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Alaskan grit, determination and pride

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Raymond Kangas / Intern, Integrity Management

"Getting the job done is important, but that is only half of the mission. The other half is getting everybody through it safely."

Was this your first internship on TAPS? This is my second summer internship with APSC.

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? I knew that I was going back to the same position I had last summer with the same mentor and supervisor. Last year I was more like a learner or so it felt like, with only a couple big projects. This year I can definitely say I am more of a producer; my mentor and supervisor have assigned me a lot more tasks this summer than last.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? This is a hard question to answer; I have had two projects this summer that seem to come in a tie. After a little leak found at an RGV this summer, I put together data on all of the below-ground valves on the mainline, followed by a report explaining my methods. The other project is the work I done with the valve testing this summer, including working with others reviewing the procedures, creating and presenting a valve testing presentation explaining the hydraulics behind it, and participating in the valve tests.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? I’ve learned a lot from Russ Bonar. He is the Senior Valve Engineer I work under. We worked together in three valve tests during three separate 18 hour shutdowns, and we’re preparing for another valve test during the upcoming August 9 shutdown.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. So far my favorite experience this summer is the valve testing during the June 8 shutdown. Russ and I drove up to Pump Station 4 for half a week. I put a request in for a vehicle from fleet, and received an awesome truck for the roughly 350-mile road trip. I hung out with my brother at Pump Station 4, and dined at the PLQ there. Most importantly I played a more integral role in the valve testing since I am OQ qualified to open and close bypass valves on mainline valves.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. One of the lessons I learned firsthand is the Make Sound Decisions attribute. I have sat in on a lot of meetings this summer. The majority of the meetings are valve testing related, and what came up a lot in the discussions was safety for the people working out in the field. Getting the job done is important, but that is only half of the mission. The other half is getting everybody through it safely. Alyeska from my view does not beat around the bush on safety, which is good.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work with TAPS this summer; it is a good experience to remember while I finish up my degree.

Marquita Wyche / Intern, Accounting Team

"The Alyeska internship program should be modeled in other companies. This is not an internship where interns have zero responsibility or accountability. It is one that will challenge you to utilize your skills for the betterment of the company."

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? My expectation when this internship started was to gain an overall overview of the accounting department. To be able to do relevant work that will benefit the company. Lastly, even as an intern have the ability to communicate openly with the team.  These expectations were fulfilled even more so than I expected.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? The most interesting and educational project that I worked on was Koch Ownership Transfer research. I had to research various accounts and their associated projects, find invoices that and make a spreadsheet that correlated with the Trial Balance. I found it interesting because the research I was doing was going to the owners.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? Kathleen Hoffman is someone who mentored me throughout my summer internship at Alyeska. She not only trained me in how to complete Accounts Receivable billings, but she also alerted me to new opportunities within Alyeska.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. One of my favorite experiences during this internship was being able to go to the TAPS1 Club Annual Picnic. I was able to mingle with my co-workers, while also inviting my niece to enjoy all the activities provided. Their favorite part was the horse riding!

Also, one of my favorite experiences was our intern meetings that we had throughout this summer. Our meetings were focused around the cultural attributes; each intern had to give an example of how they used the cultural attributes in their respective departments. It was a good opportunity for me to learn more about Alyeska and the projects the other interns were working on.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. The TAPS culture is one that is focused around the safety of its workers, also on integrity and team work. TAPS culture, is in the air from the moment you walk in the door. It is showed in employee’s actions and the way that we do business. In the accounting department I identified with all of the cultural attributes, one that I will discuss is Making Sound Decisions. When researching data for the Koch ownership transfer I had to make sound decisions to decide what information to utilize in my spreadsheet. I focused on the high dollar amounts first, instead of trying to match a $0.19 amount to the Trial Balance.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? The most important impression that I have of Alyeska is that everyone is a family; a tight-knit community that is working toward the same goal. Employees take care of each other whether it’s ensuring safety on the line, or helping an employee better understand their duties in the office. The Alyeska internship program is one that should be modeled in other companies. This is not an internship where interns have zero responsibility or accountability. It is one that will challenge you to utilize your skills for the betterment of the company.We are a dedicated group, with a dedicated staff to guide us.

