Right: Darryl realizing he wore the wrong jacket in a speech to the U of S College of Engineering.
After a successful, 19-year career at SED/Calian, Darryl Kacher is retiring effective April 28, 2023. Darryl retires as Vice-President, Engineering, but he started his career with the company back in 1991 as a Junior Systems Engineer, working on the Intelsat In-Orbit Test System. Darryl was employed in Calgary at the time, but after the company flew him to Saskatoon for an interview and he saw all the amazing things going on firsthand, he moved there immediately.
Darryl was amazed by the advanced technology of the company, and he enjoyed the travel opportunities it provided him. “The technology I was working with was light years ahead of my previous job. The Unix workstations we used ran at a blazing 50 MHz and I was told the spectrum analyzers were worth as much as a house,” says Darryl. “Working on IOTs was really challenging, super-interesting, and it gave me the chance to travel and see the world.”
In 2000, Darryl left Calian to work for an Ottawa-based start-up company, and he came back a couple of years later to work on IOT and carrier monitoring systems. In 2006, Darryl began working on RF ground systems and he was promoted to Manager, Systems Engineering. In 2013 he was promoted again to his current role of Vice-President, Engineering, where he continued his technical focus on RF ground systems.
“I took on the role of Manager of Systems Engineering when Darryl transitioned to the Director of Engineering back in 2013,” said Dale Meginbir, Manager, Systems Engineering. “I’m grateful for the guidance and mentorship that Darryl provided to me as I took on that role. Darryl has continued to be involved in RF systems, putting in significant effort to produce well written proposals, and in general helping to keep the RF systems area thriving. We’re really going to miss having Darryl’s experience and energy around. I wish him the best in retirement as he has time to pursue his many interests outside of work.”
Darryl is grateful for the mentors that have helped shape his career. “I feel lucky to have had some amazing mentors along the way,” says Darryl. “I learned an incredible amount from people like Howard Grant, who was giving of not only his knowledge but his time. He was kind, mischievous and brilliant. Then there were folks like Jim Rennie that built our composites business up from a blank sheet of paper. I was part of that journey with him and saw that he was fearless. Jim and others proved that we could take on pretty much anything we wanted to as a company and excel at it.”
During his almost two decades with the company, Darryl has witnessed multiple changes in the industry. “Microprocessors have 10,000x more transistors since I started,” said Darryl. “We work at RF frequencies that are 10x higher. The complexity in almost everything we do (hardware and software) had to scale because we’ve been at the leading edge of technology the entire time. The increased pace of technology also has our customers expecting more complex systems in less time. It was never dull!”
“Darryl Kacher is one of the most detail-oriented people I have ever met,” said Wendy Cronin, former Manager, Engineering. “As an engineer I guess that is to be expected. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was just right, always striving to make things perfect. I have worked with Darryl in pretty much every position he held at SED Systems then Calian. I have always respected him, and I really enjoyed his humour and wit.”
Amanda Luther, Administration Manager, Engineering Services said, “Darryl has been an important part of engineering for many years. Over the last year I have worked very closely with him. He has given me a wide range of knowledge and I have appreciated his patience while showing me the ropes. I will miss his keen eye to detail and sense of humour the most.”
One of Darryl’s most memorable moments with the company was an onsite visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a satellite in-orbit test. “When I said go, Boeing slewed their $250-million satellite around in space so the system we provided could measure its antenna patterns,” says Darryl. “They slewed it 20 degrees in space at .05 degrees per second, almost seven minutes. Then our system collected the data from the test equipment and processed it for a similar length of time before it would start spewing plots onto the screen for the beams we measured. The measurement was complex and there was no way to test it 100 per cent on the ground; it was nerve-wracking! My heart stopped when the first plots that appeared on the screen were garbage. A moment later I realized that they were supposed to look like garbage because those signals were not visible from our location. The plots for signals that were visible from our location were perfect. Those plots in that moment were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.”
“Darryl is an amazing co-worker and manager,” says Dwain Stensrud, Systems Engineering Architect. “He leads by example, his work ethic is second to none, and he cares deeply about the people he works with. I’m sure he’s lost count of the number of evenings and weekends he’s given up ensuring a proposal is as good as it can be, to keep us all busy and keep Calian successful. Darryl is always ready to step up and do what’s needed, whether it’s trying to find the Country Tavern outside Kilgore with no help from Pat’s new GPS, or avoiding camels on the highway on the night shift for the Thuraya IOT support in the UAE. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement, and if you run out of rocks to move on the acreage, you can always come out to the cabin and rebuild the breakwater you helped build ten years ago.”
