When his dad called suggesting he come home and man the shop, Richard Campbell just couldn’t say no. In this case, the shop was Vista Projects, a small engineering-consulting firm his father, Alex Campbell, had co-founded in 1985 in the wake of the energy bust.
It was 2003 and Richard Campbell had been living in London, England, putting his education from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business to good use at uSwitch.com, an Internet startup he had helped grow into a £210-million operation.
He was ready for a new gig and decided to return to the family fold.
Since then, Campbell has been a key figure in Vista’s growth from an 18-person company to a multidisciplined engineering firm focusing on the oil and gas sector with 130 employees. He has overseen the establishment of entire departments for cost-control, scheduling and document-control, managed the finances on $250- to $500-million projects and, as the youngest of nine partners, is now shaping the vision for the company’s next 25 years. That vision involves working with clients to develop resources in western Canada with innovative strategies such as finding ways for clients to reduce the amount of water used in the oil sands.
It’s a career trajectory that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the industry — Oilweek recently named him one of its Rising Stars of 2009. While Campbell undoubtedly has a brain for business, he’s also got a heart for humanitarian causes, particularly ones that seek to level the playing field and provide opportunities to people who haven’t had the same kinds of chances he had growing up in a place like Calgary.
In 2003, Campbell volunteered for six months with the group Alternatives to help Argentine non-profits with IT and software solutions.
This past summer, he and his wife, Lynn, completed a six-week, 750-km trek from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea to raise awareness and funds for Room to Read. The non-profit organization partners with communities in developing countries to build schools and libraries and create children’s literature in the local languages, as well as ensure young girls are educated. The couple raised $15,000 through their efforts, enough to build and stock three libraries in Nepal.
“For $2,500, you’re going to change not just one girl’s life, but the lives of her friends and siblings,” says Campbell. “I know people who have spent that on just one suit.”
He walks the walk on his home turf, as well, volunteering an average 10 hours each month with Immigrant Services Calgary to counsel new arrivals on how to adapt to the job market here.
“The most exciting part of Calgary is just how many people are coming here from different cultures,” he says. “It really is one of the few places in the world where there is tremendous opportunity."