Jerry DeHaas / Senior Discipline Engineering Advisor
The work of a mechanical engineer is complex, but Jerry DeHaas said that success comes in simplifying even the most complicated challenges.
"I just try to make my job, and everyone else's job, as easy as possible,” DeHaas said. “You don’t want to get to the solution before you get to the problem and understand the process. It's easy to try to jump to the solution, especially as you get older and have some experience. But it's always best to stand back at ground level and do some problem analysis. If you do that and do it right, things should turn out fairly well."
Recognized for his organization, teamwork and exceptional-yet-easygoing approach to work of all difficulty levels, DeHaas was named a recipient of a 2015 Atigun Award for Professional of the Year.
A Senior Discipline Engineering Advisor based out of Fairbanks, DeHaas laughs when he describes himself as "just a mechanical engineer working from one end of the pipeline to the other." In actuality, he's a 15-year Alyeska veteran who spends most of his time maintaining and replacing some of TAPS's most intricate and essential equipment. A specific focus of his work are the Siemens turbine power generator and pump packages at Pump Stations 3 and 4, which he helped install from 2007 to 2009.
"I've done piping vibration work, pump compression work and facing various technical challenges that are all part of engineering," DeHaas said. "The Siemens part of it has been the most involved and challenging. But we're all different. Some people like working on washing machines. I like working on turbines."
So much so, DeHaas has streamlined the demanding turbine change-out process along TAPS so that it's amazingly orchestrated and efficient, which was noted by the six TAPS employees who separately nominated him for an Atigun Teamwork Award.
"A turbine change-out is fairly intense, there are a few people involved, TAPS is somewhat vulnerable at that time, and you try to get the work done as quickly as you can," DeHaas said. "I watch to see where we can make improvements and I talk to everybody. Because of that, we have been able to continually upgrade our change-out kits with tools and aids so we are fully prepared and ready to go. From the first turbine to the present day, we do a change-out in a third of the time or less. It's a really big improvement and we're all satisfied with the results."
That's because even when faced with the most difficult work, DeHaas falls back on his mantra of keeping things simple.
"The most basic and best thing you can do is always remember to start out with a problem statement," he said. "Define the problem you're dealing with, then deal with it in a logical way. You have to go through a process to try and come to some kind of conclusion and solution to the problem."
DeHaas said that constant problem solving on the job keeps him professionally stimulated and satisfied, but adds that it's TAPS and the fellowship among the people he works with along the line that make his career special. He said that many TAPS people reached out to him when he had a health issue a few years ago. He also said he feels most comfortable when he's out in the field.
"There's something a little deeper than a normal work environment on TAPS," DeHaas said. "I've driven the line I don't know how many times from one end to the other, and I still don't get tired of it. And I get to work with so many different people, technicians and engineers, and I've enjoyed all of that. There is a certain amount of respect, camaraderie and wishing the best for your fellow person here that repeatedly shows up."
Kim Kortenhof / Senior Pipeline Compliance Coordinator
If you ask Kim Kortenhof what qualities help her thrive as a Senior Pipeline Compliance Coordinator, she immediately points to the qualities of others.
"If I'm successful, it's because I've had some really good role models and opportunities to see how other people manage their work," Kortenhof said. "It's fascinating to watch the interactions they have and the strategic and tactical ways they approach their work. I have had great teachers and managers. And it's funny, but when faced with difficult decisions, I sometimes ask myself what they would do in the same situation."
By observing and emulating great leaders, Kortenhof has become one herself. For that, she earned a 2015 Atigun Award for Professional of the Year. The Professional of the Year Awards are selected by Alyeska President Thomas Barrett.
A unique career path has allowed Kortenhof to work in many positions and with numerous TAPS staff and programs, all while gaining a wide-ranging perspective on the business of TAPS. Based in Fairbanks, she began working with Alyeska in 2001 as a contracted technical writer, a position she held for more than five years. Since then, she joked, "My job description changes every year." She became an Alyeska direct hire in 2010.
"The advantage of being a technical writer here was that I worked in a lot of areas and it gave me a good, broad introduction early on," Kortenhof said. "It helped me understand who does what in this company. So now when I need to figure out who to talk to about a job, my work is so much easier."
