Subo Sinnathamby is currently Ontario Power Generation’s Senior Vice President, responsible for overseeing the Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment, which is one of Canada’s largest clean energy infrastructure projects. This project is a $12.8B investment to extend the life of the reactors and their ability to produce clean, carbon-free power for another 30 years.
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When you were completing your engineering degree, it was a predominantly male-dominated program (which has changed significantly in the last few years). What made you pursue engineering?
In order to establish ourselves in Canada, education was a path to success. Being financially constrained, I looked for a program that would give me a professional designation shortly after finishing university. Being strong in Math and Science paved the way for entering an Engineering program.
Why environmental engineering?
In the early 90’s the environmental field was booming, the potential for non-traditional Engineering opportunities was the reason I chose this stream.
What do you do in your role as Senior VP of Nuclear Refurbishment?
I am currently Ontario Power Generation’s Senior Vice President responsible for overseeing the Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment, which is one of Canada’s largest clean energy infrastructure projects. This project is a $12.8B investment to extend the life of the reactors and their ability to produce clean, carbon-free power for another 30 years.
You’ve been at OPG for over 20 years which is very much unheard of today where somebody stays at a company for that long. What made you stay?
The people I work with, the opportunities to move within a large organization and the company’s investment in my development has allowed me to have a successful career within OPG. Hence, I have not had the need or desire to pursue opportunities outside OPG.
There’s a lot of evidence that nuclear energy is a great choice for providing a source of clean energy but it gets a negative rep. Why do you think this is?
Concerns generally stem cultural depictions, like The Simpsons and from extremely rare past events. People also have misconceptions about the impact of nuclear by-products to the environment. The more people learn about nuclear, and its ability to reliably generate large amounts of carbon-free power on the smallest land footprint, they will start to accept it more. OPG believes that solving climate change requires an “all-hands-on-deck” approach using all clean energy technologies and nuclear has to be part of the mix. We’re taking steps to better inform the public about nuclear so that we can continue building support.
What’s a failure you’ve experienced in the last few years and what did you learn from it?
I would not say it’s a failure but rather a challenge, which is raising young children in this social media era. I have learned that I need to understand it is part of their lives and I can’t deny them access to it. I need to be knowledgeable in the various platforms, ensure they understand the risk and monitor to the extent possible.
What do you do outside of work for fun?
I have two young girls who keep me busy outside of work. I enjoy entertaining, watching movies and reading, but travelling on vacation is what I look forward to the most.
In terms of your personal legacy, in a few sentences, describe how you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
As a humble person who is always there for them in their times of need. A good female role model, raised her children with the right values, who are able to achieve their dreams and remain a part of our lives.
Who is one person from the global Tamil community and one person that isn’t Tamil that you admire and why?
A.R. Rahman is one person from the Tamil community that I admire. His talent and music has transcended all boundaries, but he continues to be a very humble person who hasn’t forgotten his roots and gives back to the community without fanfare.
Obama has been a refreshing leader; his charisma and ability to connect with people from all walks of life is something I admire.
What do you think you would tell 16-year Subo looking back?
Set high goals for yourself, don’t settle for less, learn from your mistakes and be confident you can achieve what you want in life.
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What is your favourite book(s) you've read recently or a podcast(s) that you've listened to recently that's had an impact on you?
I read mostly for pleasure and enjoy a few main stream and South Asian authors. Other books and podcasts I listen to are for my development as a leader, and they have helped my journey over the years.
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
Positivity is something I have started to pay attention to over the past few years, especially during this pandemic when it’s been easy to get into a negative space. Focusing on the positive things in my life, as well as things I have control over, helps me manage my work life balance.
If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world?
There are a lot of worthy causes in this world, however I would spend it on education for young girls. Women being educated will allow us to move the needle on many fronts and make this world a better place for more people.
How would you describe the impact that the Toronto Tamil community has had on you personally and on your career?
The support system provided by family and friends is what has helped me successfully balance both my family and career. The efforts of the Tamil community have been instrumental in allowing us to share our culture with our daughters.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
Crab curry and devil shrimp or squid are my favourite, but my comfort food is my mom’s chicken curry, which I make with her special spice mixture.
What is your favourite Tamil movie?
I enjoy romantic movies and have a number of favourites, but two that I re-watch often are Raavanan and Neethaane En Ponvasantham. I also love the music in these movies.
What does Tamil culture mean to you?
Tamil culture to me is family values, religion, festivals, food, music, dance and art. Assimilation into the Canadian culture does not mean we need to lose our Tamil culture. We need to take the best of both worlds and make it our own.
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