Cindy Keuler / Environment Program Coordinator
When three Alyeska Environment team members submitted an Atigun Award nomination about colleague Cindy Keuler, they didn’t simply provide a laundry list of adjectives. They described Cindy and her work with academic rigor, referencing articles like, "In Search of Excellence," "Some characteristics of high-reliability organizations," and "The Characteristics of High Performance Organizations."
It was a thoughtful approach, and a successful one, too: Cindy is receiving a 2019 Atigun Award for Integrity. But you don't need to cite published journal articles to find phrases of praise for Cindy. Anyone who works with her can quickly sum her work up in simpler, yet equally powerful, terms. Patience and professionalism. Diligence and dependability. Leading by example. And most of all, integrity.
"She is one who makes good on promises and commitments and follows company ethical standards to the letter," the group wrote. "And perhaps the most notable of all of Cindy's qualities is the almost unattainable standard to which she holds herself."
Cindy said there's simply no other way to do things. Her Environment team's work, Alyeska's reputation, the safety of pipeline people and Alaska's environment, and the operations of TAPS – not to mention her own work and reputation – are just too important.
"Reputation and integrity go hand in hand. … Integrity at Alyeska – we do the right thing no matter if it's not the most well-received thing," she said. "Take responsibility, own it, move on. This company stands for something. Our mission statement isn't just words on a dry erase board."
She added, "And I was raised with certain values – integrity, doing the right thing. I'm not 100 percent at it, but it is something I strive for."
When asked how her belief system and work ethic became something she lived and breathed, Cindy noted the example of family. Both of Cindy's parents set high standards for her and her siblings; top among them were honesty and integrity. She wishes her mom was alive to celebrate this recognition with her. "I think she would be proud," Cindy said.
While perfection is elusive, the importance, sensitivity, visibility and pressure of Cindy's work reflects, and even demands, the highest standards.
Jim Lawlor, Environment Coordinator Supervisor, wrote, "No single position at Alyeska has more routine contact with regulatory agencies than Cindy, who serves as the spill reporting coordinator for Alyeska."
While her Environment Program Coordinator role covers a wide range of task bullets that support and elevate her teammates, of highest importance is her administration of Alyeska's Spill Compliance Reporting System and the Environment Team's Environmental Management System.
"The primary focus of my job is spill reporting, internally and externally – if there's a drop of product to water we have to report it, these are the standards we are held to by the Grant and Lease and we live up to them," she said. "We've had some unfortunate events over the years, but we learned from them, don't repeat them, and try our best to prevent them. If you look at API's spill reporting from pipelines across the country you will see that Alyeska's is one of the best in the country. That alone says we are doing things right on TAPS."
Cindy arrived at Alyeska in 2000 after 17 years of working a variety of positions on the North Slope – from office administration to accounting manager to scheduler. She made the most of that time, having fun with fellow workers and gaining insights on Alaska's oil and gas industry and TAPS.
"For some people on the Slope, it would get humdrum, they'd complain and I'd think, 'You spend half your life up here, if you don't want to do it, leave,'" she said. "One day, I found myself feeling the same way."
So she quit, gave herself a six-month break, then dove back into the working world, landing at Alyeska in a pivotal role on a massive project: coordinator on the Right of Way Renewal Project team, charged with helping to write the Environmental Impact Statement. She made a good impression and stuck around, landing in Environment.
"It was a natural fit"” she said.
And after nearly 20 years at Alyeska, does she ever get that humdrum sensation?
"I have yet to feel that way here," she said, smiling. "I love the work and my team. The work that we do makes a difference and I am very proud of that. They're some of the most dedicated and best people I've have ever worked with and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this team and Alyeska. I appreciate what this company does for me, for our communities and our state."
Of receiving the Atigun recognition, Cindy said, "I'm very surprised; it's really cool and a little uncomfortable because I'm not used to being in the spotlight. And the most touching for me is who nominated me: three people from my team who I have absolute respect for. Truly, all of it comes back to the Environment team. I'm simply trying to emulate the people from my team."
