Distinguished alumni offer career advice during leadership panel event

Always remain curious. Value teamwork. Demonstrate respect. Work hard, but don’t lose yourself in the process. Find the learning in everything you do.

Those are just some of the words of wisdom that two of the College of Engineering’s distinguished alumni shared with students, faculty, staff and Engineering Advancement Trust (EAT) board members on September 12 during a question-and-answer session on leadership.

Myron Stadnyk (BE ’85), president and CEO of ARC Resources, and Jonathan Wright (BE ’86, MSc ’89), president and CEO of NuVista Energy Ltd., spoke to a crowd in the Hardy Lab about their experiences as leaders in the Canadian oil and gas industry. They also shared their fond memories of studying at the University of Saskatchewan. 

In an interview following the panel session, Stadnyk said it was a privilege to give the talk. What he wanted to impress upon students is “to be authentic and build their careers around who they are and what they love doing and what they’re passionate for,” he said. Success will flow from that.

Stadnyk knows about what he speaks. In October 2016, he was presented with an Alumni Achievement Award for his outstanding community service through philanthropy and his contributions to the energy industry. After taking on various roles at Shell Canada – including a project management role on an LNG project in Sarawak, Malaysia – he oversaw the transition of ARC from a non-operating oil and gas entity in 1996 to one that operates more than 90 per cent of its production. The company has grown from a $200-million start-up to a $9-billion oil and gas company with more than 400 employees. 

Stadnyk urged students to “carry forward the values that you’re absorbing” at the College of Engineering, such as respect, honesty and a strong work ethic. 

“If they know themselves and implement these values, they’re going to have a good career,” he said. 

In a separate interview, Wright reiterated that his advice to engineering students is to “always be curious” – both while in school and in their future careers. Wright himself has certainly built a successful career: After spending six years with Shell Canada Ltd., Wright took on roles domestically and abroad with Talisman Energy Ltd. In 2011, he was named NuVista Energy Ltd.’s president and CEO. 

Wright said it’s important to “be curious about how things work, why they work that way, how they work.” 

“Never just try and get the job done, but be curious about how it can be done best and how the underlying phenomena or physics work. Be curious about what other people do for careers, because it will help inform what your career should be,” he said.

“And I guess the final thing is what I closed with: Always play the long game in your career. Never play the short game. Think long-term, plan your experiences long-term, and the rewards and the compensation and all that – that will follow. Don’t focus on that as a first thing.” 

The College of Engineering’s first leadership panel event was held in March 2017, following discussions with Mike Marsh, SaskPower’s president and CEO. Don Bergstrom, the college’s interim dean, told the crowd gathered at the Hardy Lab on September 12 that the first panel event was well received by students, who saw value in the opportunity to engage with leaders in the engineering profession. 

“We have also discovered a strong enthusiasm amongst our engineering alumni to share their experience and wisdom as leaders with engineering students,” Bergstrom said. 

“This event aligns with the growing realization that engineers need to prepare to become effective leaders in the engineering workplace, whether that is corporate or entrepreneurial, and to also provide leadership in the general context of their communities.” 

Thomas Conway and Pauline Sarmiento moderated the Lessons in Leadership panel discussion on September 12. Conway is a fourth-year chemical engineering student, while Sarmiento is a fourth-year geological engineering student. Both are pursuing the professional communications certificate offered by the Ron and Jane Graham School of Professional Development.

Photographs of the Lessons in Leadership Panel with Myron Stadnyk and Jonathan Wright can be viewed on the College of Engineering’s Facebook page.