Kortenhof's current daily work also varies. As part of Alyeska's newly formed Contingency Response Planning Department, she oversees the Pipeline Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan. The job requires coordination and integration with many departments along TAPS.
"It's a challenge, but what keeps it interesting is that this job is not just process and what you know, but it's also a balance of preparedness and response," she said. "I like process, how to put things together, how to make things better. We are always trying to push what we can automate. And I like it when your work forces you to innovate."
Kortenhof said she is equally inspired by TAPS leaders, as well as staff working on TAPS and in Alyeska's offices across the state.
"The cool thing about working here is that you're working with experts who are the best in the world at what they do," she said. "People can talk a good story, but when they do good work they're not just talking the talk, they're getting the work done professionally and accurately."
That approach to exceptional work falls into the essential leadership qualities that Kortenhof said she has adopted from others.
"It's the idea of always being professional, treating people with respect, staying calm even when a lot of things are going on around you, and just rolling with the punches and getting things done," Kortenhof said. "It helps to be highly organized, too. We are always preparing for emergencies while still doing our regular jobs."
Kortenhof said that working at Alyeska and on TAPS is also special, and that’s what keeps her here, constantly growing, learning and leading.
"I do feel ownership in this company and in the pipeline, and I think everybody here feels ownership in it," she said. "If something isn't working, you take it personally. You also feel a responsibility to look out for others and pass along lessons. I don't think anyone goes into this work and thinks it's just business. It’s a lifestyle."
Julia Redington / Area Project Manager
The word integrity carries many powerful meanings around TAPS. Reliability. Flawless operations. Excellence. Risk management. Honesty. Teamwork.
Those who work with Alyeska Area Project Manager Julia Redington say that she demonstrates all of those qualities. For that, Redington received a 2015 Atigun Award for Integrity.
Redington has her own take on the meaning of integrity.
"I view integrity as being honest and respectful, trying to do the right thing, and empowering people to do the right thing," she said.
Redington said that approaching work with that kind of system view has helped her succeed in the ever-changing, always-challenging world of project management.
Since joining Alyeska's Projects team in 2001, Redington has been in the middle of some of the most unique, complex, high-profile and urgent projects on TAPS. Just a few months into her new job at Alyeska, Redington was part of the initial bridge assessment team following the magnitude 7.9 earthquake at Milepost 588 in 2002. She continued on as part of the project team that reset the Denali Fault back to the original design basis. She said that while the fault line experienced a lateral shift of more than 15 feet during the earthquake, TAPS performed as intended.
"The engineering of this pipeline is so impressive – they figured all of this out in the '60s and '70s!" Redington said. "I was impressed to see it work the way it was designed."
In 2012, Redington led what was the first of many successful mainline bypass projects at pump stations, something that hadn't been attempted since the 1990s. She is always busy, traveling TAPS, juggling projects and contributing to others' work. She was even nominated with multiple groups for different 2015 Atigun Awards.
"My favorite part of my work is the continuing challenges we face on TAPS and figuring out how to do things better," she said. "This job keeps you engaged. There's always such a variety of scopes within the projects we are doing."
Like integrity, variety is also a common theme in Redington’s career and her path to Alyeska. She grew up in Chugiak, a math lover whose father and uncle were both engineers. For college, she attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and earned a civil engineering degree. In something of a circular path, during college she interned with the Anchorage School District's projects team, then graduated and worked as a project manager at UAF.
As a UAF alum, Redington's role in improving the university's infrastructure held special meaning. But she was also looking for bigger projects and challenges. When her brother, Dan Flodin, a longtime Alyeska employee and current Supply Chain Management Director, told her about an opening in Alyeska's projects group in Fairbanks, she jumped at the chance. (Their brother, Ron Flodin, is an Alyeska construction manager at Pump Station 1.)
"He told me I should apply and I did," Redington said with a smile. "The pipeline always fascinated me; I was very interested in TAPS. When the opportunity came up, I wanted to see if I could become part of this team."
She landed the gig and was based out of Fairbanks for about five years, then transitioned to Alyeska’s Anchorage offices. Along the way, she earned her Professional Engineering license and developed a deep understanding of TAPS and love for her work.