Melody Shangin / Electrical Engineer
Meet Alyeska's rockstar electrical engineer Melody Shangin. NBC News Learn recently spotlighted Melody and her work to inspire America's -- and Alaska's -- future engineers! Visit www.nbclearn.com/engineering/cuecard/117615 to hear her story and tour TAPS with her.
Janine Boyette / Response & Remediation SME
Reva Paulsen / Assistant Chief of Staff
Dave Heimke / Director of Engineering
Betsy Haines / Vice President, Risk & Technical Support Division
Melanie Myles / Director of Oil Movements
Don Duke / Maintenance technician, North Pole Metering Station
For Don Duke, 40-plus years of working on TAPS feels like a blur.
"I sit back now and realize how fast the past 40-plus years have gone," said Duke, a maintenance technician at North Pole Metering Station. "At one time, I was the youngest technician at Pump Station 8. Now, I certainly am not the oldest on TAPS, but I'm definitely well-seasoned."
He's held numerous positions in many places and worked alongside hundreds of pipeline people, from those who started oil moving down TAPS to those handling the demands of 2.1 million barrels a day to lifelong mentors, new friends and even his son, Donny. He's been part of countless TAPS milestones and notable moments, from "standing 20 yards away from the pump building at Pump Station 8 when it exploded on July 8, 1977" to representing Alyeska at the Smithsonian Institute's opening of a TAPS exhibit in Washington, D.C., in 1997.
In this, his 41st year at Alyeska, Duke is being recognized with the 2017 Atigun Award for Lifetime Achievement, an honor that the humble man admits is special.
Most days over those many years, Duke says he has learned something new, faced invigorating challenges, worked with someone smart and interesting, and felt pride in being a part of Alyeska, the Alaska-based company that operates TAPS. He's spent the majority of his adult life working for the organization.
Earlier this year, Duke was asked how he preferred to have his name printed on the Atigun Award.
"After a little thought, my response was 'Just another Alyeska employee striving to do the right thing every day,'" he said. "That is truly how I feel. I am afforded this award only because of the many people who have supported my job in many capacities over the years, and to that I respectfully say, 'Thank you.'"
He added, "And I accept this especially on behalf of all the field employees who operate and maintain TAPS 24 hours a day, every day."
While others appreciate Duke's modesty – it's an omnipresent trait – they also say they can't think of anyone more worthy of this recognition.
His supervisor, Carol Adamczak of the Fairbanks Shops Team, nominated Duke for the award and wrote, "Don Duke is the single best example of a TAPS employee that goes the extra mile. Don is the consummate example of integrity … is known for his thoroughness and attention to detail. … (He) sets his standards high and leads by example.”
Another nominator, Oil Measurements Manager Scott Iverslie, added, "Don is an excellent example of an individual with high personal standards who is self-motivated and exhibits the ideal behaviors of Alyeska Pipeline's Cultural Attributes."
Duke's son and coworker, Donny, added, "He has truly epitomized what it means to be an exemplary TAPS employee. He has been a shining example of ownership, integrity, selflessness and humility on the job, and in every other facet of his life."
Duke's sense of ownership in his work, company and pipeline runs deep. He literally grew up with TAPS and Alyeska. His military family moved to Alaska in 1973. He graduated from Eielson High School three years later. After a summer stint working as a track laborer on the Alaska Railroad in '76, he hired on with Alyeska, a few months before pipeline startup.
Duke first served as a mail handler at the pipeline's busy Ft. Wainwright office, then in warehouseman positions in Fairbanks and at PS8. He advanced to an operations technician position at PS8 and then, in June 1993, moved to North Pole Metering (NPM) Station. He's been there ever since.
"From janitor to manager," he joked of his responsibilities at NPM. In reality, his week-on shifts are filled with reviewing metering data, ensuring the facility's planned and unplanned maintenance is on track, quality bank sampling/maintenance, checking meter performance and coordinating with a nearby refinery, along with countless onsite projects.
