UNB Alumni
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Lynette DuJohn brings digital twin project to life at Vancouver International Airport

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Nov 23, 2022

Category: Engineering , UNB Fredericton , Inspiring Stories

The COVID-19 pandemic hit airports around the world hard. But instead of standing still, Lynette DuJohn (BScCE’87) took the opportunity to innovate.

Lynette is the vice president of innovation and chief information officer at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) a role she’s held since 2016. During the peak of the pandemic slowdown, her team began a project to create a virtual digital twin of their facilities on Sea Island. That project, from YVR’s new Innovation Hub, has now reached completion, making it the first airport in the world to develop an accurate digital twin – essentially, a replica of physical assets, processes, and services in real-time.

“We lost 90% of revenue overnight due to the pandemic,” Lynette says. “Yet we decided to look to the future by investing in technological innovation. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We’ve been using the digital twin technology for over a year now, and it’s helping us become a greener airport and provide a better passenger experience.”

“It’s kind of like a video game where we can fly through the airport and airfield in 2D or 3D to solve problems. We can better understand where there’s congestion, where staff need to move to quickly, and we can even track greenhouse gas emissions on the airfield, allowing us to become more sustainable. As an engineer, this has been my dream job.”

Lynette came to UNB from Miramichi, the first in her family to attend university. She took engineering because she had enjoyed architectural drafting in high school and thought she’d pursue that field. It turned out that she went into the geotechnical arena for a couple of years after graduating, before returning to work at UNB in construction management while pursuing a master's degree. During that time, she started helping construction companies computerize their operations. “Technology was new for everyone at that time, and I was working at UNB with Lloyd Waugh, who was very technically savvy. I picked up a lot. After that, I moved to British Columbia and started my own consulting company to project manage for firms doing technical implementations.”

After five years, Lynette was recruited to the BC Lotto Corporation to work on a big technology project there. She ended up staying for 13 years and became the chief information officer. In 2016, she moved to YVR, getting back to her roots by “bringing together the worlds of construction and technology.”

Lynette says her work is exciting because she and her team are enabling ideas to take shape. “We’re striving to be the world’s greenest airport – and digitization is a big part of that. Bright young people are graduating and asking companies to raise the bar. We’re doing that.”

Despite the exciting and innovative technology projects, Lynette is adamant that the best part of her career has been working with people. “The real job is developing relationships and working with teams. I’ve had wonderful teams to work with, and I really enjoy this aspect. I’ve spent a lot of time developing leadership skills like communications and listening and learning to match innovative initiatives to what’s important.”

Another one of those important things to Lynette and YVR is working with their community and giving back. YVR is one of the first airports in Canada to strike a sustainability friendship agreement with the Indigenous peoples on whose traditional lands they operate. “Working together with Musqueam has been one of the most interesting and meaningful components of the job. Musqueam has played an integral role in YVR’s business and operations, and we work together on job creation, scholarship opportunities and business opportunities – including the digital twin, since it’s a replication not only of the airport but of all the island lands.”

Lynette is happy to report she’s not even thinking about retirement yet. In fact, she’s taken on more responsibility as a director on the board of BC Hydro. “There are so many opportunities – it’s just too exciting to think about slowing down yet. I feel like I’m already retired in a way, because I love what I do. I love helping people make things happen. I actually see my job as very much in a caring field. And the skills I learned through my degree have been the secret to it all. When you have the ability to problem-solve, to be articulate and to collaborate with people, there are no limits to the opportunities available to you.”