Kyle Tee / Intern, Facility Engineering

"Ever since I started to work in the Valdez Terminal I have heightened my safety awareness to ensure that I am making sound decision every day when I am out in the field and everything I do."

Was this your first internship on TAPS? This is my second Internship with Alyeska. My first Internship was in Anchorage in Project Engineering.

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? My expectation for this internship was to learn more information about Valdez and what type of work is involved here. Accepting this internship in Valdez I knew that I would be seeing more of the pipeline and being away from a cubical a little bit more than if I was in Anchorage and I was excited for that.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? The most interesting project I worked on is a design of a snow shelter to access a valve. The reason why it is so interesting is because the space to place a snow shelter is very limited. There is only about 28 inches between the building and a tank and during the winter snow is falling off of the structures and building up between them. So far the design is incomplete but it has been an enjoyable experience with it.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? Todd Carsten: he gave, helped and guided me on all of the projects I worked on this summer. When we go out into the field I tend to be very observant and ask a lot of questions and Todd has done an outstanding job in providing me with answers to my questions.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. My favorite experience would be the morning that Carol and Jeff Simmons given me the opportunity to kayak to work. It was terribly early in the morning but the whole scenery was beautiful. We didn’t encounter any wildlife of any sort but it was an awesome way start off the day.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. From this internship I have a greater understanding of the five cultural attributes than I had last summer. The attribute that I most identified with is Making Sound Decision. Ever since I started to work in the Valdez Terminal I have heightened my safety awareness to ensure that I am making sound decision every day when I am out in the field and everything I do.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? My last impression I will have of APSC’s will be the extraordinary safety environment that I was given the opportunity to work in this summer.

Marjorie Valdez / Intern, Project Engineering

"At school, in a classroom of 80 students, it is really easy to keep quiet and wait for another classmate to ask the question that you have. But in the workplace when you are given responsibility and important work to do, you can’t sit around and wait for someone to ask a question for you."

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? I expected a lot coming into this internship. I had a couple friends who interned with Alyeska last summer, and they really enjoyed it. They told me that everyone that they encountered was really friendly, and that everyone made it clear that they want the interns to succeed. I recently graduated from college and I was excited to start this internship because I was hoping it would give me a good view of the engineering industry and a better idea of where I want to go with my career in mechanical engineering.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? The most educational project I worked on was creating a Minor Modification package for Facility Engineer, Ed Davis, at Pump Station 4. I was lucky enough to get the chance to leave the office for a week and get some hands on field experience at Pump 4. While there, Ed was not afraid to give me some responsibility in working on the modification package for work to be done at Pumps 3 and 4. I was able to take part in a lot of the engineering process while working on this package. I discussed different solutions for the work orders with engineering SME’s (Subject Matter Experts), and decided on the right choice with Ed. I filled out safety and environmental checklists that were submitted to specialists in those areas so that any related risks could be assessed and discussed. I was able to alter necessary design drawings. I even drafted up the implementation instructions which would be used by the workers who complete the work. This project allowed me to learn about the engineering process, and also let me experience the weight of responsibility when you put your name on important documents.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? My supervisor, Patty Miller, really mentored me this summer. She may not have been the one that I directly completed work for, but she always did her best to make sure she found work or someone to give me work so that I was constantly busy and challenged this summer. Since I am a recent graduate, she’s also done her best to give me the broadest view of the technical side of Alyeska. Not only did Patty help guide me through this internship, but she gave me advice and suggestions on my career path which is sadly guidance that I did not get much of while in school.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. One of my favorite experiences during this internship was riding in a helicopter with a P&CM while I was working up at Pump 4 in July. Another intern and I were able to tag along with the P&CM during an aerial surveillance round of the ROW from Pump 4 to Pump 1. I had never been in a helicopter or seen any of the pipeline along this stretch, so I got to knock them both out at once. This was not only a fun helicopter ride; I was able to be observe another piece of making sure that the pipeline is safe and intact by ensuring that there were no potential risks or hazards along the ROW.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. I have learned a lot about the TAPS culture here at Alyeska. Everyone is very intent on making sure that every act is carried out safely in order to keep up the strength of pipeline operations and all of the employees. I have personally identified with the cultural attribute “Speak up – Step Up.” At school, in a classroom of 80 students, it is really easy to keep quiet and wait for another classmate to ask the question that you have. But in the workplace when you are given responsibility and important work to do, you can’t sit around and wait for someone to ask a question for you. In order to really learn and envelope yourself in your work and the workplace, you have to speak up and ask questions. The workplace is very open here at Alyeska, and everyone is always willing to help when I have a question.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? My impression after weeks of working on TAPS is that all of the people working on TAPS - Alyeska and contractors - are all one big family. Everyone understands the importance of the integrity of the pipeline and its importance to Alaska’s economy. Everyone always seems genuinely happy to see you, whether in the office or out in the field. Even people you don’t know will say hi or smile when you walk by. People are interested in what type of work I’m doing as an intern and never hesitate to offer to help. I feel like I’ve become part of a community while working at Alyeska, even in this short period of time.