"You can make your day what you want," he said, "but there is never a lack of something to do."
He added that there's also the occasional surprise. Some of which, he joked, have "caused early gray hair."
"Part of the job is knowing that you can be called on any time day or night to troubleshoot a problem," he said. "Unless you have been in that position a few times it is hard to explain. Generally most problems can be resolved and then there is a sense of pride that comes with doing what we’re paid to do."
Sure, there are many business-as-usual days, but Duke has also been in the middle of many extraordinary moments. TAPS startup in June 1977. Operating a vac truck all night following the Steele Creek sabotage spill in 1978. Being part of what he calls "the best crew ever on the pipeline" at PS8 in the late '80s when more than 2 million barrels a day raced down the line while the station’s topping unit produced more than 3600 BPD of turbine fuel. Commissioning the new NPM facility to accommodate refiners in 1998. Accepting Alyeska's sixth-consecutive World's Most Ethical Company Award honor in New York City earlier this year.
"Over the long haul, we will all have good days and bad, but Alyeska has been a great place to work," he said. "I have grown up and matured around Alyeska but Alyeska has also grown up and matured around me."
Despite his years of different positions and demands, as well as the evolution of TAPS, Alyeska and the company’s culture, Duke is known by many as a model of consistency, patience, responsibility and safety. Adamczak added that he has "a stellar safety record and is a great influence on anyone who works with him."
While Duke's commitment to his work is evident, he said his deepest passions are his faith and family. He married his high school sweetheart, Dee Dee, in 1981. They had two sons, Donny and Dustin, both college grads. And in April, Duke became a grandpa. He beamed while carrying and introducing his infant granddaughter, Everly Monroe Duke, to coworkers and friends during June's TAPS 40th anniversary event in Fox.
"My father's dedication to Alyeska is surpassed only by his dedication to his faith and family," said Donny.
Duke said he's extremely proud of his sons and noted how special it has been to have Donny work on TAPS. After a college career studying biology and chemistry, Donny spent years working at the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole, just down the line from his dad. When Flint Hills shut down, he landed a lab technician job for Alyeska in Valdez, where he works today.
"There has been no greater honor in my life than to follow in his footsteps and have the privilege to call him my dad," Donny said. "He is an impossible act to follow. If I can merely be half the technician, and father, that my dad has been, I will consider my personal and professional life to be an overwhelming success."
A lifetime of faith, family and friends in Alaska. Forty-plus years of TAPS work, memories, experiences and connections. For Duke, the key to successful longevity is hard work, humility and humor, working in the present with a view to the future, and pride in the people he works with and the company he works for.
"If I'm gonna work, I can't think of too many other places I'd rather work," Duke said. "Well, maybe playing third base for the St. Louis Cardinals."
Geneva Walters / Development Manager
TAPS nostalgia is everywhere these days. The 40th anniversary of TAPS operations arrived on June 20 and everyone is telling a TAPS tale: pipeline people far and wide, current and former TAPS workers, families and friends who grew up here or have never stepped foot in Alaska, media members and politicians in our state and beyond.
Geneva Walters has one heck of a TAPS story – she's held numerous roles at Alyeska for the better part of 20 years and her family's TAPS connection dates back to the pipeline's construction era. While she can certainly reminisce with the best of them, her position as Development Manager is focused on the future of TAPS and Alyeska.
"It's really impactful to think about 40 years, but how do we pay that forward?" she explained. "I'm working on the future 40. And it's both humbling and exciting to be given that responsibility."
For her years of diverse work, pipeline pride and ambitious vision for guiding the company and pipeline toward a sustainable future, Walters is being recognized with a 2017 Atigun Award for Professional of the Year.
"When you talk about someone who gives 110 percent, that's Geneva," said Susan Parkes, Alyeska General Council, Vice President, and one of Walters' mentors. "For her, the work isn't just a job or a paycheck. It's personal. She's a great example of TAPS pride – she has personal pride in her work and she also wants to make this company a better place."
