Over the last year, since starting as a Production Engineer-in-Training (EIT) at Nexen Inc. in August 2011, Corbyn Horning has had the opportunity to work alongside a small team of engineers who manage and optimize shallow gas wells, providing him with a broad range of experience and tons of responsibility early on in his career.
“As a brand new EIT, I was immediately thrown into a fast-paced role that was really focused on optimizing the operation on a day to day basis.” —Corbyn Horning, Production Engineer-in-Training, Nexen
“Quite often my role as a production EIT allows for exposure into reservoir engineering, facilities and at times even completions,” he says.
Corbyn’s career with Nexen first began while he was a University of Calgary Chemical Engineering student with a minor in petroleum. He completed a 16-month reservoir engineering internship from May 2009 through August 2010, where he did everything from work on a feasibility study to help design and place wells.
Nexen offers 12- or 16-month paid internships that allow engineering students to develop technical skills which complement their academic learning. The program also allows Nexen to evaluate students for new graduate opportunities, and for students to determine if Nexen is the employer for them. And although the internship added a year to Corbyn’s degree, he says it was worth it because it got his foot in the door.
“It can certainly help set you up in the long term, plus earning some significant money while still in university is a major bonus,” he says. “During my internship, I was given the freedom and support to explore a number of challenging technical problems, which quickly helped me realize the value that I was adding to my group and to the business as a whole.”
Applying to be an Engineer-in-Training at Nexen
Corbyn loved his internship experience at Nexen so much that he decided to apply for the company’s new graduate Engineer-in-Training program. “I chose Nexen largely on the excellent experience that I had while working here as a student.”
He knew he would still have to work hard for it, though. Here’s how he prepared for his interviews with Nexen:
- He learned about and studied for behavioural interview questions – instead of asking you how you would behave in a certain situation, they ask you how you have behaved.
- He brainstormed a few talking points so he wouldn’t run out of things to discuss during the interview.
- He reviewed the technical work he had completed in the past so he was prepared to answer questions about his own experience.
Corbyn says the two rounds of interviews he completed – the first at the University of Calgary and the second with senior management at Nexen’s office in downtown Calgary – were “intense,” but the people from Nexen helped him feel at ease and all of his prep work paid off.
Starting your career with Nexen as an EIT
Corbyn spent the first eight months of his career as a Production EIT in Medicine Hat, Alberta, working on Nexen’s shallow gas wells. “As a brand new EIT, I was immediately thrown into a fast-paced role that was really focused on optimizing the operation on a day to day basis,” he says.
One of the biggest engineering challenges he’s faced in his new job is monitoring the hundreds of gas wells that are underwater as a result of a 2010 flood. Corbyn and other Nexen engineers must work closely with regulators to ensure the company’s wells in the flooded area are under control. “I have spent a great deal of time in ARGOs (amphibious all terrain, off-road vehicles), inflatables and helicopters checking on the status of our gas gathering systems.” he says.
He compares the first year of Nexen’s EIT program to the first year of his engineering program in university, where new grads have the opportunity to rotate through a number of different engineering disciplines. Nexen has also provided an extensive training budget – managed by him and his supervisors – for technical courses, conferences and reference material, and he was encouraged to attend and present at the company’s internal technical forums.
In June, he even had the opportunity to go on a new grad field trip to Houston, Texas, where he and other EITs were introduced to the company’s operations on the Gulf of Mexico. “Seeing the scale of the operations and the redundancy in safety measures really added a new perspective to our work in Canada,” he says.
Nexen’s EIT program offers a lot of mobility for new grads. Corbyn moved from Medicine Hat to Calgary in April, and will soon be rotating into a brand new role as a Completions Engineer-in-Training in shale gas. After three years, he will have completed three separate rotations.
“The best part about working for Nexen is knowing that I am valued each and every day,” says Corbyn. “They go to great lengths to ensure their employees are trained and knowledgeable about the task at hand.”