It’s often said that behind every great project is a great plan, and that’s never been more true than in Alberta’s oil sands. The planning and implementation of the mega projects underway in Northern Alberta is the key to their success.
No-one knows that better than Robin Parsons, manager of Business Intelligence at Devon Canada in Calgary. Ms. Parsons joined Devon in April and heads up a group responsible for activities such as business planning, competitor intelligence and benchmarking, performance management, and project controls, which includes cost and schedule management.
A commerce undergraduate with an MBA in marketing, Ms. Parsons was attracted to Devon partly because of its reputation as a good employer with a healthy workplace culture and a growing business.
“Those aspects were very appealing to me because I had come from telecommunications (on the wireline side), which is a very mature business, and so it was very attractive to come to a growing business. It’s a very different environment,” says Ms. Parsons.
Kelly Campbell, geophysicist with a master’s degree in sustainable energy development, was attracted to Devon just over a year ago by what she heard from a good friend who works for the company.
Kelly Campbell (Photo: Supplied)
“She was always talking about what a great company it was and how well they treat their employees,” says Ms. Campbell, who now works at Devon as a greenhouse gas emissions specialist. “I definitely found that to be true. From a sector perspective, energy interested me in particular because there are so many opportunities for greenhouse gas reductions and climate change mitigation.”
Ms. Campbell’s role includes developing and implementing a greenhouse gas business plan, looking for business opportunities across the organization, and helping to promote those opportunities and get specific projects implemented.
Based on what they have experienced at Devon, both Ms. Campbell and Ms. Parsons believe oil sands companies are unfairly vilified by their critics and misunderstood by much of the general public.
“What I’ve found is that if the government is very clear about its expectations the industry will step up and meet those expectations,” says Ms. Parsons. “We work very hard and we take that very seriously. I’ve been really impressed seeing from the inside how much time we spend talking about what we call our social license to operate. We commit a considerable amount of time to working with Aboriginal communities, ERCB and DoE dealing with challenges we face, and I see a company that is very committed to addressing the issues.”
Ms. Campbell says before joining Devon, she too harboured some of the misperceptions about the oil sands.
“It’s really hard when you’re looking only at media coverage and reports from various ENGOs to really get the whole picture,” she says. “But now that I’m working in the oil sands I realize how many good things the companies are doing and I’m proud to be working for Devon.”
She believes that the companies really want to improve their environmental performance and are willing to put resources towards it and work with stakeholders to solve challenges.
“I think that the way the oil sands are portrayed internationally and even across Canada is definitely a misrepresentation. There are environmental issues, but companies care about those issues and are doing everything they can to try to mitigate them,” says Ms. Campbell.
Both Ms. Campbell and Ms. Parsons believe the oil sands offers great opportunities to anyone considering a career switch.
Ms. Campbell admits that for her, joining Devon and working in the oil sands was an initial culture shock – but in a good way.
“Devon is such a balanced company. People work hard, but they have a very good work life balance. I also love Alberta; it’s a great place to live. I have friends here that have moved out from Ontario and B.C. and they enjoy it too,” she adds.