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Shahid Yaqoob

SFU Alumni
Applied Sciences › Mechatronic Systems Engineering
Out-of-Town Co-op, Science + Math Peers, Self Directed Co-op

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Although they make you work hard, which can be frustrating, you learn way more than what your fellow students would learn at other organizations

In Summer 2018, after finishing my co-ops with TransLink and Honda Cars Ltd., I was eagerly looking for my third and final co-op. I was applying all around Canada and got interviews from multiple small and big companies. In the first week of May, I received 2 job offers from 2 small companies based in Vancouver. In the same week, unexpectedly, I got 2 interviews from oil and gas giants based in Calgary. After doing some online research about these oil and gas companies, I learned about their exciting technologies and student development programs, which made me wish to work for them. Although I had no prior oil and gas experience, still I decided to do something risky. I rejected both the co-op offers and flew to Calgary the very next week. Most of my friends warned me not to do it, but sometimes you got to take risks if you want to do something big. I felt like something big was calling me, so I just listened to my inner voice and made a decision. 

Before flying to a new city, I decided to meet with my co-op coordinators Ryan McDonald and Mary Samy for their advice. They encouraged me and further helped me polish my resume. I was all set and right after landing in Calgary, I started applying for co-ops. I applied to the top 10 oil and gas firms in Calgary and luckily with an amazing resume (thanks Ryan and Mary!), I got interviews from 7 of them. After a long wait of almost 2 months, I got an offer from Imperial Oil Ltd as a Materials Engineering Co-op student. Imperial Oil is one of Canada’s biggest integrated oil companies. It has been fueling Canadians since 1880, when Canada was only 13 years old. I was very impressed with the organization's reputation, emphasis on safety, and innovation factors in delivering safe energy products. These factors resonate with me, and I believed that working at this organization would not only provide me with an opportunity to learn new technology but also serve the community. So, I accepted the offer right away. 

Based on my past experiences and career interest, I was assigned the Materials Engineering co-op role. After signing the offer documents, I was super excited to join the company but at the same time, I had a fear in my heart too. With zero oil and gas background experience, I was worried about how I could benefit the company and leave a good impression. In the beginning, I was having a hard time understanding the commonly used oil and gas terms and felt like I needed to learn a lot. To overcome this, I made it clear to my team where I stood. They were very supportive and started teaching me the basics. They also recommended a couple of basic and relevant oil and gas books. I took this learning opportunity as a challenge and soon, after self-learning, I was with the pace along with others. It left a good impression on my team and they appreciated my efforts. 

Image of Shahid in work wear Image of Shahid in work wear

At Imperial, there are four main focus areas which an employee should work on. As a Materials Engineering co-op, I not only had a chance to work on the Integrity and Reliability of assets, but also all focus areas: Integrity & Reliability, Innovation & Technology, Safety and Regulatory and People and Culture. Here is an overview of how I focused my efforts in each area:

  • In the Integrity and Reliability area, I developed the Kearl Piping Integrity Program, which included breaking piping into circuits, performing criticality assessments, and developing new inspection packages. I also worked on inspection programs for Cold Lake Pig Traps, Dead legs, and production lines. It involved analyzing the inspection results from previous years and develop inspection programs for the next years. 

  • From the technology and innovation area, I got a chance to create several dashboards for Kearl and Cold Lake piping and also search for a number of new inspection technologies to improve and automate inspection methods. A few of the prominent dashboards that I developed were ESR, Process Building, and Coarse Tailings dashboards. These dashboards were developed for different groups based on business needs to help mitigate the failures, control the inspection process, and highlight all critical areas visually and for a longer audience. 

  • Besides technical work, I am a very safety-oriented person and have given many personal and process safety presentations. I also took part in all the site safety training and demonstrated positive safe behavior during my visits to plant sites.

  • Furthermore, I was volunteering my time at Calgary United Way and attended Ronald MacDonald House, Days of Caring, and Calgary Corporate Challenge. I also attended Quarry Park Toastmasters’ meetings where I delivered weekly speeches for leadership-development and polished my interpersonal, communication, and presentation skills.

This organization is a great place for fellow students to apply to because of their great student development programs. I would 100% recommend that every eligible student apply. Besides a supervisor, they assign a technical mentor to their co-op students who is there to help the student learn new technologies and accomplish all the tasks successfully. On my first day, my interviewer told me, “at ExxonMobil, they don’t hire the students as co-ops, they hire you for your lifetime careers”. I found this statement to be very true because my supervisor, my manager, and one of the VP’s were all co-ops at some point in this organization. Although they make you work hard, which can be frustrating, you learn way more than what your fellow students would learn at other organizations. 

Before joining Imperial, I was only interested in office jobs. But, after making site visits to plants all around Alberta and getting to see all the equipment and processes in real-time, it changed my mind. Now, I would not mind getting relocated to one of the plants and getting the technical experience. To better understand how things operate and how the processes work, I believe that site experience is a must-have for an engineer. Although Mechatronics and the Oil & Gas industry don’t sound like counterparts of each other, in reality, they are. Most of the oil & gas companies are adopting new technologies to automate their manual processes by bringing in flying drones, crawling robots, and automated machines to make the processes easier, faster, and most importantly, safer. This means that you can have a rewarding and fulfilling experience in the Oil & Gas Industry, like I have

Beyond the Blog

Author

Shahid Yaqoob

SFU Alumni
Applied Sciences › Mechatronic Systems Engineering
Out-of-Town Co-op, Science + Math Peers, Self Directed Co-op
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