When asked what motivated him to continue working with the company for almost 20 years, Darryl said “I learned something new every day. Name one place that matches the depth and breadth of what we do here at Calian AT with the number of staff we have. I don’t think there is one. Against all odds, we’ve been doing it based out of Saskatoon since 1965. To make that happen you need a bunch of smart, hard-working people working as a team taking on difficult challenges. You also need a quality product at a fair price to keep our customers coming back, and all these things resonate deeply with me.”
“Darryl deserves to pat himself on the back for all the success he’s brought to Calian over the years, but I doubt that he will,” says Tom Thalheimer, Senor Systems Engineer. “If you ask him, he’ll tell you those successes are a result of the amazing group of people we have here, never mentioning his monumental role or the example he sets. As an engineer he’s meticulous and precise while also creative and innovative. We know he has a way with words and customers have said that comparing proposals led by Darryl against those from our competitors is like comparing Moby Dick to The Cat in the Hat. It’s been a rite of passage for many young engineers to have Darryl review their work and then face his ‘comment firehose’ which, while intimidating, is always framed in a positive and constructive way that leads to improved results. Most importantly, he genuinely cares about the people he’s working with. He wants people to be happy both in their work and in their lives, and that shows through every time you talk to him. We’ve been privileged to have him lead the Engineering team and I wish him all the best in retirement.”
“I’ve always considered myself to be a perfectionist, but Darryl’s reviews made my work ‘perfecter’ more perfect,” says David Fenske, Systems Engineering Architect/Section Head.
Roxane Pare, Engineering Associate/Section Head said, “Darryl and I worked together on numerous proposals over the years. I’d often ask him to help me wordsmith a compliance response. He worked day and night poring over the requirements to produce a solid, innovative design. We had many after-hour Teams chats working to meet the deadlines, and of course we had to chat about his famous orchard, the next type of bread he was trying or what meat dish he was trying in his sous vide. Darryl’s vast knowledge, dedication and friendship will be missed.”
Darryl is a life-long learner with a thirst for knowledge and he has a variety of things left to explore during this next chapter of his life.
“I just want to learn as much as I can before I die,” said Darryl. “We live in an amazing age where the world’s information is at our fingertips. This wasn’t the case when I was growing up, and I want to make up for that. I live in the country, and I’ve been struggling for years to establish a little orchard at my place, until I learned about permaculture a couple of years ago. Eighteen truckloads of woodchips later and it exploded this past summer with fruits and berries. Over the winter I discovered that you could graft watermelons to make them grow seven times larger, and that there are people growing peaches in Edmonton in their backyards. These are things I must try. I go down a lot of rabbit holes and find new interests all the time. I didn’t know virtual pinball is a thing. What open-source projects can I contribute to? How can I put another 20lbs on my squat? I need to build a 3D Printer before they take my geek card away. Why don’t I have a drone? I’ll never run out of interesting new things to explore, and I’ll never be bored.”
According to Bob Pratt, Senior Vice President, Operations, “Darryl has been one of the key people in our development of leading edge in-orbit test, carrier monitoring, and RF ground systems and he has travelled all over the world to support the installation and testing of this technology. Darryl’s leadership has driven the growth of our Engineering department to over 200 employees. He has made a lasting and memorable contribution to Calian, and his expertise, leadership and dry sense of humour will be missed.”
“Darryl is a leader in so many ways,” says Daryl Warkentin, new Vice President, Engineering. “In addition to having steered the Engineering group through an extended period of growth, he continued to lead as a systems engineer for our Earth Station RF designs, and somehow found time to emcee Christmas parties and be involved in almost everything going on in the group. Darryl's leadership is also evident by his keen focus on supporting and working towards the betterment of the people he works with, which I personally have really appreciated. He has left a lasting mark.”
“Darryl Kacher has been instrumental in helping us grow our RF systems capabilities to the next level. There are many others who I put in this pool including Howard Grant, Harry Jonasson and Darren Schlageter, to name a few. It is through the innovations of these people that our RF systems group continues to thrive in spite of the many challenges we have faced. Darryl and I have spent many sleepless nights and countless hours together on the road demonstrating to our customers that Calian is the ‘go-to’ company when failure is not an option. I am eternally grateful for his support to our organization,” said Patrick Thera, President, Calian, Advanced Technologies.
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