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.
Ada Chapman / SR. Business Analyst
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System is often referred to as Alaska’s economic backbone. Behind this iconic infrastructure are employees with stories of why for TAPS. Meet Alyeska employee Ada Chapman, a lifelong Alaskan who began her career on TAPS more than 13 years ago.
Originally from the small village of Tanacross, Chapman began her career hoping to gain more experience in the oil industry. It is because of Alyeska Pipeline’s reputation in safety, excellence and teamwork that she continues to work here, she said.
Chapman was first hired as an accounting associate through the Building Foundations for Excellence Program, a program that provides Alaska Natives with an alternative pathway to enter the TAPS workforce. Today, Chapman is a Senior Business Analyst in the Business & Strategic Planning Team.
“I started as a BFEP and graduated from the program to an Accounting Specialist,” Chapman said. “In 2002, I was relocated to Anchorage, as an accountant, which included a lot of time implementing the Oracle Project Accounting System.”
To Chapman, the most challenging part of her job was the successful implementation of Oracle, due to its complexity and long hours. The most gratifying part of her job: being part of the TAPS workforce.
“Working alongside TAPS employees has been so rewarding,” Chapman said. “I have numerous fond memories on TAPS.”
While working at Alyeska, Chapman has raised her four children and finished her MBA. Outside of work, Chapman volunteers her time on the Finance and Investment Committee for the Doyon Foundation, and the Leadership Committee for the Alaska Native Professional Association. This year, Chapman co-chairs Alyeska’s Corporate Area Safety Team, which promotes “safety and health awareness for all Anchorage-based workers and management.”
For Chapman, working on TAPS means she gets to be a part of the world’s best operated and maintained pipeline.
Chuck Cain / Safety Industrial Hygiene Coordinator
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked for Alyeska for 16 years in several different roles. I continue working here because this is the best working environment I have ever worked in.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I have experienced several different job titles on TAPS but they have always been in the Safety/Industrial Health Department. Changes were made along the way to better suit my career goals.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? TAPS has a definite culture. To me it is more of a feeling than something I can easily describe. As a whole, I think TAPS employees are a rare breed. We are willing to work away from home, for long hours and often in extreme conditions. There is a sense we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The unique qualities of each individual, the camaraderie, and the shared common goals by management and workers help contribute to this culture. How we can best share this culture and pass it on is to provide a good example to others everyday.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I am a safety nerd so my answer is the safety culture. Every part of our business is centered around safety. A specialty contractor recently pulled me aside and shared some interesting information. He indicated he works all around the nation and abroad and often hears other companies talk about safety, “But you guys really mean it.” That says it all.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? An example I would offer is the spill at Pump Station 1 in January of 2011. So many people worked very hard and had one goal in mind: getting TAPS safely running again. While working the spill, I witnessed high-risk work on a daily basis, and not a single injury occurred. I feel that is the TAPS safety culture in action.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? It would be hard to pick one favorite memory. I have to say my favorite memories involve the many people I have met on TAPS. I think everyone would agree that many colorful individuals have passed this way.
Sue Wood / SERVS Compliance Coordinator
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? Following an 11-year mortgage lending career in Anchorage, I moved with my family to Valdez and began taking full-time classes at Prince William Sound Community College. Two years later, I was eager to return to work and had heard that Chugach Alaska was hiring for an administrative position at the Valdez Marine Terminal. I submitted my resume at 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and was called with a job offer at 7:30 a.m. the following Monday. I took that as a good sign, which it was, because I ended up filling two contractor positions over the next two years and was hired by Alyeska in 1996. Alyeska has provided me with a wide range of work experiences and the privilege to work with a lot of smart, fun, and hard-working people.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. There have been too many title changes to list them individually. I’ve held various positions in Maintenance, Human Resources, and at SERVS (the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System). I like learning new things and have a hard time saying no when a need arises.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? Alyeska has had its share of growing pains, but the company has worked hard to establish a culture of open communications and good standards of conduct. It is important that we all embrace these principles and be good role models for our newer employees and contractors.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I like feeling appreciated and having a good rapport with my coworkers and supervisors. Also, the opportunities to develop my skills by performing temporary assignments and cross-training keep the work interesting.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? The SERVS team constantly demonstrates these values during daily operations and shares them with outsiders throughout the year during drills, exercises and fishing vessel training.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I have participated in several teambuilding events over the years. And each one, while being lots of fun, has provided a unique opportunity to better understand my coworkers likes and dislikes, our different communication styles, and the essence of the team’s dynamics. The fact that Alyeska supports these types of activities is another great reason to work here.