Neal Herperger, Partner HDA Engineering

Reflections from Neal Herperger on a Stellar 30-Year Career 

When Neal Herperger reflects on his extraordinary career he does so with humility, while offering words of wisdom for the young consultants of today. As he ponders his future, after recently retiring from consulting this year, he is optimistic about what new adventures lie ahead.



The Early Years:

As a student in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at the then-named SIAST Kelsey campus in Saskatoon, Neal was always a good student, technically minded and strong in physics and math. This made the Mechanical program a great fit for him.  It did not hurt that Neal’s brother was also in this same program, so they both had the perfect study buddy in each other.  

Neal recalls that at that time no one talked about getting a university degree like they do now. The focus was on getting ready to enter the workforce, so after completing his 2-year diploma, he was ready to launch his career. The way of thinking at that time was, “Get your technical training and the right job will follow.”

In the early years, Neal’s first position was with Kilborn Engineering in Saskatoon in the Industrial Engineering department. Neal enjoyed the work and in particular recalls a rewarding upgrader project in Lloydminster in which he was in a documentation control role.  However, after about 1.5 years with Kilborn, Neal moved back to his hometown of Stockholm and accepted a role with IMC (now Mosaic) in the potash mining industry.  Still in the industrial sector, after 3 years with IMC, Neal did not yet feel he had found the right career fit.

One could say the stars aligned that day; the day Neal was brought on by Hooker (now HDA) Engineering in Regina.  Bryan Hooker’s unique and disarming interview practices have stuck with Neal to this day, and he must have done well in the interview because he started work on the spot!  Little did Neal realize that with this first introduction to consulting engineering he had found his ‘professional home.’  In his own words, “I started work that day, dove right in, and never looked back.”  Over the subsequent 3 decades, under the mentorship of HDA’s Bryan Hooker, Grant Dawson and Randy Babiuk, Neal would become Partner and one of HDA’s lead mechanical designers.

Neal’s Recipe for Success:

While gaining experience in the mechanical disciplines of plumbing, heating/AC, ventilation, fire protection, and control systems, Neal recalls the first 10 years of his career as being focused on ever-changing codes and standards across the disciplines, and also the transition from paper drawings to the use of AutoCAD.  So how did Neal navigate this complex time? He says, “I asked for help. Build your foundation on your relationships with co-workers, partners, co-consultants, and clients. Relationships are the most rewarding aspect of consulting. Rely on people, let people know they can depend on you, get to know who they are and where they are coming from. There is a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of reward, in genuinely caring about these relationships.”      

Advice for a Younger Self:

Neal attributes his success to his love of continuous learning and seeing every project as a new puzzle to solve (similar to his hobby of playing board games).  If he could go back, Neal would tell a younger version of himself about the value of a hard day’s work. He says, “Do the work and do it well.” With this work philosophy and his ever-growing experience, came a sense of confidence for Neal; confidence to take on new clients, new sectors, and never grow stagnant.

Reflections on the Past and Plans for the Future:

Over the span of his 30-year career, Neal recalls his favourite project being the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory, on the University of Regina campus, for the Government of Saskatchewan.  This project was an upgrade to the dated facility, molding the existing infrastructure with modern laboratory requirements including a complex mechanical system.  Seeing the important role that this newly upgraded facility played in the COVID-19 pandemic, and knowing his key role in that, is a source of great pride for Neal.  His advice is, “Find a place where you can fit in and feel satisfaction in the work you do. Your career is a big part of who you are.”

Looking to the future, Neal plans to continue to serve others in whatever form that has yet to be determined. Thinking of his retirement he says, “I’ve got a lot of living to do in the future!  There is a time to build success and a time to celebrate it.” So what is next for Neal? “I am going to take a break and catch my breath, and then hopefully onto something new and rewarding! I will keep you posted.”

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