Many words can describe Ford Newby: kind, big-hearted, generous, special. While these adjectives provide a glimpse into Newby and his personality, his colleagues will tell you these words are too small to capture the essence of his character.

As a systems administrator on PCL’s Edmonton Industrial Management business technology team, Newby works with computers — responding to calls, detecting problems, addressing issues and fixing broken systems. He loves technology and he’s passionate about fixing the seemingly unfixable.

“When I was about five or six, my dad had a bunch of electronics in the house and my mom wanted to throw a lot of it out. But instead, my dad kept two big, old speakers because he knew I wanted to play around with them. He knew I was interested in understanding electronics,” says the 20-year-old. “We took the speakers apart and what was inside got my brain going. I got hooked on rebuilding.”

Fast forward about six years to when, at age 12, Newby installed classic arcade games Donkey Kong and Space Invaders onto an old system. He and his father connected the system to an old TV, and then they built a box around the TV to resemble a vintage arcade-style video game.

This ingenuity is what grabbed Thong Truong’s attention when he initially hired Newby as a co-operative student in 2022. Newby is now a permanent employee and a fixture of PCL’s dynamic culture.

“I only have one Ford and I can always count on him — that’s why people call him directly when they need help,” says Truong, PCL’s manager of industrial business systems. “I wish there were more Fords in this world. He’s a great example of what an awesome employee should look like.”

While Newby is a whiz at electronics, his passion goes beyond fixing computers. Since he was 16, he has personally rebuilt and donated dozens of computers and mobile phones to non-profit organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Ukrainian Canada Congress (UCC), the Newcomer Centre and WIN House, a shelter for women, non-binary people and children fleeing domestic violence, all in Edmonton, Alberta.

“When I was about 16, a neighbour had a friend who was a single mom with three kids,” he recalls. “This was during COVID and somehow the kids were doing online schooling with one iPad. I went to her and asked if she wanted a computer, so I gave them three computers — three desktops with monitors, cables, webcams, keyboards and mice.”

The computers were built out of spare parts Newby convinced his high school to donate. The price tag? About 90 minutes of his personal time during a weekend and the cost of three new webcams.

Newby enjoys helping people because “it makes them feel good and it makes me feel good because it creates a happy environment.”

After that, Newby dedicated his spare time in the evenings and on weekends to rebuild about 50 computers to donate to WIN House. It can take him up to 30 minutes to rebuild each computer, depending on the issue.

He’s also fixed up dozens of old iPhones to donate to displaced Ukrainians. In a video a thankful mother sent him, a teenage boy is overwhelmed with excitement when he realizes that Newby rebuilt an iPhone for him. The only words the teenager managed in the video were: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

“Ford is the most unselfish person I’ve ever met in my life,” says Chris Pullen, PCL’s vice president and general manager of Edmonton Industrial Management. “There’s nobody he doesn’t care about.”

For the 2023-24 academic school year, PCL "adopted" Father Leo Green Catholic Elementary School — an initiative in which PCL chooses a community school that could benefit from PCL's support through funding, engagement, labour resources and more. Pullen felt Newby would be an ideal ambassador for PCL. Newby oversaw technology donations, and PCL donated 30 Microsoft Surface Pro laptops and three televisions along with projectors and screens.

“Every time Ford went to the school, the kids just thought he was a rock star,” says Pullen. The adopt-a-school program was originally supposed to last a month, but after recognizing the impact it had on the students, PCL extended the program to one year. PCL intends to adopt another school for the 2024-25 academic year, and Newby is anxious to participate again. 

“He has a huge heart,” says Truong. “‘No’ is just not an answer for him. It doesn’t matter how bad the day is or what the situation is, all you have to do is look at Ford and he brings a smile to your face. He brings a lot of positivity to any environment he’s in and that seems to rub off on everybody around him.”

It didn’t take long for Truong to recognize Newby as a unique individual with a passion for his work who also embodies PCL’s core values — honesty, integrity, respect and passion — and is a great ambassador for the organization’s dynamic culture.

After graduating high school when he was 17, Newby enrolled at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. He then interviewed with Truong to work at PCL as a co-op student in January 2022. He became a contractor in 2023 and is now a permanent full-time employee.

“I love it here. I enjoy coming to work. Sometimes I get to work at about 6 a.m. because I’m just so excited to get started. I have gotten here at 5 a.m. but that’s too early — I just end up sitting around doing nothing because no one else is here,” he says with a laugh. “The environment is amazing, and I love the work.”

Newby isn’t sure what his future holds but he knows it involves PCL — maybe becoming a supervisor and later a manager. One thing is certain, though: his PCL future will be a bright one.