Ryan Newcomer / Project Quality Assurance Specialist
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? This is my first full-time position with Alyeska after participating in the intern program for two summers. I was excited to take my new position because of the great culture and work ethic that the people of Alyeska demonstrate. It’s the welcoming and helpful environment I’ve experienced so far that makes transitioning into the company a pleasant experience. I always wanted to return to Alaska after receiving my degree, and Alyeska has been that foundation for my career in Alaska.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. In 2008 and 2009, I was a summer intern within the Analytical Lab Services Group, working under Bob Carson, with help from Kevin Dillard.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? I think it’s clear that there is a special culture at Alyeska. It’s something you notice from day one, and it’s so prevalent that you can’t help but to contribute and become part of the culture. It’s a culture you can appreciate.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The location, opportunities and people are just a few of my favorite things about Alyeska. The high quality of work that is performed across all disciplines makes me proud to say I work for Alyeska.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Safety is a word which you’ll always hear at Alyeska. It’s obvious that safety is of the most importance and can be felt anywhere in the company, from Pump Station 1 all the way down to Valdez, and even in the Anchorage office. A good example of teamwork can be seen throughout Alyeska because we require the communication and team efforts of many disciplines in order to function as a whole.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I would say some of favorite memories on TAPS have been my internship opportunities while in college. Our first day was a series of life stories from fellow Alyeska employees and it showed just how much history is in this company and its people. Some of the best advice I’ve been given was during these sessions. The work I was able to perform as an intern gave me the valuable experience necessary to succeed after college.
Henry “Hank” Wladkowski / Lead Internal Auditor
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked on TAPS off and on since 1975 as a contractor and direct hire. I had wanted to work on TAPS since 1974, while still in college, and had applied for jobs. I was always turned down with a comment suggesting I stay in school and finish. Post Oil Embargo 1973, times were tough, and there was a major national/global recession in the early to mid ‘70s. I wanted to find work in my field, civil engineering. I had a Transportation Systems Major and Sanitation (Water/Environmental Studies) Minor. Originally, while in college, I wanted to work on various transportation projects. I studied TAPS as it included the process of developing Environmental Impact Statements – one of the first national efforts to do so.
In August 1975, I called Resources Sciences (Williams Bros) in Tulsa OK from a job site during lunch, and in a 15-minute interview, I had a job offer for one eight-week work rotation. I was told a ticket would be waiting for me at an airline counter. The rest is history. TAPS provided the dream opportunity to be involved in a number of aspects of civil engineering.
Why do I continue? It is truly the people, the great opportunities, and the feeling of personal accomplishment in meeting a variety of challenges in a great location – from one coast of Alaska to another other.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I started as a contractor on TAPS in August 1975 as a Field Geotechnical Engineer based out of Old Man Construction Camp, involved in on-site engineering design between Prospect Creek Camp to the Sand Hill area. I worked on other engineering projects over the years along the pipeline and was hired on by Alyeska in December 1990.
My Alyeska positions included Site Supervisor on a corrosion investigation and remediation project; Pipeline Civil Maintenance Coordinator; Pipeline Compliance & Quality Manager; Northern Business Unit Advisor; VP Operations Assistant; Pipeline Business Unit Advisor; Asset Manager; Environment and Safety Director; Safety and Industrial Health Manager; Pump Station 4/Galbraith Management Base Operations and Maintenance Supervisor; and from 2007 to present, Lead Auditor. I have been involved in a number of operational process audits including for the Environmental Protection Program, Safety, Hazardous Waste Management Contractor, Strategic Reconfiguration, Integrity Management, SERVS, Contractor Safety Management, the Loss Prevention System, The Valdez Marine Terminal C-Plan, the Pipeline C-Plan, and others.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? What I still hold tightly is this: Constructing TAPS was a grand project that had many great people- who had good insight and intentions- do the right things by respecting the people and resources they encountered. It was a time in America of great change and challenge, and there was an attitude that it was OK to try something and fail, but we had to keep going to achieve success. This was summarized by the pipeline motto, “We didn’t know it couldn’t be done.”
How do we share and pass on our culture to new employees? By bringing in new hires, interns, job shadowing, job rotation, environmental protection programs, safety and heath programs, and trusting people will do the right things, given the best training and tools available at the time. Sometimes things need to take a little longer or go a little slower, but the outcome aims for the best.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Two things: First, the people. That includes TAPS employees and the public along the Right Of Way. Second, the respect TAPS employees have for the natural environment in Alaska and in this the country and all the associated natural resources. We have a lot of controls in place to ensure our footprint will ultimately be very small.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Safety: Process safety; site “walkdowns” and reviews with personnel prior to planned maintenance shutdowns; personal Safety; getting the total recordable injury rate (TRIR) down below 2.00, when employees felt it was impossible pre-2000.