"On TAPS, the work is always challenging and the people are amazing," she said. "Alyeska is just a fantastic place to work. Here, you have the ability to think outside the box or listen to others who are thinking outside the box. You have the chance to get a great team together, get support, and understand and solve the problem. It's rewarding when it all comes together."
Bill Frichtl / Electrical Engineer, retired
Reflecting on his Alyeska career, recent retiree Bill Frichtl said, "38 years is a long time, but it went quick." Time certainly flew for Frichtl, an electrical engineer who often found himself amid of some of the most significant projects, changes and milestones in TAPS history.
Frichtl was there during construction and countless upgrades. He was there during peak throughput and high-profile emergencies. He was there for fax machines and computers. And he stayed for nearly 40 years because of the people, the work, the company culture and TAPS.
"The pipeline was my life and I enjoyed it," Frichtl said, smiling. "Simply put, it's been good. I wish I could have lasted a few more years. I'd do it again."
For his legacy of extraordinary dedication, excellent work and sharing his institutional knowledge with generations of TAPS workers, Frichtl was presented a 2015 Alyeska Atigun Award for Lifetime Achievement. Frichtl retired from Alyeska and his Senior Discipline Engineering Advisor position in November 2014.
To say that Frichtl has seen it all on TAPS isn't exactly accurate, but he has undoubtedly seen and experienced more than most in the TAPS workforce. His eyes were opened wide upon his arrival in Alaska in February 1976. He was a young electrical engineer from the Midwest suddenly charged with helping oversee the simultaneous construction of new pump stations along the 800-mile corridor that would contain TAPS.
"I was certainly amazed coming from Illinois' flat country to seeing Alaska's majestic mountains and big skies," he said. "It was memorable."
So was the work. Frichtl was based out of Fairbanks, but rarely there. He juggled multiple projects and teams with basic equipment and tools, and archaic communication devices. He traveled the line constantly to check in on the worksites, which isn't as glamourous as it sounds. The roads were rough and narrow, and the helicopter and plane rides were, in his words, scary. He still gets chills talking about an emergency helicopter landing that came shortly after leaving Pump Station 4 and traveling over Atigun Pass on a foggy day.
Frichtl was excited to be part of building TAPS, a project of enormous magnitude and importance. He said he was always learning new things, especially from mechanical engineer Joe Willing, who he called Uncle Joe, and fellow engineer Paul Klueber, who was also helping build pump stations.
"It was all new to me – it was fun, but it was work," Frichtl said. "There was so much work to do, so many people and companies, so many shops. People were pretty much standing on top of each other working, especially when it came to startup. But being there early on and during startup was the best experience one could have."
Like everyone, Frichtl celebrated the end of construction. He also knew that his journey, like that of TAPS, was just beginning.
After startup, he relocated to Alyeska's Anchorage office, where he worked out of the Operations group. The team relentlessly sought system improvements and innovation. Work on TAPS "was never normal," Frichtl said, and he spent weeks in the field on massive mechanical and technological upgrades.
Hard work is in Frichtl’s blood. He grew up on a farm in Southeast Illinois, the seventh in a family of 10 children. As an adult, he was so committed to his work he rarely took vacations. When he did, he was notorious for coming into the office occasionally to check in on projects anyway.
"I didn't feel like I needed time away from my work, at least not early on," he said. "I got into the system very deeply, intimately. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities and work environment. And since I was involved with all the changes and upgrades, I wanted to be at the sites taking the extra steps to help people learn."
Among his favorite work moments, he said TAPS startup was momentous, and that two others stand out.
The startup of all of TAPS' 62 remote gate valves (RGVs) was a special highlight. "If anything, I have a soft spot for the RGVs – they are out of sight, out of mind, but they play a big role in the safe operations of the pipeline," he said. "They have to operational, and they need tender loving care."
And then there was the stretch in the late '80s when TAPS was transporting oil at unexpected highs and efficiency: "We were moving 2.1 million barrels a day for a month – now that was exciting," he said. "The orders from up high were, 'Don't shut down.' We used DRA (drag reducing agent) to pump beyond the mechanical horsepower. And I was involved in designing the DRA injection systems."
