While many recent graduates start their careers with petroleum employers after graduation, some start while they’re still students and spend years with the same company.
Vitten Nath Varma graduated from the mechanical engineering program at McGill University earlier this year and now works as a Commercial Analyst for Talisman Energy in Calgary, but he started with the company as a student engineer in January 2007.
His first internship spanned 16 months and he rotated within two departments at Talisman. “My introduction to oil and gas was in Talisman midstream, learning about gas processing, pipelines and transportation,” he says.
After eight months, he transitioned to a development engineering role on the upstream side of the business.
“The highlight of my [development engineering] position was a $2.3 million pipeline project in Cabin Creek. I worked with field operations, reservoir and well-testing engineers to build a strong economic case for the project, which I eventually presented to the executive VP for North America. The project was approved and I got to see the results of my work before I left the company – a very rewarding experience.”
Talisman called him back in the summer of 2009 to be part of a technical team of well stimulation specialists working in the Barnett Shale in Texas.
“My goal was to find out if there were any special reasons why the five most prolific producers in the region were in the top five. Was it luck, or were they perfecting a strategy? The framework I developed was eventually applied for a similar study in one of Talisman’s own plays.”
The hard work he did during his two internships with Talisman paid off because, after graduation, he was offered a permanent position in the company’s North American planning and performance management group. “Talisman is evolving and positioning itself for growth and scalability,” he says.
“Part of my current job involves laying the groundwork for taking on more responsibilities from the corporate planning team and finding solutions to tracking and managing our operational and business performance.”
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. I have always had a keen interest in energy. As a third year student hunting for an internship, I saw saw oil and gas as an opportunity to step into the sector and I was hooked. Energy will always be crucial to economic growth, and oil and gas will play a central role in the coming decades, whether we like it or not. Complex market dynamics and environmental challenges have spurred a staggering pace of innovation in the oil and gas industry in recent years, be it from a technical or a commercial perspective. As a new grad, I found these very compelling reasons to join the industry.
Q. Why did you choose to start your career with Talisman?
A. My past experience as an engineer with Talisman had been one during which I was constantly challenged, given amazing exposure and opportunities, and honest feedback and advice for improvement when I needed it the most. Once I interviewed with my manager-to-be and discussed the position, opportunities, and the growing commercial group within the company, it was a no-brainer. The fact that Talisman is an international oil and gas company with opportunities for international placements certainly helped as well.
Q. What skills or qualities helped you get hired and eventually move into different and more advanced roles within Talisman?
A. A genuine interest in anything you undertake, the ability to execute projects and deliver concrete results, the ability to comfortably and honestly express your opinion at any level, and to build strong relationships and work effectively as a team member will definitely get you there.
Q. What misconceptions did you have about the industry before you started working in it, and how has that misconception been “busted” through your own experiences?
A. I was most impressed by the importance given to health and safety, irrespective of whether it was out in the field or in the Calgary office. It was also interesting to see how environmental concerns actually drive projects within the company.
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. I would strongly urge students to do an internship or two with an oil and gas company if they intend to join the industry. There is so much to choose from within the industry: some people prefer doing intense analytical and technical work, some prefer managing and executing development projects, and others prefer working at the front lines, getting their hands dirty and troubleshooting real problems.
There are pure exploration companies, there are midstream companies, there are integrated companies, then there are service companies. My point is that you’ll never know until you actually dive in. You cannot conceivably do every possible job, but you can bet that at some point you will meet or work with someone who is an expert in their field. An internship gives students an opportunity to see whether the sector is a fit for them and it also gives them a chance to show the employer what they’ve got to offer. And it pays well too.
Q. Is there anything else you want Canadian college and university students/grads to know?
A. The International Energy Agency’s flagship publication, the 2010 World Energy Outlook, states that fossil fuels will account for 50% of the increase in total primary energy demand to the year 2035, and goes on to mention that while oil remains the dominant fuel in the energy mix, the demand for natural gas far surpasses that of other fossil fuels due to its “more favourable environmental and practical attributes,” and also due to “constraints on how quickly other low-carbon technologies can be deployed.” North America is an exciting place to be, if you are even remotely interested in the world’s energy future.
To learn more about starting your career in the petroleum industry with Talisman Energy, check out this interview with Talisman Energy talent acquisition specialist Katie Weir.
Do you share Talisman’s passion for energy? Click here to learn more about Talisman Energy and its co-op, internship and entry-level opportunities across Canada.
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 www.careersinoilandgas.com.