Danielle Larrabee
Danielle Larrabee
February 20, 2020

Electrical Engineering Leader Lames Lessard Discusses the Future of AI and Renewable Energy

Danielle Larrabee
Danielle Larrabee

For Engineer’s Week, we caught up with James Lessard, PE, who leads our diverse group of electrical engineers. With only a few months under his belt in his new role, James is taking time to learn and reflect on the talent that is within CannonDesign. He is also excited about the new trends he’s seeing to help clients meet their energy reduction goals as well as the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).

How many years have you been with CannonDesign?

Just about a year with CannonDesign, I have been in the industry for about 14 years.

How many years have you been in this discipline leadership position?

I’ve been in the role for all of two months.

How many engineers do you have on your team and in how many offices?

We have 38 electrical engineers across six offices. Related to electrical, our specialty lighting and technology groups include an additional 16 engineers and designers.

What is your favorite thing about your role?

My favorite part of the role is the interactions with people, both internally and externally. We have some of the best engineers in the business and a pleasure to work with them.  Also, I appreciate that our work includes such a diverse set of projects and clients…each with unique character. It keeps things interesting!

If you weren’t an engineer, what career might you be in?

I thoroughly enjoy working with my hands, I do a lot of DIY projects around the house.  If I weren’t an engineer, I would probably be involved in the construction side of things in some way.

Are there any kudos you want to give to one of your team members for doing something great recently?

One of our electrical engineers in our St. Louis office recently completed a complex medium voltage relay replacement project for a client here for their primary incoming service switchgear. This really turned out to be more than we originally bargained for with unforeseen field conditions and expansion of scope. She did a great job really digging in and learning about the inner workings of the system in a way we rarely need to or are exposed to. During design, she reached out and collaborated with another electrical engineer in our Buffalo office, which is a great example of leveraging our internal resources for expertise. We have a deep technical bench around the firm who are more than willing to share their knowledge.

What is your favorite hobby?

Right now, my kiddos are still fairly young. Deanne and I have five: three girls and two boys. They keep both of us very busy outside of the office. I’d have to say that my “free time” revolves primarily around their interests right now, which is perfectly fine with me!  We enjoy camping, hiking, sports, etc. Deanne and the kiddos are a large part of who I am.  I’m thankful every day for their love and support.

What has gotten you really excited to see recently?

I am excited to see a greater push toward renewable energy resources, more and more of our projects are incorporating solar/photovoltaic systems in the design and construction. Here in St. Louis, for example, a new law passed mandating new construction in the city to be “solar-ready” with provisions for solar panel installation in the future.

As we head into 2020, how do you see your discipline evolving in the next decade?

I think artificial intelligence (AI) and further integration between trades will become a more dominant part of the design and construction process. We are using aspects of AI in our projects now. As we continue our pursuit for greater efficiency and sustainable best practices, reducing waste by automating aspects of our efforts and finding greater ways to integrate systems will become more important.

That is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.”