Meet GFL route supervisor Jenny Sparks.
Jenny joined the waste industry as a scale attendant in 2018. Just five years later, she’s leading a team of 36 residential solid waste collection drivers at GFL’s Edmonton, Alberta, hauling operations, taking every advancement opportunity available to her along the way.
“I love working in the waste industry,” said Jenny. “It’s busy, with lots of moving parts, and efficiency is key – you need to be able to think on your feet and adapt as you go – but it’s incredibly rewarding to service our customers.”
Grounded in hard work and ingenuity, Jenny’s career has seen her take on roles in the heavy equipment industry and the Canadian military, as well as the waste business.
But as a female leader in traditionally male-dominated work environments, she admits she’s faced her share of doubters.
“I’m confident in what I know and I address what I don’t know,” she said when asked how she handles such hurdles. “But in all my roles, I have persevered and demonstrated a strong commitment to whatever team I am part of and whatever job I’m doing.”
Her advice to others in a similar position: stay the course and be your own advocate.
“Speak up for yourself and reach out for those opportunities,” she said. “Ask questions, be inquisitive, look for mentors and leaders to learn from and be constantly willing to learn.”
Growing up just outside Prince George, British Columbia, Jenny learned many valuable leadership skills—including self-accountability and respect for others—as a member and later ambassador within BC 4-H communities.
She used her experience to qualify as a large animal veterinary assistant, but soon realized that it just wasn’t her calling.
Relocating to eastern Alberta, Jenny’s natural ability to operate anything with tracks or wheels inspired her to venture into the heavy equipment industry. She took a job as a rookie running a scraper (a machine that moves earth around) and quickly progressed to a fully qualified heavy equipment operator. She went on to work with the Canadian military, transitioning from a front line position to her first major leadership role—managing entire mess hall operations.
What attracted Jenny to the waste business was the prospect of a lifelong career where she could grow and excel. And by the time she entered the industry, she was already an accomplished leader with experience and skillsets adorning her resume.
Predictably, she advanced quickly from her scale attendant role. Working in the truck wash, she took the initiative to learn how to operate different waste collection vehicles.
“I fell in love with the work,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed operating the trucks and had a hunger to learn more!”
Observing this desire, Jenny’s employer sponsored her to complete her Class 3 (DZ) truck driver training (later followed by her Class 1, which she passed on the first attempt). As a qualified truck driver, she was soon operating both rear load and automated side loader trucks in the City of Edmonton and surrounding communities. When the opportunity presented itself, she stepped up to a lead driver role, and when her supervisor unexpectedly quit only weeks later, Jenny was there to take the managerial reins.
Joining GFL in early 2023 as a tractor trailer driver, Jenny had only been with the company a matter of months when she spotted the route supervisor opening.
“I thought ‘why not?’—GFL is a place I could see myself laying down roots and being part of a growing team,” she said. “I believed I would succeed and I was prepared to take on the many challenges. I also had the full support of my supervisors.”
As a leader Jenny says she is not afraid to pitch in, to lead by example and show her team that she’s always there to support them. Attesting to her leadership talent is the fact that her team hold her in such high regard.
She may be flying high, but Jenny is not about to rest on her laurels. She’s eager to continue mastering her route supervisor role and is even thinking about pursuing formal business training in the future.
Ever humble about her achievements, Jenny offered these final words of advice:
“Take pride in what you do in both small and large ways—and always keep your truck clean!”
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