Environment: Employees are involved in various drills and exercises to support the prevention of spills or to prepare in case they must respond to actual incident.
Teamwork: I usually recall the response to incidents more readily, such as the Check Valve 7 discharge incident in 1977, or the 1977 Sagavanirktok River Flood event, or the Milepost 200 re-route, or lifeline generator change-outs or mainline unit change-outs. All the more routine efforts – such as the activities and commitment to ensure successful field crew and daily shift changes – occur seamlessly.
Innovation: Being involved with early field implementation of Drag Reducing Agent (DRA) and In-line Inspection pigging/Integrity Management activities.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? First, after accepting an interview at Galbraith Lake Camp in July 1976 for a Civil Construction Expediter/Coordinator in Section 5/6, I was told I had the job and needed to start immediately. I was promptly entrusted with truck keys, a binder of vital information, and a roll of G&C drawings and told I had to re-establish a civil construction office in Happy Valley “A” Camp to support the next push of civil activities prior to start up in 1977. Also, with an instruction that, “Oh by the way, you have five work crews between Galbraith and Happy Valley, so you need to stop, visit and introduce yourself to the foremen and work crews.”
Second, between January 1977 to November 1977, working on River Training Structures from Prudhoe Bay to Five Mile Camp has many memories. The most vivid is in January 1977, after a Joint Agency Stop Work Order had been issued to a river training structure crew due to a dozer falling through surface ice of the Sagavanirktok River. I took several backhoe operators via helicopter to another spur dike field location in the Dietrich River Valley for a “show and tell” into what turned out to be a quality control/assurance field trip for these operators to gain a better understanding and insight of the work and methods to enable efficiencies and enhancements to improve rip-rap placements between Milepost 124 to Milepost 1. Later, in 1977, the spring breakup washed out several structures and a plan had to be developed and implemented to ensure the majority of prioritized repairs were complete prior to pipeline start-up.
My third favorite memory was when I was asked to return to field supervisory opportunities at Pump Station 12, from 1999 to 2000, and at Pump Station 4, from 2005 to 2007.
Sue Britt / Compliance & Documentation Manager
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I had just quit my job working for the Department of Highways to take the vacation of a lifetime, and was convinced to change my plans. On July 22, 1974, I started working in the Public Relations Office in Valdez. My boss (Gige Hillar, another long time resident) had a long-term vision about how Alyeska was going to vitalize the job market in Valdez. I liked his vision and wanted to be a part of it - and I wasn’t planning on leaving Valdez anytime soon, since it was and has always been my home.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Over the years, I have worked as an administrative assistant, a tour guide, a technician, and a documentation specialist. When I was chosen to be part of a prototype team for document revision, approval and publishing, it was a perfect fit for me. I enjoy the challenge of the job, advancement opportunities and most of all the people I have met and worked with over the years.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? I believe the TAPS culture is one of knowledge, shared beliefs, and practices, or to put it into one word, it’s a culture of “safety.” We share our knowledge, beliefs and practices with each other daily as we learn from one another. This is done by using the right device for the job, whether that’s a document, a tool, or asking for and providing information.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I look at Alyeska as a second family. After years of working a seven-days-on, seven-days-off schedule, you realize quickly that you spend as much time with your co-workers as you do at home. During your off week, you get to know your coworkers and their family members at community or school functions. So, I think the best part of working here is my “other family.” You watch them grow, meet new additions, disagree at times, but always stick together. It sounds corny but it really is like a family. We've all grown up together − as a company and as employees.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Early on, it became apparent to me and my co-workers that documentation was one of our cornerstones to providing a safe work environment, and that the process needed to be improved. Gary Minish (another long-time employee) and I were part of the team that presented a solution to management and the documentation specialist positions were created. To date these positions provide a valuable skill set for the company.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? This is a tough one, most of my memories center around things and people.
I was one of the marine crew that tied up and loaded the first tanker into Valdez. I remember how huge the tanker was once it was alongside, and I was equally amazed that I was able to get the loading arms up to the deck so they could be connected.
I remember when we used to heat our lunches in rod ovens (no longer used to heat rods) because we didn’t have microwaves, let alone stoves – or when the bears used to break into the break shacks and help themselves to the lunches. There was one bear that used to open the office doors using the doorknob, then open the refrigerator from the hinges side, go figure.
