In June 2012, I was offered a sixteen month Co-op term with Husky Energy Inc., one of the top integrated energy companies in Canada. Upon receiving the offer letter, I had the same feeling that I am sure every student has when offered their first Co-op: Sheer excitement. For the first time, I had an opportunity to take the skills developed through my education and apply them in the real world. My understanding at the time was that as a student I would get some hands-on engineering experience, but would primarily work in a junior role providing support for the team as they required. I was still quite excited though as I had always known I wanted to work in the oil and gas industry, so this Co-op would serve as a valuable learning experience, a great chance to network with engineers in the industry and excellent exposure to the industry itself.
Unfortunately, that excitement soon passed and was quickly replaced with anxiousness; the faster September approached, the more nervous I became and began to question both myself and my skills.
How would an MSE (Mechatronic Systems Engineering) student fit in with the oil and gas industry? Would I be able to perform as well as I had hoped and up to my supervisor’s expectations? Did I possess all the necessary skills to be successful in an engineering role?
Worries aside, before I knew it, I had said goodbye to Vancouver, relocated to Lloydminster, SK, and was ready to embrace the role I would have for the next sixteen months.
During my time with Husky, I was stationed in the Heavy Oil & Gas business unit working with the Reliability & Integrity (R&I) team, whose main focus is to utilize reliability-centered maintenance to improve reliability and optimize the life cycle of Husky’s assets. Over the course of my term with the R&I team, I was granted the opportunity to develop my technical skills, which I was expecting, but I was also given the chance to enhance my communication skills – written, verbal, and presentation wise.
Contrary to my initial thought that I would be mainly utilized as a support for the team, I was actually given the opportunity to manage my own project aimed at evaluating hydraulic versus electrified equipment on Husky’s conventional oil wells. On top of this project, I was also tasked with designing and developing several macro programs used to collect, interpret and trend data which would ultimately assist in forecasting equipment failures. Through these various tasks, I was able to expand the technical skills I already possessed, as well as acquire new skills which will no doubt be necessary in my future career.
In addition to technical skills, this Co-op experience also provided me with numerous occasions during which I could improve my communication skills. For instance, Husky has made a significant investment in their employees’ by initiating a Toastmasters club and encouraging all employees to attend. I immediately took advantage of this opportunity and became an avid member of the club. By participating in Toastmasters, I was able to develop public speaking skills which would prove extremely useful as I went on to lead a department wide safety meeting or when I presented the results of my project to Operations, Production and Technical Services groups and their associated coordinators and managers.
Husky, and the Co-op program in general, has provided me with an immeasurable amount of experience. The past sixteen months have allowed me to really appreciate, apply and further develop the skills acquired through my MSE studies, as well as provided many opportunities to ascertain new skills. Additionally, it has helped refine the scope of where I want my career to go within the oil and gas industry.
Overall, I believe that co-op experience is an irreplaceable element of undergraduate studies and should be integrated into every curriculum. I can confidently say that because of my co-op experience, I now possess a level of skill, experience and self-confidence, which I would not get through school alone, to become a successful professional engineer.
Beyond the Blog
Learn more about the Engineering Co-op program.