100 Years, 100 People: 1980 - 1989

Becoming TransAlta

Majorie Contenti

Majorie ContentiMajorie Contenti was born in Drumheller. Her career with the company started in March of 1980 when she was hired as an information representative in the Edmonton Public Affairs office.

As a graduate of the SAIT’s Journalism Program, Majorie demonstrated a natural writing ability. In her role, Contenti was part of the editorial team and a writer of Relay, TransAlta’s employee magazine.  She was also editor of the Lake Wabamun News magazine, and was in charge of organizing special events such as the Junior Citizen Program and tours of the Wabamun Plant. As well, Contenti wrote for the Calgary Power page in the Farm Light and Power newspaper and was responsible for the paper’s photography.
Marjorie was the community relations representative for TransAlta throughout the 1980s and in December 1989, she transferred roles to Public Affairs supervisor, billing. There is no record of when she retired.
Norbert Kilroe

Norbert KilroeNorbert Kilroe was born and raised in Calgary. After graduating from high school in July of 1973, Norbert started a summer job with Calgary Power as a part-time pole tester. At the end of the pole test season, he accepted a position as a district serviceman 1, Consumer Services, at Sherwood Park. Over the next few years, he worked in various locations on the distribution side of the company before settling down on the Transmission crew in Calgary in 1977.

It was here where Norbert’s passion for helicopter related power line maintenance took root because TransAlta was an industry leader in the use of helicopters to support the reliability of service. As a member of the transmission department, he had the opportunity to become more involved  in the company’s processes and procedures behind using helicopters for transmission line maintenance and inspection.
After his knowledge grew, Norbert presented technical papers throughout North America and has been publically recognized on several occasions for his expertise in this field. He recalls some of his most memorable times include working on a crew where up to 100-125 nights a year his team worked together to install and repair power lines across the province. It was through this time together that they fostered comradery and friendship.
When TransAlta sold the transmission of the company in 2002 and after 29 years with the company, Norbert joined Altalink. He later retired from AltaLink on June 30, 2010, and currently lives in Calgary. Norbert plans to continue being an active part of the power-line industry.
Joe Gourlay

Joe GourlayJoe Gourlay was superintendant of Technical Services at Sundance for more than 20 years. Most who worked with him found his expertise and knowledge to be invaluable to the company. He was considered a gas and steam turbine expert. Over the years, he introduced many procedures at Sundance that allow the company to improve productivity and efficiencies. Some of those procedures included:

• Introducing a Quality Control System for boiler inspection that replaced using Alberta Boiler Branch inspectors. This system allowed employees to perform their own inspections and therefore, reduce costs and improve efficiency.
• Introducing the Dewy Decimal system for filing documents. This is the system used in most libraries and with this system employees were finally able to find files on any subject in the plant’s database.
• Worked with other Canadian utilities and our turbine manufacturer to develop new methods to detect hidden technical problems within the turbine electrical generators. These new methods are now used around the world.
Gourlay retired in 1993 after 20 years with TransAlta. He passed away in January 2009.
Harry Schaefer

Harry SchaeferHarry Schaefer was born in Calgary on 1936. He attended the University of Alberta, majoring in Commerce. Early in his career, Schaefer qualified as a chartered accountant and began working for a chartered accounting firm. He was hired on to Calgary Power in 1963 as assistant controller and in this position he was in charge of overseeing accounting procedures for the company. After five years performing that role, Schaefer became executive assistant Finance. As years went by he continued to move up in the ranks and in 1975, he was appointed chief financial officer. Over the period 1975 to 1993 when Schaefer was CFO the company raised some 4 billion dollars.

Throughout the 1980s, Schaefer was an important member of TransAlta’s executive administration team. With the management changes in 1985, Schaefer was appointed vice-chairman of the Board and in 1991, he became chairman.
Some of his greatest contributions to TransAlta included:
• Defending the takeover battle with ATCO in the early 80s,
• Financing the Sundance project through the 70s and 80s, and
• Introducing of one of the first shareholder rights plans in Canada.
In 1990, Schaefer was one of only four Alberta chartered accountants to be awarded the distinguished designation of Fellow of the Chartered Accountants (FCA). This distinction is given to those members who demonstrate meritorious service and commitment to the profession of chartered accountancy and the community.
Schaefer retired from TransAlta in May 1996, having contributed more than 30 years of service to the company. After his retirement, Harry continued to be involved in the energy industry. Earlier this year, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Alberta Chartered Accountants. This distinction is awarded to individuals who strive for excellence in their career and are dedicated to giving back to their community. Schaefer passed away in Octoctober 2011.
Schaefer’s father was also an early Calgary Power employee and his son, Rob, is TransAlta’s current vice-president of Commercial Operations and Development. Rob has been with the company for two and a half years.
Uma Kar

Uma KarUma Kar was born and raised in India. After immigrating to Canada in 1977, Uma and her young family had to undergo a long process in order to adjust to the new culture, language, and weather.