When asked the secret to his longevity, Frichtl quickly answered, "I never became a supervisor. I had a strong desire not to work as a supervisor. I know my limitations and it paid off. … The other thing that is a special case to my longevity is my willingness to work. I did not have a close supervisor; they let me do what I thought was best. That's what kept me going."
For almost 40 years, Frichtl kept going. His work helped build TAPS, then keep it running and evolving. He knows his fingerprints are all over the system, and he's proud that he's a part of history.
"Eight hundred miles of pipe and all those pump stations in two years? And we built it without any high-tech equipment. It's amazing," Frichtl said. "Something like that is never going to happen again."
Hal Eppley / Field Materials Coordinator
For Hal Eppley, there are no large or small jobs. Regardless of the scope or urgency, he approaches all of his work at Pump Station 1 with the same level of professionalism, ownership and importance. Coworkers say that "above and beyond" isn't high enough praise for Eppley's contributions and that he doesn't wait for other duties as assigned. He enthusiastically jumps in whenever he sees an opportunity to help others and improve the workplace.
For that commitment to excelling at his work and contributing to the success of his coworkers, the 26-year TAPS employee and current Alyeska Field Materials Coordinator recently received an Alyeska 2015 Atigun Award for Teamwork. It's a fitting honor for Eppley. He said, "For me, it's all about contributing. I love being a part of a team. And this job is perfect, exactly what I want to do. When my two weeks come up, I really look forward to going back to Pump Station 1."
Eppley added that he is passionate about TAPS, his teammates, worksite and company, and admits that he simply loves being busy and helpful.
"It's nice to be recognized with this award, but I've always been a service support kind of individual," Eppley said. "I always have an attitude that we can do it. No is not an option. If I don't have the answer, I'll find the answer and get back to you. I take pride in my follow-up and that I'm there to answer the phone when it rings."
Eppley's institutional knowledge goes beyond materials and spans the length of TAPS. He has worked in Anchorage and at six pump stations, including Pump Station 1, where he's been posted for 15 years. He also worked in many positions as a TAPS contractor and Alyeska direct hire. He was a HAZMAT Specialist, worked in maintenance, repair and projects, and transitioned into a series of positions involving materials management. In his current role, he offers efficient, accurate and cost-saving ordering, unloading, sorting and delivering of materials.
"People come to me and they need my support and knowledge in order for them to do their job or get their equipment back online," he said. "I have close relationships with the lead techs, planners and team members. I know what's available locally, I know what’s on my shelf, I know how projects can support us, I know who to call in Fairbanks, and I know who the vendors are. I always look for ways to streamline the work and save money. I take stewardship in our work."
Eppley also feels ownership in roles that aren’t in his job description but embody his teamwork commitment. He supports and mentors others. He drives personnel and materials wherever they need to go. He picks up the pump station’s newspaper in the morning, delivers mail directly to coworkers, and even grabs an occasional pair of boot strings for colleagues in need. He helps organize the annual Pump Station 1 Fun Run and assists in rolling out wellness initiatives. He's even known for his creative decorating of the Pump Station 1 safety bulletin board.
"I guess when people ask if I can help, I'm someone who is able to do it and wants to do it," he said. "But I don’t see myself as a leader. I just want to be part of it and get everyone else involved, too."
Robert "Bob" Stirling / Pump Station 1 Technician
When Robert "Bob" Stirling began his career as an Alyeska technician at Pump Station 6 in 1979, he didn't know much about the work. He was just excited to have a job with a company on the rise.
"I had to learn everything – it was all new for me, a new industry, a new career," Stirling explained. "It was good timing and luck on my side. I got hired on and they didn't hire anyone for field jobs for five years. And I was working with a lot of old hands who had done everything, including starting the pipeline.”
Today, Stirling is the old hand. He's held diverse positions, worked at every pump station, traveled every mile of the line, and collaborated with hundreds of TAPS staff. Stirling also has a sterling safety record: He was recently recognized by Alyeska for going more than 25 years without a recordable injury or preventable vehicle accident. Now when new technicians begin working at Pump Station 1, Stirling provides their hands-on education.