Shawn Eby / Intern, Facility Maintenance Engineering

"I learned more about steel than I knew before, and I gained a stronger understanding of how important field visits are."

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? I expected to be working at my desk more often than I did; I was pleased to find myself out and about on Terminal on a fairly regular basis, especially earlier in the internship. I also expected to be doing work that was closer to what I am studying in school than the work I did last summer in project engineering, and I was not disappointed.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? The most interesting project I helped work on was the Power Vapor Compressor Building Fall Protection project. I learned more about steel than I knew before, and I gained a stronger understanding of how important field visits are. No sense in having to redraw your design because you overlooked a structural hiccup earlier in the project.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? Todd Carsten mentored my fellow intern, Kyle Tee, and I quite well. His methods could be a little frustrating, especially at first, but we learned a lot from taking ownership of our learning and making sure that we could accomplish our goals on our own when it became necessary.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. I really enjoyed taking civil surveillance photos around Terminal. I wouldn’t want it to be my only responsibility, but it was fun to look at every section of rock wall, road, etc. and look for damage using the computer.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. I have learned that TAPS culture, to me, fundamentally seeks to treat and operate the company as you would if it were a living, breathing, intelligent being, and one that sought to be at its best, especially in terms of ethics and morals. I would say that I identify the most with Learn, Improve, Innovate; I constantly search for more information so that I can make what I’m doing more efficient, easier, safer, etc.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? It seems to me that TAPS employees not only have a strong safety focus, but most of them also seem friendly and willing, sometimes even excited, to help and share what they know when you have questions.

I appreciate how relaxed things are in Valdez. I get a strong impression that the work you produce and your character are of much more importance than how professionally you dress and who you smile at. It’s easy to be comfortable here.

Lance Gatter / Intern, Integrity Management

"My favorite experience has been the feeling of getting near the end of my part of the work that needs to be done and having the data as correct as possible. Getting to this point has made me feel very accomplished being a part of important work as an intern."

Was this your first internship on TAPS? This is my third internship with Alyeska. My first was with HR in the Training Department and my second was with Internal Audit.

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? I was expecting a wonderful summer with the Integrity Management Department. It definitely was a great summer and I feel very accomplished.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? My most interesting project which has been a project that has taken up my whole summer has been preparing and validating data for the Baker-Hughes ILI (Inline Inspection Tool) run that happened earlier this year. This has definitely been an interesting experience as we work with data where there are only little differences. We have basically been working with less than 1 percent of the pipeline but it has taken a whole summer to get the data that existed to the correctness it has currently. It is also amazing because the work I have been doing is very much tied to upcoming projects in Integrity Management.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? I had a whole group that I felt were helping me with many things. I worked directly with a couple of them over the summer but my main mentor was Ben Wasson.  Ben Wasson is the Survey/Civil Support Engineer in Integrity Management, he helped me understand very much the importance of survey and how crucial it is to everything done on TAPS. Most of my summer was working directly with him and the survey contractor working out areas of concern and making sure our data was the best possible.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. My favorite experience has been the feeling of getting near the end of my part of the work that needs to be done and having the data as correct as possible. Getting to this point has made me feel very accomplished being a part of important work as an intern. It also has been a great learning experience.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. TAPS culture is all about the future and what is going to happen. The pipe has been around for 36 years and Alyeska must maintain it and the work culture here is about wanting to keep the pipe around for much longer. I have very much seen all five of the cultural attributes in many cases. The one that I feel most as an intern is taking a system view. Interns only get a few weeks to experience all they can with a company and this is very important. This is very important because for a company like Alyeska where many people who have been around since the beginning are starting to retire it is very important to get as much knowledge out as possible to keep the pipe going. As interns we are some of this investment into the future and the longevity of the pipeline.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? I love Alyeska! I enjoy the environment this company upholds for their employees. I enjoy the big picture of the company and what they do for the state and for its future. Not everyone realizes how important we are as a company for the state or even thinks about how much that TAPS is worth to Alaska. I definitely would like to find a career with this company.