Back in India, Uma had obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree but after arriving in Canada, she knew she needed to expand her knowledge. Uma took several typing and data entry courses through various institutes in Calgary. After gaining some experience at the Toronto Dominion Bank and Acklands Co, Uma was ready for a challenge.
Uma started at Calgary Power on April 14, 1981 as data entry clerk in the Billing department. Shortly after she started, the name Calgary Power got changed to TransAlta Utility Corporation. “When I started my salary was $900 a month and I had one week of vacation per year,” said Kar. Uma never thought she would stay at TransAlta for a long time. In fact, in her spare time she continued looking for her dream job at the City of Calgary. “I always wanted to work for the City of Calgary and I even went for an interview there. When they offered me a job, I knew I had to make a decision. I decided to stay at TransAlta. That was almost 30 years ago,” added Kar.
In 1981 the billing department had about 15 people and only one phone and one card punching machine to share among them. “I remember that as a part of our daily duties each of us had to do the data entry through the card punching system. We had to take turns in order for all of us to use it and get our work done.”
After her time in the billing department, Uma was transferred over to the general accounting department in a data entry position. From there she joined the accounts payable team. “To upgrade my academic skills in Finance, I started taking courses at SAIT until I completed the Junior Accounting Certificate course.”  This allowed her to adapt to new processes in Finance and get involved in several implementation changes over the years.
Uma has learned to accept the changes without fear so that the business can continue to grow and diversify.  “I feel this is my second home and as such I try to give 100 per cent of my support and commitment to meet all the deadlines throughout year.”
Uma currently works as the P-Card administrator in the accounts payable department. She looks after all corporate Visa accounts and employee expenses. In April 24, 2011 she will reach her 30th anniversary at TransAlta.
Dan Nabata

Dan NabataDan Nabata was born and raised in Kamloops BC. After graduating with a Mechanical Technology Diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Dan started at TransAlta, in September 1981, at the Sundance plant. In his first role as plant technologist, Dan’s responsibilities ranged from developing preventative maintenance programs for key rotating equipment and doing vibration analysis and assisting in the implementation of the first version of critical path planning for turnarounds at Sundance.

In 1986, Dan accepted a transfer into the Information Technology (IT) department at the Calgary office where he worked on a project to implement an automated plant maintenance system. Over the next 25 years he continued working in the IT department in many different roles.  One project that Dan feels especially proud of was the implementation of a customer call centre for the Distribution department in TransAlta. “I remember this project because it changed the way many people at TransAlta did their daily work,” said Dan. “With this project, a centralized call center was created where all customer care requests were handled and all repair/install work orders were dispatched.”

Throughout the years, Dan’s role has changed at least 12 times. Some of his key contributions include:

• Participating in the roll out of standardized PCs before the implementation of SAP in the late 90s;
• Participating in the creation and implementation of an automated management system for the company’s first Power Purchase Agreements in 2004; and,
• more recently, participating in the development and implementation of the Audiovisual upgrade and Video Conference project.

In his 30 years at TransAlta, Dan has learned to embrace change. “Due to the nature of our business, we need to continuously improve efficiencies and add value,” said Dan. “My career has always been around change and to stay up to speed, I became a fast learner.” Dan’s ability to work well under pressure is commonly recognized among his peers. But more importantly, he is known to be a good listener and very good at handling tough situations in a respectful manner.

In and out of the office, Dan has always enjoyed being physically active. He was head coach for his sons’ hockey teams for about 15 years and has played on many TransAlta Hockey teams.

Dan says what makes him most proud about being a TransAlta employee is the company’s forward thinking. “TransAlta has been working collaboratively with environmental groups and other specialists to develop sound energy solutions for the future,” added Dan. He currently works as manager of IT Business Operations.