While many post-secondary institutions require that students complete a co-op or internship placement in order to graduate, for most undergrads, attaining one is worth so much more than just a university credit. In many cases, it’s their first experience in a professional environment that goes beyond the safely confined boundaries of the classroom.
These five students of very different disciplines all had their own reasons for applying with Nexen—now, they’re walking away with a diverse repertoire of professional skills and experiences that they say have had a hugely positive impact on their careers.
Each coming from a unique academic background, these students shared their top reasons why Nexen has been the ideal place for them to foster on-the-job skills, build their networks, and explore new and exciting challenges. Find out why they love working at Nexen and how their experiences as co-op students have equipped them with the skills and knowledge to confidently face the world outside of their degree programs.
A Culture That Cares
When University of Lethbridge student Heather Allan was looking for a co-op placement, her first search parameter was to find a company that offers strong support for student programs. She noted that while there were a number of businesses in her area that offered great opportunities for young professionals, Nexen stood out because of its involvement with nonprofit organizations.
“Each summer, Nexen will hire a handful of students to work at a number of different not-for-profit companies for the summer term. This program stood out to me as a company culture that cares, and is stepping up to be the best in class for social responsibility,” says Heather.
As a co-op student in the Human Resources department, she’s been immediately involved in all aspects of recruitment — from posting jobs to screening to shortlisting and interviewing.
“I create offers, process offer documents, and decline unsuccessful candidates. I’m involved with onboarding students and managing the coordination and execution of student events,” she says. “I have also been involved in major projects such as flipping our students from hourly to salary [pay], identifying and implementing cost savings measures, and developing surveys to capture important data and statistics in order to improve processes.”
She also adds that the support of her team members has been by far the highlight of her experience at Nexen. The open door policy in the HR department has allowed her to freely ask questions about her role while also getting involved with volunteer opportunities and special projects.
Heather graduates in the spring and hopes to secure a new graduate position in the Oil and Gas industry. “The knowledge I have gained of the processes and procedures in the industry, furthermore with talent acquisition, will undoubtedly aid in my marketability as an early career professional.”
Because Nexen student programs are strongly supported by both the business and executive levels of leadership, there are always new career opportunities arising for students and grads of varying academic backgrounds, programs, and disciplines.
Heather encourages students considering Nexen for their co-op to move forward with their applications. “You’ll be part of a team and you’ll be actively contributing to a common goal,” she adds.
After consulting classmates who have worked with Nexen and doing some research of his own, Patrick Coulas, a University of Calgary student, had made up his mind about Nexen. While he admits he didn’t initially know a lot about the company, finding out that Nexen is listed as one of Alberta’s top employers and learning about the company-wide Lunch ‘n’ Learns and student development programs had gotten him excited about pursuing a co-op placement there. Well that, and his free membership to the newly renovated Nexen gym.
So what’s a day in life like for a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Intern at Nexen? According to Patrick, it could include anything from attending project meetings or collaborating with geologists, geophysicists, and engineers to see how GIS might help them in their areas of work. And when he’s not joining forces with his colleagues, he’s working independently on creating maps and spatial analysis projects.
“By working on multiple projects with varying priorities, it ensured I was well organized and understood the scope of the work [in order] to deliver the necessary project on time and accurately,” says Patrick. “I was also required to communicate to an array of educational backgrounds and convey messages of ongoing work or answer any spatial questions they might have.”
To do this, Patrick used industry-level programs like ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) ArcGIS software suite. He says that before starting his co-op at Nexen, he was equipped with only introductory knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the tools used to create data in the exploration and development of energy resources.
“Now I can use these tools more efficiently and provide insight on how to accurately show the information needed to make these key decisions,” he says. “I’m way more confident in relaying these messages to the decision makers, as I have 16 months of significant experience communicating with industry professionals.”
When Patrick graduates next year, he hopes that his career will start next summer with Nexen — or at least another Oil and Gas company conducting GIS work, similar to what he learned at his co-op placement.
If you ask Angela Sicat, University of Calgary student, what the highlight of her co-op placement at Nexen has been, she’ll tell you it’s the colleagues that she worked with and learned from for the past 16 months of her placement.
During her time at Nexen, Angela worked as both a Junior Business Analyst for Information Technology Solutions (ITS) Project Management Operations (PMO) and as a Project Coordinator for a Healthy, Safety & Environment (HSE) IT Project. In these roles, she was responsible for reviewing, analyzing, and reporting on data she attained through meetings with key stakeholders and experts. As a Project Coordinator, she was also in charge of keeping track of team updates for her HSE IT Project.
