Challenging assumptions, building solutions
Though I have many interests and enjoy critical thinking, growing up I never knew what I wanted to do. One thing I knew I wanted was to ask questions and find my own answers. When I attended Memorial University for three years here in Newfoundland, Canada, social science classes interested me, but I couldn’t find a program that drew me in and could keep me engaged.
On a whim, I applied for and was accepted for an internship at the Canadian Natural’s Horizon site, an oil sands mining project in Alberta, where I apprenticed as an instrumentation technician. It was the first job that captured everything I wanted to do. It was exciting and required a lot of critical thinking. Often we would be faced with a problem with no easy answer – exactly the challenge I was looking for. This was a job I could see myself doing for a very long time.
When I finished up in Alberta, I’d found the direction I’d been looking for and knew what I wanted to do. I came home from my apprenticeship and completed the three-year Instrumentation Engineering Technology program at College of the North Atlantic. Immediately after I graduated in 2014, ExxonMobil hired me.
My first role here was doing something I’d never even heard of: developing a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) for the Hebron Platform.
The CMMS helps us manage the vast amounts of data we get from our maintenance, inventory control and purchasing sectors. The database can tell users which machines need maintenance, and they can provide trending data to decide if a machine is in need of repair versus the cost of replacing the machine. Though I had no prior knowledge of how it functioned, I asked questions, applied logic and always tried to project myself as the person who would eventually use the software. Though developing it in-house was difficult, the result was a more customized product that saved the company a significant amount of money.
Now I’m working on a database for our inspection program for hazardous equipment and I’m still asking questions. Right now, a lot of places are “living with” their programs, rather than developing a job-specific tool that can really meet their needs. It’s fun to get involved with these processes early, learn where improvements can be made, and help create a program that helps people do their jobs.
Outside of work, there’s another place where I challenge what many people have come to accept. It’s called Coffee House. It’s a volunteer-based local outreach church group that offers food, safety and company to anyone in need. Most of our visitors are poor, struggling with severe mental health issues or have criminal histories that make it difficult for them to rejoin society.
When you get to know these people, you get to see how well adjusted they are. The people I get to work with at Coffee House have incredible skills. There are beautiful musicians, talented artists and masterful chess players. They are people with amazing coping abilities and people that take care of those around them. Thanks to my volunteering I’ve made some lasting friendships with many of our visitors. Many people show up dejected and lost, but the next thing you know, they’re volunteering. Then they’re working. Often we don’t look hard enough to see the huge amount of potential, depth and talent of the people who are so often ignored.
By taking the time to show respect and to challenge the things others accept, I’ve found the perfect career for me and also found the most meaningful way I know to give back.