The corner office. The C suite. The executive club. For some, being at the top of a company’s organization chart is the ultimate and only career goal.

Professional engineer Cullen Colville set a different goal for his career in Canada’s energy industry.   

“I never tried to get out ahead of my skis. I never targeted the corner office,” Cullen says. “I just really wanted to do a good job, work with good people and do good things.”

He’s done exactly that – and landed a corner office as the vice president of business development for Wolf Midstream. In 2023, the company became the first in years to receive regulatory approval to build a CO2 (carbon dioxide) pipeline in Alberta.  

“It happened slowly at first and then began to move really fast,” Cullen recalls of his career path.

For him, how he works has always been more important than his career’s upward arc.

Honesty and integrity

“One of the things I’ve focused on is honesty and conducting myself with integrity,” Cullen says.  “Drawing on my own core values, I am fortunate to be in a position where I can work on real projects that play a role in the energy transition landscape, and in my view, create space for a balanced shift in how we generate our energy and what we do with it.”

For him, making the balanced shift is a matter of critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Both draw heavily on his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering from the University of Calgary.

“When I was in school, I envisioned an engineering future where super hard math was applied to real-world problems on a daily basis. This isn’t really the case. What I have come to realize is that—at least in my experience—my post-secondary education helped create a solid technical foundation while instilling self-directed learning habits”, Cullen says.

“My early days in the workforce created experience in applying these traits to real-world problems, and now I get anchor on my technical skillset while introducing a bit more uncharted creativity back into the mix. The natural tension that exists between good ideas, actual project delivery and ability to finance is where a lot of this creative problem-solving takes place.”

Cullen Colville, Vice President of Business Development, Wolf Midstream

Problem-solving and fun

Cullen’s career began in the field. Today, his day-to-day work in downtown Calgary is focused on problem-solving tied to new expansions of Wolf Midstream’s Alberta Carbon Trunk Line system, which has been helping decarbonize Alberta’s energy sector since 2020. 

“Construction is just ramping up to make the best of the fall shoulder season and I tend to be heavily involved in the early phases of these new projects, so about 30 per cent of my day is focused on mentorship and guidance for the project delivery team,” he says.

“We also have some interesting discussions taking place which relate to contracting new service on our system, so about 40 per cent of my time is spent directly on advancing those fairly well-defined initiatives. The remaining 30 per cent of my capacity looks at longer-term or new opportunities, which is perhaps the most exciting as they can be totally undefined, blank canvas ideas. I tend to gravitate to where the white space is—that’s where much of the fun is to be had.”

Deep appreciation

Cullen’s fun-loving side is tempered by a deep respect for Canada’s energy sector.

“My work in this space has given me a deep appreciation for the effort and quality of work that goes into providing accessible energy every day. We’re incredibly fortunate in Western Canada to—more or less—always have power available to keep our food cold or charge our device, or natural resources at our fingertips to keep us warm in the winter, “ he says.

“The energy issues we need to overcome ought to be thought of as global energy issues, and in my experience, there is a huge body of talent right at home who are capable of helping to tackle them.”

That talent pool offers many opportunities—and surprising insights for people considering careers in it.

“This is not your mom or dad’s oil patch. The negative stigma regarding oil and gas has gained a voice in some areas over the last decade or so, and while there are always things we can do better, much of the negative rhetoric is heavily misguided”, Cullen advises.

“The Western Canadian energy industry has some of the best minds in the world working within it, and talented individuals have embraced the challenge of meeting our climate goals while maintaining energy accessibility. We have incredibly high standards of operation from a stakeholder and environmental standpoint, innovation is happening right before us every day, and the future is going to be whatever we make it. Why not lend your voice? Why not lend a hand?”

His final advice for success in the sector?

“If you can embrace the role of a problem solver, adhere to your core values, and work on cool, stimulating stuff, the sky is the limit in the new-world energy industry that is emerging.”

Company

Wolf Midstream

Location

Calgary, Alberta

Education

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary

Professional engineering designation in the province of Alberta

Salary, education and advancement may vary from company to company.


Interested in working in Canada’s clean energy sector? Explore Working in Cleantech.

Find a role that’s right for you. Review available job opportunities.

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