"I’m the trainer for the newly hired technicians – that's my primary responsibility," he said. "It's really rewarding and a lot of fun. We work together for about a year and a half. I mentor them, introduce them to the pipeline, the company, our culture, how we do things, how things work, and I get a chance to pass on my knowledge. They are always jazzed about nailing down a cool job at a really good company, so that keeps me enthused. I like being around that energy."
Stirling recently called in after his shift at Pump Station 1 to talk about his decades of experiences and safety focus.
You've worked along TAPS for 35-plus years. Thinking back, this must be a special experience.
I think that it's a journey and I'm not sure that there's a seminal moment for me. It's more about each year you learn something. As the years go on, you don't feel like there’s an 'ah ha' moment. You get miles under your belt and have an idea of what you need to do and where you want to go. It's been a natural thing.
Why did you choose to start working as a technician?
It was a heck of an experience – I was straight from college. The jobs were pretty plentiful during construction, but as construction ended and they started pumping oil, the boom slowed down and I made my move. I was a junior at UAA in a natural science program and interested in going into medicine. I ran out of money and the technical field is what I gravitated toward, so it was a natural fit.
It was cool time to work out there – they were doing everything they could to increase production. The oilfield was booming. They started with two pipelines, ARCO and BP, or Sohio back then. When they brought on Kuparuk and more oil fields, the engineers and everybody were focused on all the ideas and techniques to get more production while keeping the pumps running totally full all the time.
You have a unique work history. Where has your career taken you since working as a tech?
I've worked at every pump station doing some kind of project or other sundry assignment. I'm a field employee, that's what my heart is. I almost feel like I'm part of the pipe.
In '05-'06, I was a startup supervisor for the Pump Station 9 Strategic Configuration. There were new pumps and that was really cool job. I was also an exempt employee with a bunch of special assignments, from management to engineering to upgrading stick drawings to electronic. I was the district stop for an electrical upgrade. This was a huge project. My area was pumps 1 through 4. I monitored discrepancies between electrical codes. As codes changed, we upgraded all the electrical work we could safely. That included new wiring and fixing all the code violations.
I also had a really cool assignment operating a DRA (drag reducing agent) injection facility making sure we maintained this additive going into the pipeline so we could flow more oil. It was basically a mobile home that we winterized. We called it Milepost 203. There were just two of us on 24-hour coverage for a couple of years – one person working half the day, the other working the other half. We cooked our own meals. We were supported by Pump Station 5. They'd drive up groceries and equipment. It was quiet work.
Why have you spent your career at Alyeska?
I get the security of working for a really good company that takes really good care of me and my family. I feel safe, I don't feel in danger of being hurt. And yet, I get all these jobs. It's like having multiple careers for the same company.
You know, the thing that I find interesting is now I'm one of the older technicians. But you never stop learning here, even with the same job. You never have the same identical problem over and over. It's always something new. What's the problem? How do you work through it? It's challenging and it keeps you humble. You think you know it all and then you’re sitting there scratching your head, asking 'What do we do next?'
What are the most interesting aspects of your work?
The technical side of the work is a lot of fun, but we've got a lot of good people working for Alyeska and that's the best part of the job. I enjoy working with the different characters at this company.
Talk about some of the big changes that have happened in your work over the years.
It mirrors what's happened in our lives. Information technology is the biggest change. I'm on a cell phone right now. In the old days, phones were bolted to the wall and I'd be standing in line in the commons areas waiting to call home. We used to monitor equipment and log data with a pencil and clipboard; now we have handheld instruments with remote sensors and electronic sensors.
It has been a good thing, but it has its drawbacks, too. Electronics are great as long as they're running great. When they break down, you need vendor support. We used to be able to strip anything down and make them go. It's like cars. Now you've got to take it to the shop and it gets plugged into a computer.
You know so much more now, there's so much more data, we're monitoring more. And we're more careful about how we run equipment. We help it run more efficiently and longer because you can track and operate it better. For example, a gas compressor. There's a program that keeps it out of surge and stall. In old days, you would operate it at its limit and you would know it's at its limit when it started banging, then you'd back it off. That was as far as we can go with that.
You were recently recognized for going more than 25 years without a recordable injury or preventable vehicle accident. Congratulations. What's your safety approach and view on Alyeska's safety culture?
