Life in rotation

03/02/2016
 
The view from my office when I'm out on the rig.
The view from my office when I'm out on the rig.
I apologize for dropping off of the face of the earth there for a while; I haven’t been doing a very good job keeping this up. Once I started my rotation in October, my life has pretty much been a whirlwind. I haven’t been back at my apartment in Houston for longer than a week and a half at a time since I first went offshore in October. As hectic as that sounds, it has been an amazing couple months. I’ve been learning so much about my job and my industry, but there’s still a long way to go. 
 
Along those lines, I’ve come to determine that my life is pretty ridiculous. The past couple weeks are a pretty good example. Last week I was in a technical training about casing design, which, long story short, was essentially learning the theory behind burst and collapse ratings of pipe, how different density fluids in and around that pipe exert different pressures at different depths, and then how to model those scenarios in a computer program. It’s pretty cool to finally see a lot of the topics we learned about in college in actual industrial applications. Fast forward to today and I’m in a pipe yard in Louisiana watching the pipe for our upcoming operations get inspected, measured and tallied before being sent to the shipyard. Next week, I’ll be out on the rig for my two weeks and I’ll be there watching that same pipe being brought onboard. Somewhere in between all the training and the field time I manage to spend some time in the office and it’s great to have the opportunity to see both sides of the fence; there’s so much planning on both sides and the coordination required between the two is impressive.
 
I’m really lucky (well, at least I think so) to have a rotation where I shift between the office and the field. It’s good to get the experience in the office because that’s inevitably where I will end up one day. I like to tell people that the office role is what I’ll be “when I grow up.” There’s a lot to learn about planning future projects (design, cost, studying offsets, etc.).
 

U of I alumni in Kansas City: Kilani Gaston, Amanda, Val Laguna (MechSE), and Leslie Greer.
U of I alumni in Kansas City: Kilani Gaston, Amanda, Val Laguna (MechSE), and Leslie Greer.

At the same time, it’s also invaluable being able to be out in the field. All of the topics I’m researching and studying in the office make so much more sense after I’ve been offshore and actually see them in action. There’s so much to learn and I’m still trying to get a handle on all of it. As a new drilling engineer on this kind of office-onsite rotation, it’s my job to be out there to provide engineering support onsite as well as help relay information back to the main office, but the real reason I’m out here is to learn, learn, learn.  
 
I thought that by the time I finished school I’d be tired of learning but I actually couldn’t be more thankful that that’s one of the main expectations of my job right now. Some things seem more familiar than others; being out on a ship means I have the opportunity to explore the ship itself. If there are ever maintenance issues, I get to learn about those too. I get to go into pump rooms and see why they aren’t working, or learn about how systems distribute hydraulic fluid to the entire ship. Other things are a whole new area to me, like my actual area of work, but even those topics don’t seem as overwhelming when you actually get to see them happening. A lot of times in school it was hard for me to visualize what was going on in a class, now that it’s paired with an actual application I absorb it a lot better. 
 

With boyfriend Drew Widlacki (also a MechSE alumnus) at a Dallas Mavericks game.
With boyfriend Drew Widlacki (also a MechSE alumnus) at a Dallas Mavericks game.

In terms of giving you all motivation to make it through the next semester (and however many more you have ahead of you), I use a lot of the things I learned in school a lot more than I think I ever expected. Mind you, I don’t have to do any crazy calculus or anything, but I’m expected to understand the overarching concepts that we learn in our classes like TAM, Fluids, Materials, etc. I actually had ME 360 resurface the other day when I had to understand the controls behind an automated system well enough to explain it to guys out in the field. Understanding the process and how signals translate to the physical system changing made it a lot easier. I’d always expected to come across some of the more common topics for my industry (materials, stress/strain, etc.) but that was a pretty cool curveball, so stay strong! You got this! 
 
On a side note, every now and then I do actually have a chance to do something fun. I almost felt like a college student again because I was lucky enough to get three weeks off in December. After getting a taste of the working world, I definitely appreciate having extended time off (so enjoy it while you can!). Of course even weekend trips can still be a blast; the other weekend I went to Kansas City to visit some friends and fellow alumni and it was great! I met all three of my friends in different classes and through different friends throughout my college career. They all graduated at different times and now they are all living in Kansas City. It was awesome to get to see them all and now they even hang out with each other when I’m not around, so never underestimate the power of your fellow Illini network! And with that, I’ll see you next time! I’ll try my best to post again soon. :)