Connecting with: Joe Tiernay

While the U of T campus is closed to the public, in-person classes and non-essential lab work, an attempt is being made to connect with individuals continuing to work from home. This is part of a regular series to help bring us together as we remain apart during this public health crisis.

Joe Tiernay plays guitar by his garage during his Kick Kovid to the Kurb Koncert. (Photo courtesy Joe Tiernay)

Joe Tiernay
Executive Director, Ontario Good Roads Association

Joe Tiernay is the Executive Director of Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA)
and is a member of the Department’s Industry Advisory Board.
He shares his perspective as a professional now working from home.


What major hurdle(s) have you had to personally overcome during this public health crisis? 
We have all been working from home since mid-March and it is a challenge to stay engaged with our team. We hold weekly video meetings with all staff but it’s just not the same as the interaction in the office. On a lighter note, I also miss the doughnuts and muffins we would bring in for meetings but on the upside I’m down 25 pounds since this thing started. Biking and walking everyday isn’t hurting either.

How has your corporation changed its operations during this time? 
OGRA relies heavily on the revenue we derive from our education programs. We have had to cancel some offerings, however we are working hard to move our programs to online. It’s something we were planning to do however the COVID-19 crisis has made this more urgent. Our members seem to be receptive to the new format and we are getting interest from companies to be sponsors. 

How have you changed your own approach and operations with working from home? 
Have not changed much. As I stated earlier I miss the camaraderie and social aspects of the office but other than that not much has changed.

 Can you tell us about some new challenges you’ve faced professionally for the first time and how they’ve been dealt with? 
Keeping my motivation up is a challenge. It’s easy, working from home, to let other things distract you. 

Have you found yourself doing anything completely new/different for business and/or personal activities? 
Personally I am probably in the best shape I have been in, in years. I started walking daily and now that the nice weather is here I have been trying to do a 20 km ride every day.  Doing regular exercises as well. That and reducing the volume of food and eliminating most snacking I’ve dropped 25 pounds since the end of February. I have also been spending more time on my music. I’m an amateur musician (guitar and vocals) and perform in local pubs and bars as The Seventh Son. Obviously those are not happening now but I did a concert from my drive in April (picture attached). I called it Kick Kovid to the Kurb Koncert. A lot of my neighbours and friends came out and enjoyed the show (socially distancing off course). Now that the nicer weather is here I go down to the Bronte Pier (Oakville waterfront) and play for the people strolling the pier.

Has there been any additional stress, personally, from uncertainty or other factors? If so, how have you managed to look after yourself? 
Not sure if you are aware of this, but I announced my retirement in January. My last day is July 31st and my wife and I had made plans for a month-long trip to Paris and Spain. We also are planning to spend the winter touring the southern United States in our camper. All those plans are up in the air right now which has raise uncertainty about how I will adapt to retired life.

Do you have any recommendations to others in dealing with their own stress at this time? 
I have never carried a lot stress in my life. I’m fortunate that things just don’t seem to weigh on me, but whenever something does come up that causes stress I simply ask myself the question – “What will this mean in a year from now?” 99% of the time the answer is “nothing” and that helps me through it.

Do you have any sage advice for the young engineers seeking to find placements or full-time employment? 
The job market is always tough, but the world will always need good engineers. I would strongly recommend that engineers consider the municipal sector. They pay well and the work is exciting and rewarding.

What are your crystal ball predictions for getting back to work? Will our new “normal” be appreciably different? 
As much as I would like to think we will be back to “normal” soon my gut is telling me that it will not be case. Unless a vaccine is developed that is proven to be 100% effective in preventing COVID-19, governments, health care and individuals are going to proceed with caution and it could be a year or more before we see any semblance of normalcy.

Wildcard: anything else you’d like to discuss. 
You suggested I send you a picture of myself. As you can see in the one I did attach my hair was getting long then and I had not shaved. That was April and I have still not had a haircut nor shaved. I guess you could call it my COVID protest, but I’m not sure your readers want to see me right now. Some of my neighbours have been wondering a loud who the “homeless guy” is that has moved into the neighbourhood.