Safety is a team effort and everyone has a part. There is no secret to safety. You have to put in the hard work. The executives and leaders, they might have us start a new program, they set the lead, they tell us their expectations. My job is to try to figure out how to meet those objectives and what my contribution is, embrace it and make it mine. If you do your part, you get things done safely.
Obviously, I'm proud (of my safety record). One of my primary goals as a mentor is passing along our safety culture. I make a big show about safety. I talk to new technicians about the proper way to get into a vehicle. I also do that when we stop and put on the parking brake. When we're backing up, I get someone out to spot them. I let them know that we don't just tell people about safety, we expect that it is done.
Leischen "Lee" Bauke / Contactor Safety Program Coordinator
Leischen “Lee” Bauke is all about safety. She is a certified safety professional and a certified safety and environmental trainer. In fact, “safety” has been in all three of her job titles since she joined Alyeska 14 years ago: Field Safety Specialist from 2001-2006, Fire Safety and Industrial Hygiene Subject Matter Expert from 2006-2007, and her current role as Contactor Safety Program Coordinator.
Lee’s commitment to safety even extends beyond Alyeska. She was recently appointed by former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell to a public seat on the Alaska Safety Advisory Council, which promotes safety so that resources can be used to reduce accidental death and injury. She also serves as an adjunct professor for occupational health and safety/hazardous waste management courses with the University of Alaska.
Lee recently talked about the importance of safety in our unique TAPS workplace and shared a few of her favorite moments from her wide-ranging work experience with Alyeska.
You have worked at Alyeska for 14 years. Why have you chosen to spend your career at our company?
I never consciously chose to work at Alyeska – it was a lucky happenstance that occurred through a course of events. I was getting my master’s degree in Environmental Science at UAA and started working with a contractor as a Health Safety Environment specialist in Valdez. I really liked the town, the job and the people. I thought I would focus on the environmental side, but found that safety became more and more my main focus, so I started to pursue that aspect and got my national certifications.
At Alyeska, we have the benefit of having a great Safety team which has a lot of knowledge. So if you choose to continue working here, there are all sorts of resources and subject matter experts to ask for advice and for their knowledge based on their experience on and off TAPS.
Talk about your current work as Alyeska’s Contactor Safety Program Coordinator?
I work with new TAPS contractors and help guide their transition onto TAPS, as well as provide safety oversight with existing contractors. I assist Alyeska’s contract representatives with their contractors’ transition to TAPS, and help contracting officers and Supply Chain with contractor reviews. I perform audits, evaluations, inspections, investigations, training and all other duties associated with safety oversight of contractors. I also provide support to field safety on the pipeline and in Valdez.
What do you love about your job?
I really like being outdoors and traveling to the pump stations and around the Valdez area. I like working with the Supply Chain Department and project managers to bring contractors onto TAPS. I like being part of the Oil Spill Contingency Plan teams, though I'm usually not crazy about the food.
What are the most interesting aspects of work in the field?
Who doesn’t love working and living in Alaska? People pay big money to travel up here and see the state for like 10 days. We get to see it in all four seasons. I like seeing the folks at the pump stations that I haven’t seen in ages. I like seeing people in Valdez and catching up with them. I like seeing a rainbow from the DIF parking lot or from the VTO when I get off of work. I like meeting the contractors I have talked to and emailed with about their new work on TAPS in the field and see how they are doing. I love working the shutdowns in the field and seeing the work progress over the few short hours – it’s like watching a perfectly synchronized dance.
What are the most interesting aspects of office work?
The best part of working in the office is catching up with the other departments, whether it be because I have a meeting scheduled, or I need training assistance for a contractor or a program, or if I need to speak with Projects or Supply Chain. All of this is critical and keeping those connections is really viable. Plus, I get to hear about how their kids and pets are doing and what happened over a long weekend – quite frankly their lives seem a lot more interesting than mine.
Can you please discuss the role that safety plays in your daily work?
If I didn’t focus on safety and be ever vigilant in my own actions and those of others, I probably wouldn’t have a long tenure in any position I aspired to. In fact, I think I have to be more conservative due to my role as a safety professional. I mean that I think I perform more conservative SPSAs and more conservative Journey Management perhaps than others may do as I feel I am setting an example to myself and others. It is pretty embarrassing when a person makes a slipup and has an incident, whether at home or at work; it is doubly embarrassing when you are a safety professional. So I think that all of us with careers that focus on safety tend to be even more diligent than others.
