Mema.
Graduating from the University of Tirana with a Bachelor of Engineering, she came to Canada and wanted to continue her education. She earned a Master of Science in Construction Management from the University of Washington in Seattle, supported by a Master of Science in Civil Engineering.
She gained experience at Rafat General Contracting Inc., followed by Bondfield Construction Ltd. Both provided her with the opportunity to learn from industry mentors and gain valuable experience. Armed with a complete understanding of the industry and experience under her belt, Mema decided to start her own company. "I was effectively stepping into my dream job: going onto a construction site where the action happens, seeing how things come together and working to improve that environment."
She began providing in-house safety training, conducting safety audits, developing company health & safety policy & procedures and educating construction companies about the importance of safety, including First Nations in Northern Ontario. As the company grew, so did Mema's strength and confidence.
Today, Adriatica Safety Consulting Inc. now offers safety services, including investigations and inspections, predicting hazards, developing company safety policies, providing safety training, contract and construction management. Committed to investing in the Canadian civil infrastructure, Mema is a member of the TCA (Toronto Construction Association) Development and Retention Committee; chair of the CIQS (Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors) Humber student chapter; co-ordinator of the TCIC (The Construction Institute of Canada) student bid competition for Humber College; and a volunteer with Junior Achievement Canada; Post-Tensioning Institute Strength in Concrete (PTI) Project Awards Judge.
Since joining the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology at Humber College in 2008, Adriana has seen the growth opportunities awaiting graduates in construction and infrastructure. She continuously develops course curriculums for this ever-changing world. She shares her business's real-world projects with students and coordinates on-site field visits to provide opportunities for students to connect with companies to promote work-integrated learning and help prepare career-ready students.
For Mema, the Humber community is not only a dynamic learning environment, but it is also a family. In 2017, Mema's husband passed away. Not only was he her life partner and father to their children, but he was also her biggest supporter.
"While I was caring for my husband, the Humber College community was caring for me. I could not have gotten through those difficult years without the love and support of my colleagues. The relationships that we cultivate in our lives are some of the most valuable treasures, and I will be forever grateful to my Humber family for being there for my children and me at our darkest hour."
For Mema, juggling her family, business, students, and extracurricular roles is challenging and rewarding. "I had to work hard to reach this point where I am today, but I could not have done it without the support of my family and the Humber community. This is the reason why I wanted to have a family-run business — because family is everything to me."