Dalhousie University Mechanical Engineering graduate Danilo Prieto took his career from Canada’s east to the west coast to follow his passion for the energy sector.
“The oil and gas field is very diverse and has its own special challenges and engineering difficulties that go with it,” he says. “There is a good opportunity to learn and grow as a professional engineer.”
Danilo now works for a large oil and gas company in Calgary as a Project Engineer and was kind enough to offer some insight into a typical day for a Project Engineer in the petroleum industry.
Landing the job
While still in school, Danilo attended recruitment events and seminars hosted by his current employer to see what type of opportunities were available to him. “Through that I got to know the company and what they were looking for in candidates,” he says.
Danilo explains that drawing on course knowledge and any co-op experience you may have is crucial during the interview process. In 2008, he completed an 8-month placement at a large oil and gas company in Fort McMurray, where he learned a lot about project management and engineering.
“This experience was important, especially during my interviews, as I was asked constantly about my experience in the oil sands,” Danilo says.
Another day, another task
“Working in the field gives me opportunities to learn the practical application of what I studied
university and explore how things can be really different from what is on paper to what is in operation.”
–Danilo Prieto, Project Engineer
As an entry level Project Engineer, he currently works on a project that is in its execution phase. “My day consists of reviewing the daily progress reports, reviewing changes (if any) made or that need to be made during construction, meeting with site personnel and coordinating tasks and activities.”
Danilo also spends a good portion of his time in the field, monitoring the progress of projects and communicating with the stakeholders involved.
“Although I spend the majority of my time in the field, I still put in hours behind a desk,” he says. “A good breakdown would be 65% field and 35% office.”
Although Danilo knew from his schooling that oil and gas projects could be massive in scale, he is still surprised that he gets to work on such large projects.
“It always surprises me when I actually see the size of what we are the building and how massive and expensive certain pieces of equipment can be,” he says, “not to mention the complexities of constructing the equipment and shipping it to site.”
He notes that this feeling of awe keeps the job interesting and reminds him that he’s contributing to important projects.
Flexibility and adaptability
Danilo encourages students to be flexible and adaptable about their work location, learning objectives, and ultimate career path. “Not all of the jobs in oil and gas are located in the big city,” he says.
“Many jobs and positions are located in remote areas or near small towns. This is where entry level applicants might find themselves for the first months or years of their careers.”
Danilo’s interest in energy brings curiosity, determination and new challenges to his daily work. He enjoys learning new things everyday, be it in a course or on the field.
Evidently, the oil and gas field holds egg-citing opportunities. Like Danilo, you must find a source of interest, be willing to relocate, work in different environments and have an open mind for learning!