One of the best sunrises I ever witnesses was in the early morning while on Berth 4. The best Valdez northern lights I’ve seen were during a tie-up of the Northern Lion (they had mostly Italian-speaking crews). The tie-up crew on board stopped work to watch the lights, and they were shouting and whistling. We didn’t understand the language but we witnessed their excitement at seeing something for the first time.
Another favorite memory is attending the service banquets in Anchorage and meeting other employees, most of whom I had never met. On one occasion, I was seated next to a new employee, one who I didn’t know nor had I met. It turned out to be our new president. I’m still an advocate of posting photos of employees.
Britt is the longest-serving employee in the company.
Tim Adamczak / Compensation & Benefits Manager
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I was hired in June of 1997 and just celebrated my 15th year. I originally came to Alyeska because it provided job opportunity in an industry with a future in Alaska. I was aware that Alyeska’s compensation and benefits were premium as compared to other industries and opportunities out there. How can you go wrong with getting a job with a great company that pays well and has great people?
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I was originally hired as a field-based Human Resource Generalist (HRG) in Fairbanks. My prior experience and background in developing and managing compensation and benefits programs allowed me the opportunity to move into Alyeska’s Compensation and Benefits Department in Anchorage after three years as an HRG.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? TAPS has a culture of commitment – a commitment to do the right thing as best we can for safety, the environment, our stakeholders, and for TAPS employees. It’s a part of Alyeska and who we are as employees, and it’s impossible to not pass it on.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Alyeska is always changing. Work never becomes overly routine and boring. The organization is always refocusing. Alyeska is company that strives to be the best at what it does and no good idea dies here. They may rest a bit, but at some time, they will be back. When an idea does come back, it’s always with a new energy and twist.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? There are so many of these examples that happen throughout the company on a regular basis. In recent times there are been some notable demonstrations of how we safely work together in unique situations, such as the Tank 190 and Pump Station 1 incidents, the move of the Operations Control Center from Valdez to Anchorage, and the ORACLE Human Resources system implementation. These all required people with diverse backgrounds to come together on an unplanned and planned basis to achieve specific goals. The steps required to achieve these goals in many cases constantly change. Through the teamwork and innovation of creative minds, TAPS excels.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? Family Day at Pump Station 5 in the late 1990s. It was a great summer day. Family members of those who worked there came to Pump Station 5 for activities, food and tours. My wife learned so much about Alyeska in that one day and had an opportunity to meet many of the Alyeska and contractor employees I worked with. It’s a day neither of us has forgotten and it was truly a day that made me proud of Alyeska.
Dorothy Lord-Matthew / Alaska Native Program Coordinator
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? While I began my current role in January of this year, my pipeline journey began in April of 2001. I was looking for a career change and new challenges. I found exactly that here at Alyeska. Since then, I have been offered many opportunities for career growth. I continue working here because of the great people that operate and maintain TAPS.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I initially started working for Alyeska in the Chief Financial Officer Division as an Administrative Assistant in Fairbanks. In fall 2002, I moved to Anchorage during the 2002 employee relocation as an Administrative Report Specialist. In mid-January 2005, I moved back to Fairbanks for a new role in Operations & Maintenance, supporting the Senior Vice President as an Executive Assistant. I returned to Anchorage in 2007 to continue supporting the same executive. In June of 2008, I went back to the CFO division, where I started with Supply Chain Management on the Compliance/Performance and Systems team. I am very pleased to currently have the opportunity to work in the Alaska Native Program as I feel it is a program that brings great value to both Alyeska and the local communities.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? Alyeska’s brand is synonymous with safety in the petroleum industry. TAPS’ workforce encompasses both Alyeska and contractor employees. Alyeska sets high standards when it comes to safety performance, which is demonstrated every day by Alyeska’s workforce. Contractors have made clear strides in emulating Alyeska’s safety culture. Leading by example has created a unified focus when it comes to working safely on TAPS.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I really like the learning opportunities here at Alyeska. Not only does the company provide great learning programs and tools, but maintains a diverse work environment that offers many opportunities for knowledge sharing as well. I learn something new at work every day from both new employees and those who have been here for a while. I have always had good learning experiences in each of the roles I worked in, and my current role is very rewarding. I am continuously learning, the networking opportunities are immense, and the people I meet and work with are great.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? A great example of teamwork and innovation demonstrated on TAPS is the Communicate & Educate Action Team I participated on while I was with the Supply Chain Management Department. The diverse, cross-functional team included SCM employees from different teams, as well as employees from other departments. We created a team charter and all worked together to come up with a communication and training plan for SCM by sharing ideas and taking action. It was a good example of how teamwork allows members to play to their own strengths as well as leverage the strengths of others for a successful outcome.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? My favorite memory while working on TAPS is attending the 2008 Women of Distinction Awards banquet hosted by the Girls Scouts and BP where Lorena Hegdal was honored for being a strong contributor in the city of Fairbanks and state of Alaska. Lorena’s journey to success is inspirational and motivating for many. I was pleased to be invited and to be a part of the celebration.
