We are pleased to be announcing the retirement of Al Zaver, someone who has been with Challenger from the very beginning. Back in November 1984, Al was one of the original six founders and he has played an integral role at Challenger ever since.
“I was a Project Manager as well as an ALS and CLS at that time and had been working with Vic (Wolchanski) for some years, so was interested when he invited a bunch of us young guys to join him,” explained Al. “Each of the original partners brought different strengths to the company and it was an opportunity to start something new and be a part owner.”
Things started well in the first year. Al was Manager of Legal Surveys and also one of two company directors. The company had a few crews and the rest of the partners pitched in.
Things changed in year two. In 1986, oil prices tumbled to $9 a barrel and pretty much everything in the oil patch dried up. Al and a few of the other founders focused on development and training, but it was a lean year. Al wrote his SLS exam with the hope of Challenger taking on projects in Saskatchewan.
In 1987, oil prices started to rebound, but there would be many more ups and downs over the coming years.
Challenger started to grow again and made a few strategic acquisitions along the way. In his more than 35 years with Challenger and as an owner, Al has guided many of Challenger’s decisions and has taken on several important leadership roles within the company.
By the early 90’s, Challenger had become more established but also weathered some turbulent times. Leadership began exploring ways to make the company more diversified. Challenger had already done some international work through existing clients. The plan was that if Alberta was slow, Challenger could focus on international business and Al volunteered to lead this effort. Challenger’s basic strategy was to partner with local firms in the targeted countries and leverage it with its high-tech experience and expertise, to undertake projects in these countries.
Over a span of about 15 years, Al was frequently travelling to countries in SE Asia and South America as Challenger’s Vice-President of International Business Development. He successfully maintained the company’s international affiliations, allowing Challenger to form local partnerships to support survey projects in Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Guyana, Mongolia, Myanmar, Brazil and Kenya. Al also worked on several of these projects.
According to fellow founder and past President, Dave Thomson, Al’s work “clearly put Challenger on the map. He raised our profile and capabilities, benefiting our business in many ways both domestically and internationally. His efforts clearly differentiated our company among our peers.”
By 2005, Challenger had grown and had a staff of over 250 in 5 locations. International efforts were scaled back and Al began focusing on Alberta operations and took on a new role managing Construction and Engineering teams.
Most recently, Al has been Chairman of the Challenger Board of Directors and Manager of Quality Assurance. Challenger’s Quality Management Program was an important priority and something that many of our clients were demanding, so once again Al volunteered to lead this implementation.
“I’d like to congratulate Al his retirement from Challenger. I had the pleasure to work with Al while he served as the long time Chair of Challenger’s Board of Directors and while working on a project in Guyana. Al always focused on our end goals and responsibilities. He brought a focused and calm energy to all challenges that always benefited the team and discussion. I know Al won’t be sitting around going forward; I wish him the best in whatever he tackles next.” – President and CEO, Paul Burbidge
Al has been gradually scaling back in preparation for his retirement, but likely is not done with the survey field just yet. Al is hoping to take on some consulting work both in Canada and abroad. Likely also taking some time to travel when borders re-open.