Great Excavations

John Skierka – Oilweek’s Rising Stars Class of 2014 Nominee

Oilweek’s Rising Stars – Class of 2014

Oilweek, Canada’s oil and gas authority nomination for the Canadian oil and gas industry to be our Rising Stars of 2014.

Name: John Skierka
Job Title: Director
Company: Great Excavations
City: Lethbridge, AB
Daytime Phone: 403-563-8274

After completing a diploma in Aeronautical Engineering Technology, John Skierka jointed Cascade Aerospace of Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he specialized in design and certification of aircraft modifications and prototyping.

After less than three years, John had moved into international business, launching a Hong Kong consulting company while living in mainland China.

As the company increased its global coverage, John identified a need for change from the “old way” of doing things—this resulted in the launch of Aeroptions in 2008.

Aeroptions, a web-based system for online maintenance and aviation professional sourcing, redefined how business was done. John started the development in Brazil but soon established a fully functional IT group in China. This group specialized in 3D modeling of aircraft, with programmers to complete the system and develop the software.

By 2011, John was ready for a new challenge. He started working with his long-time friend and mentor, Pat Dwyer on Amphibious Equipment after a conversation about the frustrations of working on wet terrain and muskeg in Alberta’s oilsands. Pat’s interest in a new solution gave John the inspiration to move into a new field of work.

Moving quickly, he started exporting piece parts to Pat in Canada, and in 2012 complete machines.

John continues to play a central role in the development and improvement of these machines for the Northern Canadian marketplace, and is working on implementation of amphibious truck designs, as well as remote and gps-controlled units.

John Skierka has an advanced diploma in Aeronautical Engineering Technology from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). After working in the aerospace industry and traveling the world for nearly a decade, John went back to his roots in construction in 2012. His knowledge of both construction and equipment led to the development of Great Excavations, his new venture that looks at amphibious equipment as a solution for Alberta’s oilsands, Canada’s muskeg, wetlands and more

John is a natural leader who rolls with the punches. He left his hometown in Alberta in 2002 to start working in aerospace, a passion that took him to Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and everywhere in between.

Armed with his a sense of determination and a couple of years in industry, he started an aviation technical consulting company in Hong Kong at 26. He grew this company with a solid team—moving airplanes around the world and never knowing where they would go next. Through it all, John kept his team motivated, on task and dedicated to their work.

John’s leadership skills meant he was always monitoring the work being performed, liaising with all parties and moving the project in the right direction. He also developed a a knack for crisis control and risk management—key to ensuring issues were dealt with promptly and effectively, minimizing time and energy for both investors and the people on the ground.

John prefers to work with small, dedicated teams with clear, smart goals. His move from aerospace to construction provided a unique twist and allowed him to combine his love of construction with a knowledge of technology to provide real solutions for industry.

Having travelled extensively for nearly 10 years, John has had limited community involvement at home. However, after moving back to Canada full-time in 2012, he became actively involved with his condo association and was nominated and elected to be on the board as a result. John also invested in the Crowsnest Opportunity Development Cooperative (CODC) which is a result of the community futures. This group allowed him to be indirectly involved in community growth and investment—real challenges for smaller Canadian communities.

John is self-motivated and determined, with the unique ability to look at problems from a practical and technical standpoint. This means he knows what it’s like to be the guy in the field at 3 a.m., as well as the guy in the office at 3 p.m. This diverse experience makes him a real-time problem solver, not just a guy with an idea.

John’s work on amphibious equipment is, however, visionary. His company has the potential to significantly reduce the destruction of forests, while also providing eco-friendly solutions that reduce companies’ carbon footprint.

John understands that businesses need to diversify, and we need to be able to work on challenging terrain all year, not just in the winter after freeze-up. His work at Great Excavations has real value for those who want to look at problems differently.

John’s work encompasses the entire value chain, from the manufacturers to end-use clients. By developing and promoting amphibious equipment, the problems of difficult terrain simply become more do-able.