I would like to thank Alyeska for another great experience as an Intern.

Erin McGowan / Intern, Supply Chain Management

"My dad helped build the pipeline in the ‘70s and I am proud to say that I was able to be part of carrying on that work. I took this internship very seriously because I know that the livelihood of our state depends on the work Alyeska does every day."

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? When they said the interns would be doing summer-long projects, I assumed that meant I would be focused on one big task for the duration of the summer.  I was really surprised by the wide variety of tasks I was able to assist with and what a broad view of the Fairbanks operations I was able to see. I was able to work with several groups within Supply Chain Management in Fairbanks, and I even got to see a pump station and go out on the line. It was a great way to see the work that goes on in Fairbanks and get a system view of Alyeska’s operations.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? I really enjoyed the Pump Station 4 legacy project I worked on.  I researched, inventoried, and repackaged four pallet boxes of legacy parts from Pump Station 4. The inventory list I made will be used to determine what parts can be surplused. It was interesting because I got to see a lot of cool parts that have made up the pipeline. It was like getting a mini operations and maintenance history lesson.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? Everyone in Fairbanks has been so friendly and really taken the time to tell me about what they do and what makes Alyeska and the Fairbanks office a great place to work. Because most of my time was spent doing inventory control activities, I’d have to say that Sam Craft, Inventory Controller, and Cheryl Graan,  Inventory Logistics Supervisor, spent the most time with me making sure I knew how to do the job right the first time. As Sam said, “we plan our work, and then work our plan”, that way we know we’ve done the job right.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. I liked that I had an opportunity to see a pump station and go out on the line to collect data with one of the engineers. It was really fun to see what goes on outside the office and gave me a good idea of what positions my role in materials supports.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. I think I most identify with “take a system view” because I have a background in operations and I know how decisions can affect people down the line. When I went back to school to get a bachelor’s degree in business management I felt like I would be more connected with the total operation rather than just one aspect of it to do my own job. I think taking a system view is very important and it’s good to be aware of how people’s jobs interact and how you can make a positive impact on someone else’s job so that everyone is working as one across the state.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? This internship was an amazing opportunity to work for one of the most important companies in the state. With over 90 percent of the state’s income coming from the oil in the pipeline, and declining throughput threatening that income and the integrity of the pipeline, Alyeska has clear challenges ahead to maintain the pipeline and increase throughput. However, Alyeska has risen to meet that challenge and is passing on over 36 years of knowledge and experience to the next generation of Alaskans to continue this legacy through their internship program. My dad helped build the pipeline in the ‘70s and I am proud to say that I was able to be part of carrying on that work. I took this internship very seriously because I know that the livelihood of our state depends on the work Alyeska does every day.  Alyeska is a great company because every employee, whether they are an accountant in Anchorage, a warehouseman in Fairbanks, or a pump station technician on the slope, knows that they contribute to making Alaska a great place to live and work. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I really hope to be back next year!  Thank you!

Ryan Newcomer / Project Quality Assurance Specialist

As part of the Projects Team, I get to see a lot of field action involving the variety of projects across Alyeska. I’ve traveled many areas of the pipeline and I would have to say that I’m continually impressed by the safety culture everywhere, but I have to commend the everyday efforts at Pump Station 1. The culture at this busy site has taken on an everyday habit of performing work in a fashion that ensures the safety of its people and environment.