Talk about our safety culture at Alyeska and along TAPS.
The safety culture that I see is stellar. I often work with other companies and can clearly see that Alyeska’s metrics as well as our goals, expectations and tools that allow us to achieve those goals are, bar none, some of the best out there.
Congratulations on being named to the Alaska Safety Advisory Council. That is quite an honor and really embodies your commitment to safety.
We serve at the pleasure of Alaska’s governor and make recommendations to the governor and legislature on state policy and programs that deal with the safety and health of Alaskans. We consist of 14 members representing industry, labor, the general public and federal, state and local governments. Our committee will work in cooperation with official and unofficial organizations, individuals and groups to marshal resources toward reducing accidental death and injuries and to promote safety, health and wellness for all Alaskans.
I’ve just started working with representatives from the Governor’s office for the first time. I find the new dynamics are really interesting, hearing items from a non-pipeline perspective. Our council has met a few times and are in the process of planning the Governor’s Health and Safety Conference, which is to be held on March 24.
When did you perform your last Safe Performance Self Assessment (SPSA)?
I do an SPSA every morning before getting in the car and backing it out of the garage.
Jennifer Stubblefield / Valdez TAPS Fire Captain
Longtime Valdez TAPS Fire Captain Jennifer Stubblefield was recently elected President of the Alaska State Firefighters Association. The announcement of this honor gave Stubblefield an opportunity to look back on her career and share some of her experiences.
What's your current job on TAPS? How long have you worked here?
I am currently a fire captain for Doyon Universal Services and have worked at the Valdez Marine Terminal for more than 8.5 years.
What made you join the fire team? Did you always want to be a firefighter?
I joined the fire team because it was an opportunity for me to grow professionally and as a person. Growing up in a farming community, I had never heard of a firefighter and wanted to be a cowgirl lassoing bad guys.
How do you view your role on TAPS?
I believe my role as a fire captain on TAPS is one of many roles that are meant to keep business operating and people safe. I try to be an advocate for all workers. During pre-planning or site visits, I am not only thinking about emergency response, but also that the workers have their needed protective gear, the right tools, and a safe work area.
You were just elected President of the Alaska State Firefighters Association. What does this organization do and why is it important to you?
The Alaska State Firefighters Association is a non-profit organization that is an advocate for Alaska firefighters and sponsors the annual state fire conference. The organization provides scholarships for dependents, training grants for firefighters, death and disability benefits, a Firefighter's Benevolent Fund, a legislative voice on relevant issues, and other assistance to local chapters. The organization is important to me as I see the differences we make in communities across the state. Right now, we are working on a Line of Duty Death Committee that would respond immediately to a community that loses a firefighter and assist that department with arranging shift coverage from other departments, counseling, benefit assistance, etc.
Firefighting isn't traditionally known for being an industry with many women. How did you end up becoming a firefighter? How do you think your gender has affected your experience?
As a newspaper editor, police often sent me beyond barricades for stories and fire departments sent me into buildings on fire. I have some great photos, but the safety culture was different then and some risks unknown. I often took arson investigation and other crime scene photos. When I initially tried to become a firefighter, I was informed there would never be a female "fireman" at my local department, which is still true to this day. I then paid for my firefighter training and job-tested at several places. Finally, hired as a full-time Midwest City firefighter, I was in the chief's office my first day being welcomed. An engineer walked in and said, "I have worked here too long if you just hired a female. She doesn't belong here." Another fire captain later said, "I almost said something" to the engineer, but he said nothing.
It is unfortunate that some people cannot see beyond gender, and it is also unfortunate that these are my tamer interactions. Experiencing this behavior has definitely helped me as a supervisor to recognize when people are treated unfairly based on race, age, gender, etc. Allowing bad behavior is the same as condoning it, and I can intervene at the lowest level. You have to be an advocate for your employee, speak up when someone is behaving inappropriately, and stop it right then. You may not be able to change someone's beliefs, but you can control the behavior at work.