Bill Kattness / QA Supervisor
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I joined TAPS as a contractor for Raytheon, working in Quality Assurance and starting in February 1994. I was hired by Alyeska in June 1997 to work in the Employee Concerns Program (ECP).
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. My first Alyeska direct job was as an ECP Representative in Valdez, but that only lasted two years. Then I was transferred to corporate headquarters in Anchorage until 2002, when the reorganization landed me back in Quality Assurance.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There is definitely a culture within Alyeska, but it was not always necessarily a good one. In the mid-1990s. The organization was very ‘silo-ed’ and protective of authority and influence. That has all changed now to a much more cooperative and collaborative culture. I believe our success today must be credited to our changed and improved culture of shared goals and cooperation.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The people. Period.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? My participation as the project lead to remove non-relevant records from the records storage warehouse. Many people gave of their time to help us sort through and eliminate over 80,000 boxes of worthless records that were taking up space and costing us money. The best part was you never knew what you were going to find when you pulled the lid off of a box that had not been touched in more than 30 years. We found tons of timesheets, shoes, ashtrays, punch cards, coveralls, reams of perforated computer paper, billeting requests, and 30-year-old employee badges. We got filthy dirty. It was hard work, great fun, and for a good cause. What could be better?
Mike Day / SERVS Operations Manager
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I’ve worked on TAPS since January 16, 1990. I’m a 4th generation Valdez resident. My family is here, and this is where I want to be. When commercial fishing took me away from home too much for my liking, working for Alyeska's Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS) was a great opportunity. I continue here because I enjoy the work, I enjoy the people, and I love Prince William Sound.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I’ve been fortunate to have many jobs and experiences with Alyeska. I started at SERVS as a contractor, worked on the Terminal for Price/Ahtna, and started with Alyeska Maintenance in 1996. I have a little IT background, so I got to work on several corporate IT projects with the Pipeline, many external vendors, and on special projects.
I moved around the Terminal a lot, but spent my time with Maintenance and the Marine Team during that time. I did a few years in Supply Chain in the Valdez Warehouse before moving back to Maintenance as the Planning and Scheduling Supervisor. Then I went back to Operations in Oil Movements, then Maintenance again with the Instrumentation & Electrical team. If this sounds like a circle it is—I’m back at SERVS again.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? TAPS is like a family, so of course there is a culture. We are all people who care about Alaska, about the importance of what we do for Alaska, and about each other. That translates into a number of things, safety performance, pride in our equipment, and trust in processes, systems, and each other to make it work. That is what we pass on to others every day.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I learn something every day.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I came from the fishing industry to SERVS in 1990. Alyeska performs training with about 1700 people each year from fishing communities around Southcentral Alaska. It has been fulfilling to see Alyeska’s safety culture take root and probably actually save lives in that industry, and in individuals I have known all my life. There have certainly been other events that have made that improvement, but I like to think that Alyeska and TAPS Contractor’s safety culture and systems, emphasized repeatedly in training, drills, and exercises with such a diverse group of people has been a great example of those values.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I was sitting on Berth 5 on a clear sunny spring day with a few friends. There wasn’t a breath of wind. Port Valdez was like a mirror. The avalanches would come down the mountain three miles away on the north side of the port and you could watch as the snow hit the water and the ripples came all the way across the port to Berth 5.
We are privileged to live and work in a beautiful place.
