Construction management major got intensive education in technical side of oil industry
Jacob Western is a senior majoring in construction management, set to graduate with honors in December. He graduated high school from Jakarta International School in Indonesia after also attending the International School of Beijing in China. He did a summer internship with Shell Oil in Houston. Here he talks about his internship experience:
Getting the job: I found out about the internship by looking around Shell Oil’s website. The application was a long process. It took around six months from when I sent in my application to when I received an offer.
I applied online and then was invited to take two online assessments, a competency-based questionnaire and a cognitive part (decision-making task and problem-solving task). Both assessments were timed to see how well we worked under pressure. If applicants passed the assessments then our application was further reviewed.
I received a phone call a couple of months later about an interview, which took an hour. A couple of weeks later I got an offer to work at one of Shell’s refineries in Houston.
I was required to have a 3.2 GPA, pass a drug test and a background test, and obtain a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) card, which let me work in the refinery.
Besides a shortage of construction management students, I think the company hired me because of my international experience, previous internship experience and volunteer experience.
Job duties: I worked in the turnaround-planning department. A refinery takes crude oil and processes it into products that can be sold. Refineries are made up of different units with different purposes that all contribute to processing the crude. The units can’t run without scheduled maintenance, so that’s where the turnaround department comes in.
Units are taken off operation to do inspections, repairs and upgrades. My role focused on job safety planning, creating a checklist to run a catalyst job from start to finish, scheduling support, and assessing what went well and what didn’t in the maintenance process.
My job duties also involved contributing to sustainability efforts and projects to minimize waste and make continuous improvement.
Toughest challenge: I had four internship projects to complete. Within each project there were multiple stakeholders involved, so scheduling meetings was by far the most difficult thing to do. What made things worse was the meetings had to be rescheduled multiple times, which put me behind on completing my target milestones. Nonetheless, I still received great experience that will help prepare me for the real world.
Best part of job: Besides having the opportunity to work for such a great company, was the way I was treated. Shell provided me with a buddy to help look after me. I had a supervisor who gave me the tools to succeed, and I had a mentor who wanted me to get the most out of my Shell experience.
During my internship Shell treated me like a full-time employee. They valued my opinions and gave me the opportunity to speak at meetings. They gave me real work, which I was able to present at the end of the internship. The company did a good job at making sure the interns had a good time. We went kayaking, went to baseball games and participated in volunteer events.
Lessons learned: Working in the turnaround department at a refinery can be stressful. It’s important to come to work with a positive attitude every day. Most of the employees spend more time at work than they actually do at home with their families, so there is a strong brotherhood between everyone. I benefited by gaining a lot of hands-on and practical experience. I was also able to network with Shell employees from around the world.
Career aspirations: I want to work in construction and engineering after I graduate. Also, I want to continue to travel and work overseas. I plan on eventually getting a masters degree in either engineering or business.
Advice for internship seekers: If you’re struggling to find work experience, start volunteering. Volunteering is a good way to meet new people and get involved in your related industry. Network with as many people as possible. Get a LinkedIn account if you haven’t done so already. Carry copies of your resume in your backpack because you may run into a recruiter. Try to get jobs related to the industry you want to work in when you graduate. You may be able to make decent money waiting tables, however volunteering in your related field or being involved in your school’s programs will take you a lot further down the road.
Joe Kullman, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering