Integrity: Joey Selby
Earlier this year, Joey Selby, Operations Control Center Manager, received an invite to a Teams meeting from Alyeska General Council and Vice President Greg Youngmun. Joey smiled in anticipation as he jumped on the meeting; it was Atigun Awards season at Alyeska when the company’s top work and professionals are honored. Joey expected to hear that his nomination for OCC member Yoshi Okamoto’s LAVA tool work had earned Yoshi high honors.
He wasn’t wrong: Yoshi won an Innovation Honorable Mention for his work. But that wasn’t why Greg was calling.
Greg announced that Joey had won the 2023 Atigun Award for Integrity. And Joey wasn’t nominated by someone. He was nominated by everyone: every employee at the Operations Control Center signed off on Joey’s nomination.
“I was very humbled, extremely humbled,” Joey recalled. “It takes a selfless person to go out of their way to recognize someone else. To be nominated by my coworkers for things they actively contribute towards was just extremely humbling and I felt extremely grateful. I know how busy the people who nominated me are. I’m part of the reason they’re so busy! For your family of friends to take the time at work to recognize you, I thought it was just way more than I deserved, and I was grateful.”
Controllers Michael Sims and Nick Branche volunteered to lead the nomination effort. Michael said that Joey’s personal integrity and his championing of OCC’s team, its values, and his tangible influence on their success made the Atigun for integrity an ideal fit.
“Each one of us probably has our own reasons for nominating him, and I know my reason,” Michael said. “The shift in culture at OCC is a notable shift, something I can quantify, and it’s really attributed to the tremendous effort Joey has put into nurturing everyone here at OCC.”
The OCC is the nucleus of the pipeline, a tight-knit group that spends long hours together, sometimes during the most stressful of operating situations, such as planned or unplanned shutdowns and other significant project and maintenance work. Joey has led the crew there for three years. Because the OCC’s success and cohesiveness are critical to the success of TAPS on any given day, at any given moment, operational excellence is always in focus.
“When it comes to operational excellence, we feel like there are two schools of thought,” Joey said. “You can focus on the end product, hammer the procedures, focus on your processes. But what we decided to do right from the start was focus on culture. We felt like if we built the right culture, then operational excellence would naturally flow from it.”
In his earliest days at OCC, Joey gathered employees to talk about their shared values: “We took a hard look at who we were and as a team we picked a couple areas to focus on. We turned that into the OCC Compass.”
Today the OCC Compass is a set of four behaviors that the team strives to uphold. They are behaviors that Joey leads by example, his team said.
One of the four Compass elements is “Never Stop Learning.” That means not penalizing people for mistakes, something Joey holds dear.
“If you punish people for making mistakes while they’re getting work done, they very quickly become work adverse,” he said. “We want them to feel comfortable taking ownership for it. Then we can share the learning around the entire control room. We can understand exactly what went wrong and learn from that incident and use it moving forward.”
Added Nick: “Everybody makes mistakes here and you know your team has your back. It’s not, ‘Why did you do this?’ but, ‘How do we improve for the next time?’ If we question what’s going on, Joey is the first one to say he dropped the ball. He has a lot of personal integrity. He walks the walk.”
The other OCC Compass elements that Joey helped the team develop are “Take Ownership,” “Build Each Other Up,” and “Be the Calm in the Storm.” The team framed these values as complementing Alyeska’s already existing cultural attributes.
“The reason it gained any shred of success was that the people here chose to live it and the leaders chose to model it,” Joey said. “I give so much credit to Jesse (White) and Ted (Sontag), the two supervisors who have direct line of site on the controllers, because if they didn’t buy in or model the behavior, all this would fall flat on its face.”
“Take Ownership” is about the OCC feeling ownership of all parts of TAPS. “Build Each Other Up” follows the belief that the OCC team will be most successful when they care about each other.
“It’s so easy to feel lonely in the horseshoe,” Joey said, referring the control room’s configuration, “and to feel like the entire weight of the pipeline rests on your shoulders. But we tell them, ‘You are surrounded by an army of nerds and we are completely at your disposal.’”
“Be the Calm in the Storm” is deeply personal to those who’ve worked at OCC. Years back, Joey said, anxiety and negative energy could build when unexpected things occurred.
“Now when things go wrong, the pulse in the control room actually drops,” Joey said. “It goes quiet. We’re working on an 800-mile pipeline. Not everything will go exactly as planned. And when things don’t go exactly as planned, you only have a finite amount of energy to dedicate to the solution. We want to waste none of that on anxiety, fear – we want all of that energy to focus on finding the solution.”
The nominating team noted this positive change in OCC culture was not by chance, that “nurturing a positive culture within an organizational group requires continuous effort and refinement. … Since becoming OCC Manager, Joey’s relentless commitment to build up the OCC team by promoting a positive culture is widely recognized throughout the company as the gold star standard for others to follow.”
The OCC Compass is now part of the team’s working lexicon.
“Even at the latest leads meetings, and amongst the larger group at OCC, we always talk about how we can improve upon the OCC Compass,” Michael said. “It’s a constant process, maintaining the positive culture.”
Joey gives credit back to the team – their professionalism, their commitment and confidence, to the special skill sets and personalities at the OCC. He has fostered a workspace where skills can be taught and they seek out those whose temperament and values align.
“We can teach someone hydraulics,” Joey said. “It’s much tougher to be selfless, to go out of their way to assist their teammates. So while we do have minimum requirements we look for, we’re not just chasing that experience, that direct pipeline knowledge. We’re searching for people who fit our value set.”
Joey has also proved attentive to existing and longtime controllers, Michael said. “He’s recognized people’s strengths and weaknesses, rearranged our duties to make sure that an individual is best suited in a particular role.”
The team also credits Joey’s advocacy for their staffing and technology needs, his welcoming nature when others want to tour and visit OCC, and his attention to team-building. Fridays are Hawaiian shirt day at the OCC, and when a staffer welcomes a new baby into their family, Joey gifts them with a tiny tropical shirt with “OCC Junior Controller” embroidered on it.
“His caring for the team here goes beyond the people here at work,” Michael said. “It extends to your family. We recently had a family day here. I was on vacation and missed the opportunity to bring my son in to OCC so I got to bring him in another day and he loved that. Joey had written my son a personal note and a card. It was very touching. I went home and turned around and had my son write a card back to Joey.”
Joey started at Alyeska in 2004 as a lab technician on the Valdez Marine Terminal. He enjoys the OCC because of its amazing team, and their incredibly unique and important work.
“It’s a playground for nerds, right?” Joey laughed. “I have not even come close to bored ever since I heard the three letters O-C-C uttered. Because it’s so system-wide and it’s such a complex system, OCC tends to attract these wonderful mentors who are very free with their time. We’ve got some incredible automation engineers and SCADA analysts and these awesome controllers. I learn every day, there’s something new every day, and it’s always a challenge.”