Walters and her Technical Development Program team have created a comprehensive technician progression program and more than 160 training programs to educate and inspire hundreds of Alyeska staff and TAPS contractors. (That includes the popular "Roadwise" online training.) The programs range from one-hour online courses to classroom curriculums. Walters said her team has nearly 90 new trainings "in the oven," as well.
The group also has revamped how trainings are delivered, tapping the talents and institutional knowledge of Alyeska's workforce to teach new employees. This has been especially critical at pump stations and the Valdez Marine Terminal, where working relationships are close, pressure is high, instruments are complex and there is a balance of longtime employees and new hires.
"It's about taking ownership and having a commitment to make sure everyone knows what they need to know to be successful," she said. "It's happened from Pump Station 1 to Valdez, but a great example is Power Vapor where there's been a complete overhaul of the training. Now techs help design and deliver the training. It's impressive to see their depth of knowledge and willingness to transfer that knowledge."
Walters and her team are now reimagining the way all Alyeska staff are welcomed and trained, from new hires on day one to 40-year veterans, people just starting their careers to company leaders.
"We've set a bold vision to create formal training requirements for every critical system on TAPS,"Walters said. "This applies to everyone and it starts with onboarding. This is a special place and from the start, you're part of the family. We want them walking away on day one with that feeling."
Parkes added, "She's a real change agent. She isn't afraid to put ideas out there that might force people to think beyond the confines of how we’ve always done things."
As a young girl, Walters would ride her bike through East Anchorage to Alyeska's bustling Bragaw offices, where she would visit her father, Donnis Walters. It was the '70s, the TAPS construction era, and her father was using his math skills to help the engineering team calculate placements of the new pipeline’s vertical support members.
"The pipeline was a big part of our life – he was always telling stories," Walters said. "He loves the people he worked with and has lasting friendships. I go in the field and they always ask about my dad."
In 1991, Walters would once again have the opportunity to visit her dad on the job. He had become a TAPS operator who spent more than 15 years working at Pump Stations 1, 6 and 10. She was an Alyeska summer hire on her way to college in Oregon and thrilled with the opportunity.
"The first year, I ended up at Pump Station 10 and did my share of sweeping and mopping," she said. "But they also took me around and made me part of the work there. I'm grateful for that. And I still work with some of them."
Each summer home from college, Walters worked for Alyeska.
"I worked as a secretary for Engineering, in the mailroom and on projects," she said. "I took whatever they would give me!"
The English major's enthusiasm, hard work and wits eventually helped her get hired full-time. She's worked in preventive maintenance, system renewal, strategic reconfiguration and training, and at pump stations, in Fairbanks and in Anchorage, where she's currently based.
She left Alyeska for around six years, traveling the country for a variety of communications and safety jobs, including working on recovery efforts in the City of New Orleans following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"But I always kept tabs on Alyeska," she said. "It's a special, special place. If you've only worked here, you might not recognize that. But none of those other positions matched Alyeska."
Walters returned as a Technical Development Manager. She missed the people and company culture, of course, but really missed the field. She remains especially fond of Pump Station 10, where she got her start.
"I really love showing people our pipeline," she said. That's something she does often – part of the new technician training includes giving TAPS tours.
As Alyeska moves into its next 40 years of TAPS operations, Walters wants to provide that same level of support, understanding and excitement for employees in all corners of the company. The company shares that enthusiasm.
"We are really excited about her team taking their successes from the technician training to our onboarding process and leadership training," said Parkes. "She has made some pretty bold suggestions and we know that she will put her heart and soul into it."
Walters expanded, adding, "My first day in this job, I thought 'How do you know? How do you know if someone is properly trained and qualified?' That was a touchstone for me. … We took lessons learned for training technicians and that led to, How do we develop all of our employees? How do we measure that? How can you demonstrate your knowledge and competency within your department?"
That's a lot of questions and there are always countless unknowns in Alyeska's complicated work. But Walters said that she and her team are confident, excited and prepared to guide the company into a sustainable future.
"To do my job well, I need to know a little about a lot," she said with a smile. "And when I've asked to learn something, no one has ever said no. The TAPS family has invested in me and been so gracious and generous with their time. I'm a product of their investment."
Rachel Baker-Sears / Projects Compliance and Admin Lead
The quest for continuous improvement can be arduous. For Rachel Baker-Sears, the journey holds constant immersion in safety, compliance and risk, and an endless search for savings and efficiencies. She must be a teammate and a leader, a facilitator and a solo act. She has to initiate and inspire, collaborate and compromise. Her efforts and communication need to touch practically all levels and locations of Alyeska and TAPS.
Yeah, it's busy and complicated, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's challenging work but I love it," said Baker-Sears, the Projects team's Compliance and Admin Lead who will reach her 20-year anniversary at Alyeska in June. "It's very motivating to come to work and know that I have these challenges in front of me and that I can influence change. And it's gratifying to see the results of that."
Others say that it is equally rewarding to work with Baker-Sears, who is receiving the 2017 Atigun Award for Integrity. The award recognizes her commitment to the highest ethical standards and achievements in meeting commitments to protect the operating integrity of TAPS and the integrity of Alyeska business practices.
"Rachel is the embodiment of integrity through her words and actions," said Julia Redington, Alyeska's Director of Project & Project Controls. "Rachel is incredibly hard working and a conscientious leader that consistently delivers above expectations. I maintain tremendous respect and appreciation for Rachel and the Atigun Integrity Award could not go to a more deserving person."
Redington and others who know Baker-Sears will tell you that she doesn't drop the ball, miss a deadline or overlook a detail.
"She is an amazing person to have on our team," added Redington. "She always takes time to share her knowledge and develop understanding on different project processes throughout our team as well as across TAPS."
Baker-Sears, based in Fairbanks, doesn't back down from a challenge or an opportunity to improve her work, her team's work, her department's work and Alyeska's work. It's fitting that she leads the AMS-003 Continuous Improvement Team, which ensures that Alyeska project management practices, procedures and tools are effective and efficient.
Redington added, "She has passion around continuous improvement."
Baker-Sears started making a difference, and learning the complexities of TAPS work, shortly after arriving at Alyeska. She helped centralize the reporting and tracking of the organization's commitments.
"The previous lack of consistency and visibility caused serious integrity related issues, such as duplication of effort, missed deadlines and commitment gaps," she explained. "The team I worked with was able to identify and consolidate the commitments company-wide so they could be effectively assigned, prioritized, and tracked using a central system."
When Baker-Sears moved to Projects in 2006, she noticed that different projects used different formats for safe project procedures. She developed uniform guides and templates for working procedures that improved efficiency and safety. Today, she regularly reviews different types of project procedures and work practices so that "they make sense, are organized, easy to follow, clear and concise."
"I really enjoy helping people get their job done more efficiently," she said. "My role places me in a position where I can influence changes to our processes and tools to make them more streamlined and fit-for-purpose, and that they help ensure compliance of our work."
Organization is key. She starts Mondays going through the week’s schedule, noting deadlines, meetings and goals. She then looks beyond at the month's deliverables and goals. That commitment to organization is mirrored by her team of project coordinators, who support Alyeska’s diverse projects work and teams.
Baker-Sears said she also recognizes that to be effective in her wide-ranging work, she must be a trusted partner.
"Communication is critical – I have to work with a variety of people and personalities to help motivate the team collaboration needed to accomplish mutual goals," she said. "Your interactions with people come down to how much they trust what you're saying, your integrity and being able to convey that in a way that they are open to. This helps me understand different viewpoints and I’m able to see the bigger picture."
For that vision, the focus of the Atigun Award spotlight is now on her.
"I take a tremendous amount of pride in my work at Alyeska and it is a huge honor to receive this recognition," she said. "But it caught me off-guard. I just try to do the best job that I can. I had no idea that people were paying attention to that. … Those people are the reason I’m still here. I work with a lot of talented people. The people here inspire me to do the best work I can."