University Of Alberta Commerce Grad Finds His Place In The Petroleum Industry


When you think about working in the petroleum or oil and gas industry, you probably think of highly technical jobs like engineering, geoscience, the trades, and heavy machinery operation, to name a few.

However, working alongside all of the science and technology are people in what is called business and operations support, including a wide range of occupations that support the various aspects of the petroleum industry’s business.

These activities include areas such as air transportation, energy asset management, environment, health and safety, rights acquisition, regulatory affairs and stakeholder relations, to name a few.

Jordan Munns is one of those people working in the business side of the industry. He’s a business analyst with National Oilwell Varco, a company that provides equipment and components used in oil and gas drilling and production operations, oilfield services, and supply chain integration services to the upstream oil and gas industry.

Munns, originally from Castlegar, B.C., graduated from the University of Alberta’s commerce program last year. He says he saw National Oilwell Varco listed on the school’s job board and began researching the company and its opportunities from there. By June 2009, he was working for the company in Edmonton.

“On a day-to-day basis, my job consists of taking data and turning it into information that is useful for my boss,” Munns says. “This includes financial information that comes out of our ERP [enterprise resource planning] system or creating programs in Excel that can be used to manage our inventory. Other things I do on a day-to-day basis include market research, building presentations, general operations, and actively participating in our health and safety program.”


Jordan Munns, business analyst, National Oilwell Varco

Q. How did you know you wanted to work in the oil and gas industry versus all the other opportunities available to you as a student and recent graduate?
A. Being in Western Canada, the energy industry’s role in the Canadian economy is highly predominant. As such, there are many opportunities for new grads to gain valuable work experience.


Q. Why did you choose to start your career with National Oilwell Varco?
A. I found the rotations to be the most appealing aspect of the job. Many new graduates don’t know what they want to do for a career, and even those graduates who think they know often find out that they don’t. With NOV being such a large company, there really is a place for everybody and the rotations give new employees the ability to explore those opportunities and help find their place in the company.


Q. What are the skills or qualities you have that helped you get hired by National Oilwell Varco?
A. I would say the best skill is to know and be comfortable with your own weaknesses. They don’t expect you to come out of school knowing everything, but they do expect you to not pretend like you do. One of the goals of the program is to help you understand the industry, the company, and the skills necessary to succeed in both. If you come out of school with an arrogant persona, you will not succeed.


Q. What aspect of the industry surprised you most when you started working in it?
A. Something that surprised me when I started working in the industry is the extent to which HSE (health, safety and environment) is stressed on a company-wide level. I knew it was important, but its importance is stressed whether you are in a safety-sensitive position or not. When everybody understands the importance of safety procedures, safety policies and environmental impacts, the attitude becomes forward thinking by focusing on incident prevention rather than backward thinking focusing on accident remediation.


Q. What is the best part of your career in petroleum/oil and gas so far?
A. This being such an important industry not only in our economy, but the way we live our lives, it is interesting to be a part of the policy changes that occur that directly impact what we do.


Q. What advice would you give to current students or recent grads who want to start their careers in the oil and gas industry?
A. Regardless of the degree you hold, there are many different work environments you can find yourself in, whether it be a downtown office, a field store, a machine shop, or in the field. Don’t limit yourself to the environment you think you want to work in. When it comes to work experience, there is no bad experience. Just make sure that whatever experiences you have are ones that you are learning from either through direct experience or through a greater knowledge of yourself.

When you’re looking for a job, ask yourself if you’ll still be excited about your position a year from now. Every degree has to so called “sexy jobs.” The jobs that everybody hypes up and “ohhs-and-ahhs” at when they find out one of their peers accepted the job – you know the ones. Sometimes students get so wrapped up in the interview process – being flown around the country, taken out for fancy dinners, big interviews in the board room, lucrative contract offers – that they forget to consider whether or not it’s a job they actually want to do. Just be very wary of the fact that when all the hype wears off you still have a job to do and you have to enjoy doing it.


Petroleum Career Guide

TalentEgg’s Petroleum Career Guide and this editorial feature were produced in partnership with the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Enform. For more information about starting your career in the oil and gas industry, please visit

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About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.