Every morning starts with a safety meeting that reviews incidents from the Loss Prevention System (LPS), followed by a safety topic. The safety topic allows afterwards for people to take the microphone and speak up of incidents good or bad. It’s evident the high level of experience that is crowded into the dining hall every morning as people share their stories and in a sense provide a lessons learned to everyone. The stories and examples I’ve heard at these meetings can be very moving and are as a constant reminder that there are dangers we’re exposed to everywhere. Furthermore, individuals are commemorated for their quality safety efforts that were noticed as well as anonymous potential safety issues caught by attentive eyes. These morning meetings deliver a steady reminder that the work performed at Alyeska requires a reinforced safety culture, practiced by everyone, to ensure we all go home safely.

Jeri West / CASI Senior Aide, Corp. Comm. & Environment

Bowling for Kids:  Strike! Strike! Strike!  by Jeri West, CASI Senior Aide, Corporate Communications & Environment (in middle of photo).

I recently dusted off my bowling shoes and participated in the Bowl for Kids’ Sake, Big Brothers Big Sister of Alaska signature fundraiser event. Big Brother Big Sister helps to provide mentors to children who need and want a caring role model.

My strike team was made up of Melanie Wagg, Shelly Martin and Jake West (my husband). To see the energy in the bowling alley was amazing - people smiling, cheering, clapping and high-fiving. People came up to our team and thanked us for being a part of the event.

Knowing the money our team raised will help provide mentoring to children made it well worth the time. I believe helping our children will lead to a stronger foundation for our community.

I encourage people to get out in your community and make a difference. Have you ever found yourself saying, I’ve always wanted to volunteer, but I don’t have the time? Or maybe you are already volunteering and don’t realize it. Pick something you are passionate about. For example, I’m passionate about helping our children have a better future, so I pick organizations that help children.

Melanie Wagg, Executive Assistant, had this to say: “It gave me such joy and gratification to know that I was helping contribute to such a valuable cause. I am so thankful that through my company, I am able to participate in this event.”

Melanie Wagg is pictured in the right of the photo, and Alyeska's Shelly Martin, Management Systems Specialist, is to the left.
 

Mark Howdeshell / Maintenance Strategy & Support Supervisor

Mark Howdeshell is the Maintenance Strategy and Support Supervisor assigned to the Pipeline Operations Department in Fairbanks. Howdeshell leads a diverse group of employees who cover a myriad of tasks including planning, scheduling, coordinating, documenting, and reporting the maintenance that takes place on the pipeline from Pump Station 1 to the front gates of the Valdez Marine Terminal. He is also involved with several other specialized tasks such as the Planning/Scheduling and the Vendor Notification Action Teams and the C181 PassPort Replacement Project.

Howdeshell came to Alyeska after a 21-year career in the Army that culminated in 2006 at Fort Wainwright. He spent his entire career in aviation maintenance finishing up as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 Aviation Maintenance Technician. His assignments included stops in Germany, South Korea, Saudi Arabia (Desert Storm), Kuwait (Operation Iraqi Freedom), Kansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and many other destinations. After retirement, Howdeshell led a team of logistician contractors on Fort Wainwright.

When asked what he likes best about working for Alyeska, Howdeshell said, “Much like some of my best units in the Army, Alyeska is a family. I was welcomed with open arms and count it a blessing that I work with some of the most conscientious people who want nothing more than to do the work the right way the first time. We have a bunch of passionate people working this line!”

Mark and his team strive to live up to the company’s cultural attributes. By definition, their role in supporting maintenance on the pipeline lends itself to continually look at everything at a system level. Recognizing how an action at one location may or may not affect other locations is key in the planning process. Additionally, his team is striving to explore avenues in which to continually improve in their processes and the processes within the company.

Mark and his wife Jo moved to Alaska in 1999 with their two children. His son is currently studying aeronautical engineering at Daniel Webster University in New Hampshire and his daughter is a junior at West Valley High School. Howdeshell is also the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fairbanks.

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