Mark Desinger / Measurements and Scheduling Supervisor
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked for Alyeska about 31 years in aggregate since 1974. I wanted to work for big oil because that’s where the money was and Alyeska hired me first. Now I continue to work at Alyeska because my job is like solving puzzles, and I love solving puzzles.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I was hired as a plotter operator at Alyeska’s remote terminal in building 1555 on Fort Wainwright in 1974. I quit to make more money. Six years later I was hired as an operations technician at Pump Station 8. I left that job because the week on days/week off/week of nights schedule was killing me and an opening occurred as a Measurement Specialist. That position was more in sync with my formal training and interests and had a schedule that I liked.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Working with highly intelligent and knowledgeable people solving problems.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? As an example of innovation: Certain Pump Station 8 technicians (without the help of engineering) figured out a way to run the topping unit heater using the naptha that was flowing into the resid stream (essentially being wasted). We implemented that and didn’t burn hundreds of gallons of turbine fuel a day.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? The time spent developing a spreadsheet with Gary Minish to perform the calculations associated with prover calibrations. Not only did I learn a lot about Lotus, but we solved the problem of multiple witnesses coming up with six different volumes during a prover calibration. This was a huge step forward for Alyeska.
Tom Turnipseed / Lead Tech, Shops Team, Pipeline Maintenance
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I came to work for Alyeska in January 1978, when I was 19 years old. I’d graduated from UAF the year before and worked for a short time for North Pole Refinery when I learned Alyeska had three Topping Units to be commissioned. I still remember how cocky I was when I strutted into the Fairbanks employment office and told them that Alyeska needed me to start and run those Topping Units. Surprisingly, they took me seriously, granted me an interview and within a few weeks my next 34+ years was set.
I loved the work and the people from the first day I arrived. There was a belief that we were all part of something really great, something bigger than all of us, and I still believe that the terms “the pipeline people” or “my pipeline” were born from those first few years, and are reserved for the people who were here back then. Everyone from the President down knew everyone else by name. We didn’t just go to work together, we went home every other week and continued to get together. We were close. It isn’t so much that way anymore, but the good times kept us coming back until coming back had become a way of life, something as implicit as breathing air.
I suppose some of us continued to come back because we realized that who we were and what we’d done in the beginning was going to be forgotten as more and more of us moved on.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Every time I wanted to try something new, I just let it be known and it happened.
I started at Pump Station 6, moved up to Pump Station 1, then down to Pump Station 10, spending several years at each location. Then I went into a line-wide technicians project team for a while. I moved on to the Technical Training Team, taught dozens of classes to experienced and new technicians. I was afforded the opportunity to help build the first Oil Spill Academy and the technician development program of the '90s. I went on to play a bit part of developing the manuals that assisted in standardizing many of the pipeline operating procedures. I went back to the field for a few years, returning to Pump Station 6, then Pump Station 5, and was then offered a position in the Maintenance Engineering Department for almost 6 years, where we standardized the pipeline CMMS PM program and pipeline maintenance procedures.
I returned to the field for a short time at Pump Station 1 and was then offered an opportunity to be a part of implementing the maintenance program and materials requirements for Strategic Reconfiguration (Electrification and Automation) facilities. The past few years I’ve been working with the Shops Team.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? It is and has always been about the people, but it’s also always been about that thing we all called TAPS. TAPS is a living, breathing reality enmeshed in our lives.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? The very existence of TAPS is the testament to safety, teamwork and innovation. Who else in the entire world has ever moved more oil, more safely, under such inhospitable circumstances? The fact that TAPS is even here when the initial goal was 8 billion barrels--and now exceeds 16 billion barrel--speaks for itself.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? What is the expression? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Two million barrels a day was the best of times, while being the worst. Nobody got enough sleep, enough breaks, enough stress relief for years on end. But we had so much fun. It was like being a pit crew at NASCAR. We all knew what was expected of us and stood by waiting for a window to make it happen.
Lisa Booth / SCM Systems & Performance Manager
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have been at Alyeska for 12 ½ years. I applied for an internship back when I was finishing up my MBA in 1999. The internship was supposed to have me work six months in contracts, six months in accounting, and six months in business planning. It didn’t quite work out as planned, I never did make it to accounting, but have worked in both contracts (Supply Chain Management now), and business planning.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I have worked in Contracts, Internet Technology, Human Resources, Business Planning, and now Supply Chain Management.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? The culture is very people-oriented. We take care of each other. Others are always willing to take the extra time to answer questions, point people in the right direction, help each other, help the community, etc. I would also add there is a lot of pride in everything we do here.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The people! It’s one big family here.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I would recognize the Building Foundations for Excellence Program, which is how I joined Alyeska. This team was innovative when it was created, and through a lot of teamwork and commitment by a lot of people, it has successfully stayed a viable internship program and has been an avenue for the organization to find many new, up-and-coming employees.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? The handful of trips I have made to the field are always amazing. From the beautiful landscapes, the vast wildlife, and seeing firsthand what the great folks in the field do day in and day out to keep the pipeline operating safely every day makes me very proud to be an Alyeska employee.