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Karen Thomas

Structural Engineer (Module Integration Manager)
Chevron Canada
Karen Thomas au site de construction Hebron GBS site à Bull Arm, T.N.-L.

Karen Thomas at the Hebron GBS construction site in Bull Arm, NL.

Karen Thomas au site de construction Hebron GBS site à Bull Arm, T.N.-L.

Karen Thomas at the Hebron GBS construction site in Bull Arm, NL.

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Location Born
Location Now
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About me

 

I was born/grew up in: Grand Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

I now live in: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada - but I rotate to Kazakhstan for work.

I completed my training/education at: I attended Memorial University of Newfoundland and have a Bachelor of Engineering (Structural)

What I do at work

I manage a team of 30 people (mostly men). We are part of a project that will build a new oil processing plant in Tengiz, Kazakhstan.  My team's job is to manage and direct our contractor's work. We also determine the sequence of events required to complete our part of this project, to make sure that the work required by others can be done. Sections of the oil processing plant were pre-built in Korea. Then they were shipped to our construction site in Kazakhstan on ocean transport barges.

We use very large cranes to lift the pre-built parts to form the finished product. These cranes can lift parts that are up to 3000 tonnes! Using wheeled trailers, we then transport these connected units to their foundations. To do this, we need to have specialized lift and transportation plans in place. This ensures the project will be completed safely.

Our work is the enabler for work of others. Because of this, we need to understand the larger project priorities. This helps us deliver our part of the work in the correct sequence. I make decisions every day that ensure we meet these requirements. I use the overall project schedule to drive priorities. I use my engineering background to make technical decisions. My background as a structural engineer provides the expertise and the logical thinking required to make these decisions. Before I make a decision, I have to understand all factors that will affect the decision.  Only then will I actually make the decision.

This project is multi-national and I work with people from all over the world. My contractor has people from over 32 countries on their team. I wish I could speak more languages!

My career path is

Growing up in a small town, before the internet, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I completed high school. I have an uncle who is an engineer. He visited the summer I graduated and I remember asking him what an engineer did! After a couple of years of university, I needed to decide what type of engineer I wanted to be. I never realized there were so many choices! I chose civil engineering and specialized in structural engineering, which is a branch that deals with large modern buildings and similar structures.  

I graduated and then worked under a professional engineer for a couple years to obtain my license. In my career, I am constantly learning. Every day is different and even after all these years I am still learning. I have had many different assignments. Sometimes I took work because I had bills to pay. At other times, I chased something really interesting (e.g., working on the Hebron Project in Newfoundland). Check my LinkedIn profile for more information about my career path.

I am motivated by

I enjoy watching ideas become reality! When I started work in Kazakhstan it was just a very large barren field. Today there is an oil producing plant moving towards completion. I participated in the design maturity, the construction of foundations, and the building of the plant itself. I get the most satisfaction from watching younger colleagues using their education to turn vision to reality. I enjoy the teamwork and meeting new people from all around the world. I studied engineering because I had an aptitude for science. I also had an interest in how things worked and how they were constructed. I still enjoy this aspect of my work but now appreciate helping others reach their full potential. My career choice has always provided me with the challenges I needed to continue to grow professionally.

How I affect people’s lives

Oil production in Kazakhstan is the primary industry in this country and drives their economy. The joint venture company I work for is one of its largest employers. As a result, the jobs we provide directly and indirectly support many families both here and around the world. Using my expertise to complete this work successfully helps ensures their future.

Outside of work I

I enjoy all things outdoors, including gardening, golf, hiking, and running. I also enjoy baking bread and cookies with my granddaughter. Just spending time with my family is also great. I am an avid reader and enjoy mystery novels. I have recently developed an interest in learning about red wine!

My advice to others

I have no regrets on having selected engineering as a career choice. If I had to do it all over again I would! Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. There is no such thing as boy-jobs or girl-jobs. Everyone should do something they enjoy. If you find a career you love, you will never work a day in your life.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Literature and language arts
  • Math
  • Home Economics
  • Industrial Arts
  • Physical Education/Health
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Music
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked reading
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Engaged in activities such as fishing and berry picking

Partners

Chevron Canada

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the support of Chevron Canada in connecting us with this individual.

Chevron Canada is an indirect, independent subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies. Since 1938, Chevron Canada has been exploring for, developing, producing and marketing crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids. Chevron’s vision is to be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance.

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