Like many Nexen co-op students will tell you, the mentorship she received was vital to her growth as a young professional. At the beginning of her term, she was assigned to a Business Analyst and had the opportunity to shadow her on projects and initiatives.
To help ease in the transition to the working world, Nexen offers a Summer Student Mentorship Program run by the Early Career Professionals group and Students Community group. There, Angela was matched up with a mentor who has remained a source of guidance and support for her, even a full year after the summer mentorship program has ended.
“I struggled with time management during my work term, so through our frequent touch bases we would go through different methods of time management to see what works best with my work style,” she says.
Angela says working as a co-op student has given her a good idea of the “real world” that she’ll be graduating into next year. “Understanding expectations and accountability has been a big lesson for me that I think I can pass along to my fellow classmates when I go back to school,” she says.
Her involvement in Nexen’s IT project directly influenced where she sees herself working in the future. She hopes to pursue a technical career in IT Management that is involved in the areas of Health, Safety, and Environment — just like what she worked on at Nexen.
Milan Todorovic, a Research and Development Intern and Chemical Engineering student at the University of Calgary, spends a typical day at Nexen tracking Research and Development projects with respect to contractual, financial, technical, and scheduling aspects. One of his major tasks is supervising experimental work at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta. He receives, organizes, and analyzes raw data and presents his findings to his team. And if the findings are significant, he assists with patent applications.
Milan says the highlight of his work experience at Nexen has been the opportunity to “get his hands dirty” and work on projects with the Universities of Calgary and Alberta.
“This sort of hands-on experience will propel me ahead of other students with office-only experience when applying for EIT (Engineer in Training) programs, and be useful if I choose to seek out a [Master of Science],” he says. “This is the type of experience every chemical engineer should have and I was fortunate to get a taste early in my career.”
During his placement, Milan worked on a project related to partial upgrading of heavy oil and bitumen. “I got to apply and greatly expand on my chemical engineering knowledge by understanding the processes governing the behavior of each unit, and how each unit was interconnected with the others,” he says.
Nexen co-op students are given the best of both worlds when it comes to mentors, according to Milan. While his direct supervisor was his primary source of career guidance, he also had the opportunity to partake in the Mentorship Program, which allowed him to pair up with a mentor with less than five years of experience at the company. He says that being close in age with his mentor made it easy to connect with them and share recent and relevant experiences.
Milan’s work term made him realize that while he enjoys chemical engineering — his field of study — he’s developed an additional interest in Project Economics. His time at Nexen therefore, influenced his choice to explore Process and Facilities Engineering in his career.
After hearing about Nexen’s supportive student and corporate culture from a friend who’d completed two summer work terms there, Patrick Rennie, a Marketing major at the University of Calgary, says it was at the top of his list when it came time to apply for placements.
When reflecting on his co-op at Nexen, Patrick says that his experiences have given him a clear idea of where he sees himself in his career. “I have been able to continue to work on my communication skills by better understanding various media and design programs, as well as get hands-on experience by working with various business units to assess their needs,” he says.
Working in a Knowledge Management role like Patrick’s meant that every day presented unique and exciting challenges. “Lots of my day is spent engaging stakeholders about the benefits of our social collaboration tool, and the benefits that it can have for their team,” he says. “One of the things I really enjoy about this role is the fact that every day is a little bit different!”
One of the primary responsibilities of a Knowledge Management Intern like Patrick is to write articles for the Nexen Intranet. “These posts reached a very large audience at Nexen, so it was really important for me to hone my communication skills to make sure what I was producing was easily interpreted,” he says.
While being fully immersed in the company through his placement, Patrick’s experience with Nexen really confirmed where he sees himself fitting within an organization. His positive experience as a Knowledge Management co-op student made it clear to him that a Project Management and Communications role, much like his at Nexen, is where he sees himself thriving in the future.
When it comes to gaining hands-on professional experience, co-op placements are one of the best ways for students to do this while still in school. Like Heather, Patrick C., Angela, Milan, and Patrick R. found, the opportunity to be able to immerse yourself in your role with the continued support of industry mentors and experts can give you a better idea of where you see yourself in the future and put you at an advantage over your peers when the post-grad job search begins!