Finally, what was your last Safe Performance Self Assessment (SPSA)?
My last SPSA was checking the weather forecast for a trip as it changed from clear to rain and clouds quickly. I cancelled my flight and drove.
Katie Pesznecker / Stakeholder Relations Manager
Katie is a proud graduate of Oregon State University, where she graduated with a degree in English. In 2001, she moved to Anchorage to work as a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. Why Anchorage, Alaska? “I’ve always been a curious and adventurous person,” said Katie. “Adventures, whether personal or professional, present unique opportunities to learn and understand the environment around us.”
Katie started working for Alyeska in July 2007 after seven years as a journalist. She was hired as an Internal Communications Coordinator, a position that focused on communication with employees. Her duties expanded over time; today she’s the Stakeholder Relations Manager with responsibilities including, crisis communications, media relations, and direct support for Alyeska’s executives and leaders. At the community level, she manages Alyeska’s Anchorage and statewide philanthropy program, deciding how to best invest philanthropy dollars in Alaska nonprofits. “That part of the job is extremely rewarding,” said Katie.
TAPS is an integral component of what drives Alaska’s economic engine – 90% of the state’s budget comes from oil revenue. At today’s throughput and crude price, the state’s coffers receive approximately $24 million a day in revenue. “One of my major jobs is to tell the company’s story externally – to our stakeholders, politicians and community leaders – to help them learn about our business and understand our challenges. I’m proud to work for a company where the work we do has a significant impact on both the public and private sectors.”
When asked to share an example of where she’s seen Alyeska’s values of safety and teamwork demonstrated on TAPS, Katie said, “Teamwork really shines during oil spill response drills on the pipeline and in Valdez. Hundreds of people from Alyeska and state and federal agencies come together to practice responding to a simulated crisis.”
One of Katie’s most memorable experiences was during her first winter on TAPS, when her boss sent her and two coworkers on a drive from Fairbanks to Pump Station 1 to distribute commemorative 30th anniversary books to employees. “It was my first time being out on the line, driving over Atigun Pass, and visiting some of the more remote pump stations,” explained Katie. “I was so impressed by our facilities and by the commitment of the people who staff them – the pride people have for this pipeline and this business is something special.”
Like so many TAPS employees, Katie volunteers her free time in support of various community events and activities, and she serves on boards and committees in support of organizations in Anchorage and across the state, including Food Bank of Alaska, Anchorage Schools Foundation, and American Lung Association Leadership Council.
Josh Lazaro / Intern, Pipeline Integrity Testing (PIT) Program
What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? My only expectation was that I would be held to a high performance standard without regard to the task assigned.
What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? The most interesting and educational project I have worked on has been verifying line classes for facility corrosion drawings. This project has allowed me to utilize and combine my mechanical engineering studies with the knowledge I have accumulated by working with extremely talented engineers at Alyeska. The most interesting aspects of this project include the critical thinking involved in verifying line classes without being able to physically examine the piping, as well as the precautions necessary to ensure the safety of TAPS.
Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? Sose Vartanian was the person who mentored me the most. Any question I had she would continually take the time to assist me and give advice. Not only did she spend time giving me work-related advice, she gave me career and life advice as well. She worked diligently to ensure I would persevere as an intern with Alyeska and at life.
Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. My favorite experience through the duration of my internship was driving from Fairbanks to Pump Station 1. Being able to physically view and understand how the pump stations were designed is a pertinent advantage and skill. I was able to speak with tremendously knowledgeable technicians and operators who were able to answer any questions I had.
Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture so far and how you have identified with at least one of the five cultural attributes: System View, Make Sound Decisions, Learn-Improve-Innovate, Speak Up-Step Up, Act With Discipline. Being involved with the TAPS culture has trained me to recognize how every task performed can involve each of the five attributes in one way or another. As my internship comes to completion, I have been able to identify the most with the Making Sound Decisions attribute. All of the tasks I’ve been involved in have emphasized the importance of making sound decisions, particularly when verifying risk factors in the facility corrosion database.
Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? Alyeska is an excellent company! The reason Alyeska is such a profound company is because of the people who work there. Everyone works as a cohesive group, and to the best of their abilities to ensure the integrity of TAPS.