Originally posted by Jordan Fujiwara.
This week we are checking in with another lovely lady working in Calgary: Heather Merlevede! Her residency is with Shell Canada as an Operations Excellence Analyst, primarily working on projects that utilize her financial skills. Originally from Winnipeg, MB, Heather has a BComm (Honours) from the University of Manitoba, majoring in Accounting and Marketing. Through my discussion with Heather, it sounds like she has had some interesting experiences in her residency, and as a result of her adaptability, has enjoyed every second.
One of Heather’s first experiences (one can say challenge) was upon her arrival in Calgary. Prepared to start her Financial Analyst position at Shell Canada, as her job description had been, it turned out that plans had changed on Shell’s end and Heather was moved to a different department and was working under a new boss on her first day. Undaunted, she took to the challenge and threw herself into learning as much as possible about her new position as an Operations Excellence Analyst, and about what projects she would soon be tackling.
Considering, Heather says, “I enjoy the challenge of the variety of projects I work on and the responsibilities I’ve been given in my role on the operations excellence team. I’m not sure if I’d have had the same opportunities in the financial analyst position.” There are few members in Heather’s team, but she works with people from different departments in her projects depending on the tasks involved and what sort of information is required. Heather is unable to talk about most of her projects as they are confidential; however, she was able to talk about one that was completed in late March, a benchmarking project. “Shell contracts a company to complete a benchmark analysis to the industry every few years,” explains Heather. “However, every year the company should benchmark its performance against its previous years’ performance. My job was to compile all the data from sources both at the mine and in Calgary, investigate to ensure the numbers were accurate and what the causes of ‘bad’ figures were, then turn it into a report that would provide the right message about the company’s performance. It was a great project. I learned about the operations and how the company was organized through my role in this project.”
Some of Heather’s other projects require travel up north to the mine. Some would find this an undesirable situation. However, Heather is of a different opinion, enthusiastically explaining, “I go to the mine for some of my projects, am given tours of the site, equipment and workshops to help me understand or have questions answered that relate to the projects. Never previously having seen a mine and how it operates in person, it’s been quite exciting learning about everything. The people I work with have been great, not seeing my inexperience in the Oil Sands industry as a hindrance, but delighted to aid in my learning and development.”
Since Heather’s job encompasses so many of the business topics that one might encounter while taking an MBA, she is grateful for the integrative workshops that were part of the Corporate Residency MBA program. “At work, no project or task relies solely on one discipline, like finance, but must be treated like a full case scenario.” The program has been a little repetitive for Heather, coming right from an undergrad in business, but she says, “I chose this program because of the corporate residency portion, the personal-value based learning, and the integrative elements. I didn’t want a pure case-based technical MBA program that supplied only ‘managers’ and not ‘leaders’ to the workforce.”
The last integrative weekend we had before going our separate ways at Christmas sticks out in Heather’s mind. Other students here have mentioned it as well…the one where we separated into groups, were given a fictitious business scenario, then let loose for 48 hours with no rules and only mildly set objectives, randomly obtaining new information from the supervising professor through email. “I thought it was challenging, interesting and fun,” says Heather. “Everyone took it seriously and played their roles. It was a great variation from a lecture or case report to incorporate all we’d learned into this role-playing scenario. We were actually DOING something and it felt more rewarding than participating in some other school projects.” (I shall be writing about that weekend at length sometime soon, in a kind of blog-miniseries, if you will.)
Given Heather’s somewhat “fluid” start in her residency, and having made so much of it, Heather puts forth the following advice for incoming students: “Once you have a job, I don’t think you should get too caught up in thinking that the job is not exactly what you thought it would be. Go with the flow and see where it takes you. If you don’t, you may miss out on the opportunity to enjoy, and most importantly learn, from the job you DO have. It’s worked out great for me!”